Among the things one is able to do when in isolation from the world is to get caught up with Bible Studies. So, last month, as I had the opportunity to spend 5 days withdrawn from the human race, I decided to get caught up with the video series on the Book of Romans we’ve been doing at Sunday school for the last few months. The original intent was to just watch those episodes I’ve missed, but then I decided to start with number one, and continue until I felt tired.
As The Lord would have it, I got hooked! It is a REALLY good two volume Bible study by Tommy Nelson which I totally recommend. Of course, being on the Book of Romans, the subject is inherently compelling and absolutely fundamental to our faith. The study was bound to hit many cords in my heart and stir turmoil in my mind. In my current situation, the passage that has stayed with me after that marathon video-watching session was Romans 5: 3-5.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Suffering is a source of joy! Talking about a change in perspective…I always tended to view suffering as some sort of punishment, or a cleansing ritual at best, but never really as “joy.” The reason why our suffering in this world should be considered a moment to rejoice is because that is the proof that our faith is real. The trials we face are the experiential manifestation of our security in our faith. They are an expression of God’s unique kind of love, a love that He pours out in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by whose power we are able to persevere in our suffering and get to the other side filled with the hope that does not disappoint…and with our faith strengthened.
How are sufferings the experiential expression of God’s unique love for us? It is in the trials that our faith is perfected. It is in our struggles that our faith is strengthened enough to persevere through the struggle. It is in the suffering that our faith becomes evident and carries us through and sustains us. It is in the storm that our faith is tested. It is in the fire that our faith is refined so it can shine like pure gold! It is in the hard times that God, in His mercy, shows us that our faith is the real deal and that we can therefore, rest assured that He is with us, and will never let go.
Even if we feel faint in our faith as we struggle through our suffering, the Holy Spirit carries us and we can do the impossible. We would never get to see the miracle of the impossible becoming possible with God without trials. Life would just be one long, pleasant cruise in fair weather. How would we know our faith is for real if all we get to do in life is sip margaritas by the pool in the sunshine? How would we be sure our faith is the kind that can move mountains if all we get to do in life is have it our way as we ride along pleasant valley every day? How would we know our Heavenly Father loves us and is with us always if we never get to travel through the dark alleys of shadow, loss, fear and death?
One wise lady told me shortly after I got my diagnosis of thyroid cancer, “well, that is life. You cruise around for a while, all is well, and you hit a road block or a big bump along the way…you get over that one, cruise some more, and then hit another one…”
And another one, and another one, and another one…but with each bump on the road, if we overcome them by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, our character will be developed, polished, perfected more and more and more each time. After all, this life is the place where we are to go through the process of sanctification, which is a life-long polishing process so we can come out the other side so buffed that we got no grime left in us, ready for the day when we get to rejoice in His glory forever.
In the meantime, every time we find ourselves in the middle of suffering, let’s not forget, that is one more step toward experiencing a perfect faith. It is the expression of God’s unique kind of love for His children (granted, it may make us ponder how much we want Him to love us, huh? just kidding…the more trials, the more polished we end up and the biggest the reward!)