Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace through God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5
Dedicated to the Berry, Barnard, and McAllister families, all of whom are suffering. God bless you.
Boasting in our suffering? This concept from Paul seems as backward to me as loving my enemy. To Paul, however, the grace we have been given through Jesus and the sufferings we endure are not juxtaposed in this life, but vitally connected. We boast in our hope, our share of glory. We boast in the access we have to every perfect gift, coming down from the Father, promising a future with Him. We boast in a heritage of faith. We triumph in the Resurrection, and look forward to heaven when our grace bestowed will transform into full-dimensioned reality.
But, we are not in heaven yet. We are still human and fragile: suffering, losing, and grieving. Here on earth, we are bowled over by the unfairness of death, constantly caught off guard by its cruel irony. We reel to form a new understanding of the words “deserve,” and “should.” We even question our promise of glory and grace when fairness and decency are thrown out the window. We question the promise when we embrace our loved ones’ bodies for the last time and place them in the ground. How, we ask, does all of this gruesome finality hold a glimpse of eternity?
Paul insists that we can find our way back to eternal hope. When we suffer, we find that we do not hemorrhage the way we fear. We endure; somehow, some way . . . producing character, and that character brings us full circle back to hope. We fall to our knees in agony, Grace pours us full to continue, and God fashions a newer and stronger saint from the rubble of disaster. It is only here in this Scripture that the image of God “pouring” into us exists. Maybe Paul understood something we do not?
He promises a hope that “does not disappoint us,” which literally means, “Does not make ashamed.” So, the hope and glory we boasted of will not leave us looking like fools in the midst of our suffering . . . we will not be put to shame for believing in the glory of heaven and grace of God! He works both sides of the coin: grace in glory, glory in suffering. We gain glory when we are prostrate, accepting the supernatural power of his unconditional out-pouring.
Maybe in cases of tragedy, this out-pouring isn’t limited to those who are suffering. Maybe God is so awesome that He not only gives the stricken more than enough strength and grace to carry on but also pours Himself out in countless hearts surrounding the hurting so that they do not just feel Him internally but are embraced externally. Maybe we all, feeling compelled to love and help, have been touch by a Grace bigger than we can understand. Maybe, somewhere in there, the glory of suffering is found: that it makes us all bigger than we were, all willing to give more than we thought we could, all willing to be prostrate and broken open for each other.
This is happening now, in the midst of our communities, in response to such horrible tragedy. He is moving, my friends, in the midst of us, with an ever-filled pitcher of grace pouring into every vessel willing to receive. There in lies our glory! There in lies our hope . . . truly something to boast about.