In the middle of suffering, the last thing we want to do is rejoice. We are overcome with pain and heartache. So why does God call us to do this? And how in the world are we to rejoice in our most difficult times?
God’s Call to Rejoice
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.
Romans 5 and James 1 echo the same call to rejoice in suffering. God calls us to be joyful in all times. Our joy does not flow from our circumstances, but from God’s presence in our lives. With God on our side, we have the hope we need to pass through any circumstance.
Here are the three facets to rejoicing in suffering.
Suffering produces perseverance. When we go through trying times, we get stronger. Sometimes we persevere solely because it is the only option we have. But other times, we are given a choice. We can move forward in Christ, or we can abandon our faith.
When I was in college, I faced several months of severe suffering. My mind was under attack and I fell into all sorts of negative thinking. I couldn’t go a day without facing the thought that I was worthless and broken with no hope of repair. I trudged through this time, trying to find God, but feeling as though there was a wall between us. With every unanswered prayer, my faith faltered and faded. How do you rejoice in a time like that?
As far as I fell from God, I still sought after Him. I thought He had abandoned me, but somewhere deep inside, my faith persevered. To do this, I had to choose who I would surround myself with. I could have chosen those who would confirm my doubts, but instead, I chose others who would continue to push me to Christ. Although I didn’t feel any hope at the time, this perseverance was key in climbing out of my suffering.
Perseverance produces character. Our character is defined by our capacity to obey God. In the midst of our suffering, our character is tested. Will we continue to obey God or will we abandon His call and go our own way? Through our trials, we learn to obey God in the middle of the unknown. When we cannot see the purpose of our pain or the light at the end and yet we choose to follow Christ, we grow in our trust in the invisible God.
When I began to persevere in my faith during this time of struggle, I started to learn ways to seek and obey God in the middle of my despair and unknowing. Although the pain was still there, I began taking little steps toward obeying God. And this snowballed. Soon I was taking giant leaps in my faith in the middle of my suffering. My character was growing.
Character produces hope. True hope comes from Christ. Don’t let the world fool you into thinking that hope looks like success, money and happiness. As Christians, we hope for something so much greater than these. We hope for an eternity in Christ. We hope for rewards in heaven. This life is temporary and so is our suffering. It will end, and when it does, we will see the glory of God revealed to all. And we will take part in that glory.
This is our hope. This is where our joy comes from. We can rejoice that although we are suffering for a time, God’s glory will be revealed in us to the world around us. We can hope in heaven, knowing that soon we will be living the way that God intended. We will be free from all suffering and pain.
Suffering may last here on this earth, but we can rejoice in knowing that there is so much more. Although our worlds may come crashing down, we have the Almighty God on our side. He will fight for you and He is calling you to fight for him.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
What has helped you to rejoice in suffering? I'd love to hear your comments below!