Romans 5 – Journey of Suffering

After the death of our three year old grandson Ian in early 2007, my wife, our son,  and I found healing through our Savior Jesus Christ. Even so, that sort of pain does not heal quickly and when you lose a child or grandchild, there’s going to be a small amount of pain that always lingers and probably will stay with you until the Lord calls you home. God knows and understands all this. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He created us the way we are both physically and emotionally, and He created within us the mechanisms of grief and mourning that are part of the healing process when we suffer a loss like the one we suffered. Had we had not given our pain over to Him, I can only imagine the feelings of bitterness and anger that we would probably still be feeling. It was through faith and prayer and the study of His word that made the pain and hurt bearable.

And as I began reading and studying God’s word in those months after Ian’s death, I found comfort in numerous passages of scripture but there was one in particular in the fifth chapter of Roman that especially spoke to me. Paul was writing to Christians about the promise of God’s saving grace through faith in Christ. He wrote about our need for a savior and went on to explain how Old Testament saints like Abraham and David were saved through faith in Christ even though for them, their faith was grounded in the promise of the Messiah who was to come. This theme carries over into chapter five of Romans which begins by affirming some of the benefits that believers receive as a result of God’s grace.

Romans chapter 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

The word justified in that first verse means “to be made right.” We have been made right with God through our faith in Jesus Christ, and the first and most immediate result is……….peace with God. As Paul reminds us a few verses into this same chapter, prior to our conversion we were enemies with God. But now we are at peace with Him. When you begin the healing process after a traumatic loss or through some great suffering in your life, being at peace with God is an absolute must.

Paul went on to write:

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 

When God saved us from the fires of hell through the blood of His precious Son, it gave us a reason to rejoice, wouldn’t you agree? And it’s easy to rejoice when all is well in life, but when trouble comes, that’s when the test comes and Paul reminds Christians in the next few verses of the need to endure in the faith in the face of suffering.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Paul was not in any way suggesting that we should rejoice because of whatever it is that has brought pain and suffering into our lives. Rather, he was saying that Christians must remember to take heart in the promises of God when we we’re caught up in the midst of suffering.  We take joy in our Lord Jesus even when we’re in pain. When I first read those verses, they seemed to describe a journey, because in those words I saw a beginning and an end. The beginning point in the journey is suffering. Any number of things can bring suffering into our lives and of course for my family and me, it was the loss of our grandson. That was the beginning point of the journey.

Paul said suffering produces perseverance. Another word for perseverance is patience. Suppose one of you is on this journey. Something has happened in your life that is causing some sort of pain and suffering. Very seldom is suffering over with quickly. It will usually be something that stays with you for a while, maybe even for the rest of your life and your only choice is to go through it. It’s like coming upon a huge mountain. The mountain is not going away. You can climb over it, go around it, or dig through it. Either way you choose takes time just as we often endure suffering over great periods of time. But that’s what develops in us the perseverance Paul wrote about.

The next step of the journey after perseverance is character; perseverance produces character. Someone once said whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I don’t know about that, but I do know that, when it comes to faith in God, people choose one of two paths when they go through some sort of extreme difficulty or sorrow. They will either turn to God or they’ll reject God. They’ll either seek healing and comfort through faith, or they’ll blame God and shake their fist at Him and ask why He allows bad things to happen. So the sort of character Paul wrote about is Godly character. Godly character comes from seeking God first, and then accepting God’s will in the matter, no matter how difficult the circumstances are or how bad you’re hurting. In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul said he had learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, or whether he had plenty or was in poverty. That’s Godly character.

And that brings us to the last step of the journey, hope. Character, Godly character that is, produces hope. God’s word tells us in the book of Revelation that a day will come when God Himself will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. As painful as our journey of suffering has been, there are some of you who’ve experienced even greater suffering. I know of some who have lost multiple children and grandchildren. I know some who have watched family members deteriorate as diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s ravage their bodies. I know of some who have lost family members due to acts of violence. Even so, even with all the pain and suffering in the world, God is good. His love is greater than our pain and all the pain and suffering we’ve endured in this world will be washed away in the flood of God’s great love that, as Paul wrote, will be poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

So that’s the journey of suffering. You may have suffered pain or endured some hardship in the past. Or you might be going through something right now. Whatever it is, God is greater. He will restore you in this lifetime, and you’ll know even greater joy for all eternity when you seek His kingdom and bring your pain to the foot of the cross!