I’m not sure if you have heard this joke before but it’s been said that marriage consists of 3 rings: it starts with the engagement ring, then you move on to the wedding ring, finally it ends with suffering. Lame joke.
This morning’s bible passage is from the book of Romans 5:2-5 “2 …and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.”
Suffering is a reality in our fallen world: we face it daily. Whether we read of wars and terrorism in the newspapers, or we experience it personally in our families or in school, bullying, ostracism, injustice etc. There are at least two ways we can face suffering: one is resignation (I can’t do anything about it, just live with it), the other is hope (which this morning’s bible reading mentions thrice).
How can you have hope in the midst of facing suffering? I want to mention 3 truths from God’s Word that will help us have hope. The first is that God works through our suffering to produce endurance and character in us. There is a famous scene in the old Superman movie (before you guys were born), where Superman takes a coal in his hands, squeezes his hand around it and when he opens his fingers, behold a diamond lies in his hands, which he hands to Lois Lane, his love interest. (Superheroes have it good! Don’t need to buy diamonds.) Of course, that’s a myth, and that’s not how diamonds are formed. But they are formed in the Earth’s mantle at extremely high temperature and pressure.
It is in the pressures of life that God works within us to form our character, if we allow Him to do that work, if our attitude is right. In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 “famous and exceptionally gifted people” called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people’s lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were. So that’s the first: God is working in us to develop our character.
The second is that God has poured out His Holy Spirit into our hearts. His presence will be with us all through our lives. For all Christians, this is a great and precious promise. An old hymn goes like this…
“God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.”
Young people, the toughest thing about going through difficult times is when we go through them alone. But if God is in your life, you are never alone. He is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Finally, we can have hope because God will one day deal fully and finally with the source of all evil and suffering and sin. Revelation 21 tells us in the new heavens and the new earth, there will no longer be any death, nor mourning nor crying, nor pain. Eternal joy and everlasting peace will be the inheritance of all who trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Dear friends, we can endure suffering and trials because of this three-fold hope we have in God.
He is working in us. He will be with us. He will ultimately save us. [Let’s pray]