Thoughts on Joy amidst Suffering

 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. 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. (Romans 5:1-5)

From this verse it seems to me that though we rejoice at the hope God has brought us, our joy in salvation should not end there. When trial comes or persecution looms heavy on us we should rejoice. We know that, according to James 1:2-3, that we must count trials as joy knowing that our patient endurance of it will produce in us completeness in Christ. Paul tells these Roman Christians that we must rejoice in our afflictions because doing so will produce in us a hope that we know will not disappoint us when the reappearing of Christ comes to pass. In the OT we see that God had ordained suffering as a means to produce in his people the expected result of a renewed hope in Him and not ourselves or worthless idols. Isaiah 48:10 tells us that God had tried or tested them in the furnace of affliction in order to refine his chosen people, to the effect that the fiery furnace would burn up all those worthless things they held closely to.

I have seen this first hand in my own life, not to the severity that others have, yet still a fiery furnace still feels like a furnace no matter what temperature. When my son was in the NICU, his heart fighting to pump thick blood, I surely felt the fires singing the very life from me. My steadfastness, produced by the Holy Spirit in me, revealed to me a character and understanding that when all is stripped away from us in affliction, our will and duty becomes that of the Father.  What I mean to say is, when I desire to have more money or to live in a bigger house, drive a bigger car or have a better life, the fires of affliction have a funny way of burning all that up and leaving me with the sole resource of Christ and my hope in him. When I felt the heaviness of my son’s pain, I no longer cared for the things of this world. They became worthless to me in light of the suffering I experienced and the suffering my family endured. Had I not been firmly rooted and built up in Christ the fires would surely have overtaken me and the flood waters would have crumbled the foundation of my faith. Yet, I rejoice in this, that Christ has become sin for me and has purchased a very certain future, and a sure hope that lies sealed up in him.

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.(Isaiah 43:1-2)

We can be absolutely sure that when we are faced with afflictions and trials on every side, God has called us by name and we belong to him. We have been redeemed, called, chosen and covered by the LORD so that many waters, as many that cover the planet, will not shake our foundation or overtake us. Rejoice in that and take heart if you have been weighed upon heavily by the fears and chaff of this evil world.

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