Romans 5:3-4 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
I was honestly wondering what the Lord was going to speak to me through this very familiar passage, praying about it, and then I started entering it in Japanese. Right off the bat, the term for “suffering” did not come up with the characters used in the Bible. My eyes being bleary first thing in the morning, I got out my magnifying glass and confirmed, and the first of the two characters was not the one Microsoft wanted to give me, but the character for “patient,” as in someone in a hospital. That’s when it hit me. This is exactly the same term Jesus used in John 16:33. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Paul was not present when Jesus said that, and John had not yet written his Gospel when Paul wrote to the Romans, so this is something God had revealed to him by the Holy Spirit and by experience. This passage is famous because it is true, but we don’t want to accept it. We don’t like the idea of rejoicing in suffering! I deal with people all the time who intensify their suffering by complaining about it, lashing out against it instead of asking God to show them His purpose in allowing it. And that’s the Christians! People without faith cannot be expected to have this response to suffering, and they indeed seldom do. Fatalism is traditional in Japan, with suffering being somewhat expected. However, without faith that doesn’t lead to the hope and joy that Paul and Jesus talked about. That hope, and the resultant joy, are the most powerful testimony we can give, as Peter recognized. (1 Peter 3:15)
This struck home particularly because I had a somewhat rough night, waking up repeatedly, including one time with a severe cramp in my left calf, and I felt rather like a dirty rag when it was time to get up this morning. That’s included in what Paul and Jesus were talking about, and I need to rejoice! I am very aware of medical problems because of my wife Cathy’s “laundry list” of problems, including Parkinson’s Disease, but she hardly lets them slow her down. She is a real encouragement to me. I preach to others about taking our eyes off of ourselves and fixing them on Jesus, and I need to practice what I preach! As I tell others, joy is most often a choice. Mariam Ibrahim is a recent shining example, standing firm in faith under circumstances we don’t even like to think about, and there are many more around the world that we don’t know about. I need to rejoice in God’s grace and love toward me, and stand firm against all temptations to a “pity party.”
Father, thank You for the object lesson this morning to prepare me for what I just read. Help me indeed live out the truth You speak through me, and have mercy on those who struggle to do so. May I amply demonstrate the hope and joy that are in Christ alone, so that many may be drawn to receive them for themselves, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!