In Romans 5:3-5, Paul says that we can rejoice in our sufferings because we are a people of hope: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3–5, ESV).
So, how can we have hope when everything looks hopeless? In the midst of suffering, we can rejoice because these challenges cause us to:
1. Rely on God’s presence
Rejoicing in suffering does not mean celebrating when bad news comes. But, it does mean that we can believe that God is doing a redemptive work. This word “redemptive” means that God does not waste a hurt or disappointment. He is using them to shape and build us into the image of Jesus, which is his highest passion.
When we go through suffering, we often pray and seek God more intensely than at other times. My greatest times of growth have been when I’ve reached the end of my resources and all I have left is Jesus. God uses suffering to make us rely on his presence.
In Psalm 23:4, David writes that he does not fear because God is with him. He relies on God’s presence, and it brings him strength and comfort. Remember that for there to be a shadow, there has to be a light. I don’t know what your “valley of the shadow of death” is, but I do know who the Light is that is walking with you in that valley.
In another Psalm, David reveals that one of the reasons for his joy is that he is forgiven: “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven whose sins are covered (Ps. 31:1, NIV). We can’t determine God’s love for us based on good or bad circumstances. We determine his love based on the cross and what he did for us on it.
2. Rely on God’s provision
In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul reveals that he has suffered from a “thorn in the flesh.” God was so concerned about Paul not becoming proud he allowed this to happen to him to prevent him from becoming conceited.
In our current situations, God is saying to us that his grace is sufficient, and even when we feel weak, he is making us stronger than we have ever been. His grace is not an abstract idea. It is the person of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. The hell you are going through may be the very circumstance God uses to take you to a whole new level.
3. Rely on God’s power
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9b, ESV).
What is your weakness? Maybe it is a son or a daughter that hasn’t quite turned out the way you thought he or she would. A job situation that has gone awry. A medical diagnosis that has scared you. Maybe, like Paul, it is also insults, hardships, or persecutions. Whatever it is, Paul says he will boast in those things because when we are weak, the power of Christ rests on us.
The greater the enemy comes at you, the greater Jesus is in you.
Maybe you hear voices telling you to just quit, give up, and let it go. Don’t stop. When you are weak, then he is strong. Remember the greater the attack against you, the greater Christ is in you, but you have to rely on his presence, his provision and his power.
This week take a moment to write down what you are suffering from or struggling with and place it in an envelope. On the outside, write, “God’s got this, and he is transforming me.” Now when that challenge comes to mind remember to rely on him.
Marinate on that.