How do you welcome suffering and sorrow? Who would willingly admit the two of them into their life? How can they be kept them out?
The apostle Paul would suggest we do welcome suffering and sorrow. Romans 5:1-5: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but 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.”
Paul seamlessly moves from celebrating the faith, peace, grace, and the very glory of God straight into glorying in suffering. What? Maybe we can understand when we understand why? According to Paul, the really good stuff about knowing God and being justified through faith that brings peace with God is only experienced by suffering. Suffering, according to Paul, is the only way to have perseverance, character and hope that develop a deep connection to the Holy Spirit. It seems that for Paul there was no richer experience on the earth than having a heart filled with the Holy Spirit, even if that meant he must welcome sorrow and suffering.
There’s nothing like suffering and sorrow to help one summon the Holy Spirit for relief and help. In my experience, whether you welcome sorrow and suffering into your life or not, you will experience them during your time on earth. I believe the point that Paul is making is that sorrow and suffering are realities of living in a fallen world. They are inescapable. There is no way to keep sorrow and suffering out of your life. However, you can choose to numb yourself from the feeling or take revenge against those who cause it. Or, you can follow Paul’s instruction and glory in your suffering.
How do you welcome sorrow and suffering? You glory in them.Why? Because they are your friends in disguise. It is through your sorrow and suffering that you embrace your faith. I wonder how people can reject faith in God. They too have sorrow and suffering, but they choose to distance themselves from it by striving after power, relationships and material possessions. God does not do that great of a job of eliminating sorrow and suffering, so they are not much interested in Him. What they don’t know is that the world’s remedies can never compare to the peace of His grace and the hope of heaven, yet they seem to be desired substitutes. When we glory in our achievements, our belongings and our freedoms to live life our way and get what we want, we miss out on the love of God poured out to us through the Holy Spirit.
Our God, whose hope of heaven includes plans to eliminate tears, prescribes tears for our life on earth for our own good. Thomas Keating writes: “People who injure us are doing us a great favor because they are providing us with the opportunity of passing on the mercy that we have received. By showing mercy, we increase the mercy we receive.” Embrace your sorrow and suffering as God’s gifts, and you will develop a perseverance that leads to character and ultimately to hope in the fullness of the Holy Spirit—His mercy and grace make up the balm to sorrow and suffering on this earth until it is eliminated in heaven. When you can see God’s goodness through the transformation of your soul to His likeness through your sorrow and suffering, you can glory in your suffering as you glory in your Savior Jesus Christ.