“…we also rejoice in our sufferings…”
Romans 5:3 (NIV)
As someone who does a lot of public speaking I will often seek for a phrase or comment that makes people stop and ponder what I just said. When a public speaker thinks the audience is tiring of the speech or sermon, saying something that seems to be contrary to reality can cause interest to be renewed in the speech.
Our verse today is one of these curious comments in the Bible that seems to be nonsensical. Psychologists would say that people who find pleasure in times of suffering appear to be unbalanced. Rest assured this has nothing to do with our text.
Our Lord gave a remarkable final message to His followers in John 14-16 and as He closes His teaching that was designed to bring comfort and peace, He said (NIV),
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The King James Version of Scripture says, “…be of good cheer”.
The Christian message often says that in a situation of sorrow we may have peace and “rejoice”. Such a contradiction of a positive attitude in a time of trial needs some explanation.
In the context of our verse today we read of the many positive things that come from being stretched in life. Paul says that we find excellent character qualities emerging from affliction.
First, suffering makes us determined to go on in life. It produces perseverance. One of the great tests of a person’s Christianity is to observe what happens to them when sorrow comes. The real Christian stands the test while a nominal Christian collapses and gives up on their faith.
The second thing Paul says in Romans 5 about what comes from the trials in a Christian’s life is that the person develops character. We will seek out people who have been through the furnace of affliction because of the way they stand out from the crowd. People who have endured adversity have a way of attracting others to them.
Then Paul says that character develops hope in the person who suffers. Those who endure hardship in life do so because of the hope within them. That hope tells them that the day is coming in which God will right the wrongs and grant a wonderful entrance into the life of joy and peace.
People who suffer and have no hope soon give up and let circumstances drown them. Those who persevere have this glorious hope of seeing the Saviour Who died for them and has promised to return again to take them to a world without sorrow or suffering. That is the hope that keeps us going. Do you have this hope today? Can you rejoice in suffering?