“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.”
What is Paul’s train of thought here? How does suffering ultimately produce hope?
“Suffering produces endurance.”
When we undergo suffering, both little and great, it is never pleasant and often unwanted and unexpected – yet going through such pain and loss strengthens us. When seen in a biblical lens, suffering does not produce a numbing callousness that leads to disillusionment or cynicism, or a loss of sensitivity to sin’s destructive effects. This word “endurance” denotes patient steadfastness (Rom. 2:7, Rom. 8:25, 2 Thess. 1:4), and such an endurance trusts in God and his promises to sustain through the tears, heartaches, and pains of suffering.
“Endurance produces character.”
“It build’s character,” as Dad would always say when Calvin needed to rake the leaves or shovel the snow. However, the character that Paul had in mind is so much more significant and valuable. The word “character” literally means a proven and tested trustworthiness, the evidence from being found tried and true. In other words, biblical endurance in suffering proves our faith to be genuine and true, this proof being the fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) that is borne from faith and trust in God.
“Character produces hope.”
The proven character that is produced from endurance – namely, the growth of the Holy Spirit’s fruit in us – confirms our security in Christ, and thus we can hope: that He will hold us fast until the end, for the Spirit has been sealed in us (Eph. 1:13-14), causing us to trust in God and to produce the fruit of the Spirit; that whether the pain lasts for a day, or even for a lifetime, our suffering will be light and brief in the face of eternity with God unveiled before our eyes (2 Cor. 4:17-18); that even if we lose all earthly things, we have a better and abiding possession (Heb. 10:34).
Paul calls us to rejoice particularly in our suffering, because of the eternal and abiding hope that is ultimately found in God through our suffering. May this hope give grace and mercy to those in affliction, and point us to the One who will keep us from stumbling and who will present us blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy!
I come, God, I come,Shane and Shane
I return to the Lord:
The one who’s broken, the one who’s torn me apart.
You struck down to bind me up;
You say You do it all in love,
That I might know You in Your suffering.