“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…More than that, 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.” —Romans 5:1, 3-5
I don’t rejoice in trouble. It’s not natural, at least for me. Maybe you love trouble and disappointment, but I avoid them as much as an extra trip to the dentist. Yet, these words of Paul suggest that we rejoice in suffering. How do we do that, individually and as a whole nation in this trying time?
It starts with verse 1, which is the place where we would like to stay. This is a plateau of peace and forgiveness. Paul assures us that since we are forgiven and declared just by God through faith, we have peace with God. Perhaps you’re remembering that as the world we knew two months ago. Everything was normal and our plans were all in place. That all sounds wonderful and we would be glad to return to it. In fact, you’ve likely been asking God to return us to the smooth, level ground of the past.
But we seem to have fallen off the plateau of peace into the low places of the virus, job loss, social distance, and worries about the future of our health and economy.
How do we live as people of faith in this place, seemingly far below the calm peace that we used to have?
First, remember that God has forgiven us and justified us entirely through his Son. Psalm 103:10 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” This truth reassures us that our present trials are not God revisiting our sins upon us. He has brought us into his peace entirely by Jesus’ work. Therefore, as Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We can grow in faith when we’re reassured that we’re growing with God who is at peace with us.
So then, since God is at peace with us through Jesus, how do we see trouble? It becomes the chance for God to demonstrate his power through us. As Paul knew when he was confronted by the thorn in the flesh, our weakness becomes God’s place to show power. God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” If I am capable for all my own needs, I don’t need God’s help and I won’t even look for it. But when trouble is too much, then, like Paul, I pray all the more. That emptiness is what God fills with his strength. My weakness is God’s opportunity. My empty place is what he has been waiting to fill.
And that gives us the certainty of one of boldest promises in the Bible: “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.”
Hope does not disappoint us. That’s a strong promise.
We’ve all been disappointed plenty with broken hopes. But here is a hope that will not disappoint: God loves us and has proven it on the cross of Jesus. He holds us in a strong hand of peace, not revenge. He stands with us in even the hardest time and gives us strength to endure. And that gives us hope for tomorrow since his love is undeniable.
It might be difficult to see these gifts of peace, hope, and love when our days are so different from what we expected two months ago. But as we return to God’s Word and promises, we know that his promises continue to be true. Repeat these verses and the many others that speak to His care and love. Pray with the confidence that God knows your needs and has already given you His Son. Having given us his Son, won’t he give us all else that we need? He will give us his gifts in the measure and time we need.
Blessings to you all as you continue to walk with him, either on a perfect plateau of peace or through the difficult steps that lead from trouble, through endurance and proven character, and arriving at hope and love.
This post was written by Rev. Dr. Dan Paavola, professor and department chair of theology.
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