“... suffering produces endurance, and 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 5:3b-5 (NRSV)
Oh how unfortunate as it is that we trivialise the process of suffering and talk about it as if it were easy with God. Suffering is never easy. The golden key in reconciling the fact of suffering is, as we reflect later on, back over our suffering, we see God’s faithfulness as an outworking of the faith we plied.
Our faith meets with God’s faithfulness.
Suffering is a horrible requiem of the sort of circumstance we never want to live out, and indeed, would never truly wish upon anyone. This is because suffering transforms us beyond our volitional will. It forces us into a corner, and from that corner we either flounder or fly.
When we respect such a living torment because we have experienced it, again, beyond our volitional will, we become different. God can make something of these situations, because we have no alternative but to trust – to hope for a vision we seek for a positive future – and to do whatever needs to be done to advance that vision, because, quite frankly, we don’t have a choice but to choose for it.
The Process of Character Development through Suffering
No one voluntarily enters into the process of suffering, but such a thing is a vital compensation for what we have been through. Indeed, some may say that such a compensation is more than adequate, and perhaps even preferred.
We don’t develop endurance of any sort without doing the hard yards. Just like how we grow patience, we need opportunities. We grow our endurance in the midst of suffering and never in the midst of fun. Those who have fun do not need endurance, for fun doesn’t need to be endured, just enjoyed. But endurance is an admirable quality, so there is a benefit for having suffered well (no clichés intended).
Likewise, endurance produces character, which is a strength all its own. Another word for character is virtue. Endurance builds our character, and character development is the greatest gift. We can quickly see how crucial suffering is in accessing the greatest gift of God.
The production of a God-sustaining hope is the final frontier of the lived experience. When we live full of hope – a hope that isn’t contingent on a wealth of happiness, and we can do without it – nothing can beat us. We are unconquerable.
From suffering is an opportunity to grow in endurance, which funds character development, which sponsors hope. And hope cannot disappoint, for the person who is intrinsically hopeful can sustain themselves via their faith in God under any circumstance. In these things we experience God’s unfailing love with power.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.