by Bryan Marvel
Read Romans 5:1-11
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (v2-4)
I’ve never met anyone who wanted to go through hardship and difficulty. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I can’t wait till suffering comes my way.” Or, “I’m loving this painful season. I wish I had more of this in my life.” We’re inclined to run away from pain and suffering rather than move toward it. But in Romans 5, Paul suggests a different and radical reaction to hardship and difficulty: hope and joy. He even has the audacity to say that we “glory in our suffering,” some translations say “we rejoice in our suffering.” That statement alone raises the questions, “Why?” and “How?”
We live in a broken world. At some point, pain and suffering will crash into our lives. It’s not a matter of if, but when. And when it does, we can be caught in the trap of believing, “There’s no way out. This is it. This will be my reality forever.” But in Romans 5, Paul tells us that hope in suffering is possible. It’s a hope that is anchored in the cross.
Paul reminds us in v8 that, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ’s death is a reminder of His overwhelming love for us. If Jesus was willing to die for us while we were in rebellion to Him, how much more will He care for us, His children, when tragedy strikes.
The cross also reveals that Jesus can identify with our pain. In hardship, He knows what we are feeling because He has experienced it Himself. He knows what it’s like to be betrayed by a close friend. He’s experienced the shame of being accused of something He didn’t do. He’s endured physical pain that feels like it will never end. But just because Jesus can empathize with our suffering, doesn’t mean all our pain will magically go away, nor will it lessen the grief and sorrow we’re bound to experience. But it does help us see there’s a bigger picture at work.
The cross is also inextricably linked to the resurrection. The reason we can have hope in suffering is because, with Jesus, death leads to new life. Therefore, we can be assured that our pain isn’t wasted. Jesus is with us in the midst of it, and it very well could be leading to something new, but to receive it, something old first may have to die. The shift from death to life not only fuels our hope, but it’s also the seedbed of joy.
Joy in the midst of suffering isn’t phony or fabricated happiness that’s disconnected from the reality of one’s circumstance. Rather, it’s deep-seated conviction that everything is going to be okay. It comes from the assurance that Jesus is Lord of all. It’s grounded in the hope of the larger story of God making all things new (Revelation 21:5).
While suffering can often knock us down and cause defeat, the cross and resurrection empower us to get back up and face another day. While pain and hardship, over time, can cause us to grow angry and bitter, focusing on Jesus and the victory He has secured can help us remain hopeful and full of joy. Nobody wants to suffer, but if we stay connected to Christ, He’ll redeem our suffering in unexpected ways.
1. Why is it hard to wrap our minds around the idea of being hopeful and joyful in suffering?
2. What current pain in your life is threatening to steal your joy and hope?
3. Take a moment and invite Jesus into your pain. Ask Him to help you see your circumstances through the lens of the cross and resurrection so that hope might be restored.