Peace and Joy
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And 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 5:1-5)
I admit, I raised my eyebrows a little bit this morning as I read the introductory title to this first paragraph of Romans chapter five. Peace and Joy.
It’s not an unexpected title for a selection of Scripture, but the paragraph that follows this intro contains some hard-hitting sentences: "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings …" (vs. 2-3)
I am on board with the idea of rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God. Although the concept of glory has always been difficult for me to grasp, I've come to think of it as all of God's goodness, mercy, love, righteousness and plans coming together in fulfillment. It is the ultimate hope of the believer, and contains a future that God as both a loving father and omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent creator has made ready and will one day deliver.
So, having hope in God seems mostly intuitive, natural and right. But the very next sentence has always caused me to pause, and makes the little wheels in my head whirr and smoke. “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings …”
Rejoice in our sufferings. Oh boy.
I would like to surmise that Paul, the author of Romans, just didn’t know what he was talking about. Or was naïve and unexperienced with deep pain. But that is simply not the case. Paul was a veteran sufferer. He faced horrendous trials and sorrows.
So how could he link suffering with joy and rejoicing?
In the next few sentences he gives a glimpse of what is possible when suffering enters our lives. Instead of being overcome and destroyed, he states suffering can teach us perseverance, produce character, and bring hope.
It’s hard to imagine this outcome of suffering, especially when we are going through its hardest, darkest days.
Yet, a life-saving truth shines out in verse five. Paul shares, “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.” During the difficult times, God pours out his love into our hurting hearts. He is not stingy, but is extravagant. He is not far off, but is present.
In a very simple way, it reminds me of a recent experience with my granddaughter. She is two, and wasn’t feeling well. So, she wanted to be held. She came to me with tears and outstretched arms. I simply scooped her up and held her until her crying subsided and she was comforted. I felt such incredible love for her and could sense her trust. It was a special moment of bonding.
On a much larger scale, God does the same thing. He scoops us up when we come to him, and then pours out his love into our hearts. It’s a hard, terrifying and amazing concept: God can use our suffering to show us that his love is indeed, deeper.
God again flips our understanding of reality, and creates within our pain—something beautiful.
Sara Nelson O'Brien is the author of
Available at Amazon.com