Photo: Phil Warren, flickr
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:1–5
This passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds me of the old hymn, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” For it is through the death of Jesus on the cross that we base our hope of redemption, grace, and life everlasting. As Paul says, through Jesus we gain access to the grace on which we stand.
But after affirming the tenets of our faith, Paul turns suddenly to the subject of suffering. It can seem jarring, but Paul knows that we live in a world that is not as God made it to be. Thus he tells the Romans that even as they hope and look to the coming kingdom of God, they must expect suffering. And that through their suffering they will gain the Christ-like attributes of perseverance, character, and hope. As the Holy Spirit fills their hearts, they will have the strength to make it through their suffering, whether it be persecution, pain, mistreatment, or other.
Suffering is not something we welcome, and perseverance is a trait we’d rather God simply gave us as a gift, instead of something we develop over time. But our character is formed day in and day out: through the sometimes hard conversations with family members; through how we treat the person at work we find particularly grating; through learning to give of ourselves selflessly, even when it’s not convenient; through holding back on flinging hurtful words to those near us. With the Holy Spirit living in us and empowering us, we can increasingly bring glory to God and peace to those whom we meet. As we do so, we will become beacons of hope – perhaps while not realizing just how much God’s light is shining through us.
Prayer: Lord, help us as we suffer that we might persevere. Fill us with your Spirit that we might rest in hope.