by Shawn Brasseaux
This life is filled with good times and bad. Joyous moments such as graduations, job promotions, marriages, and births can make life very enjoyable. In life, we also experience hardships—financial struggles, illness, divorce, and death of loved ones. Those dire circumstances can bring us great despair and hopelessness. Where is God then? If God really loved us, why does He not spare us the grief and misery? How should we handle suffering as Christians?
The Holy Spirit moved the Apostle Paul to write in Romans 5:1-5 KJV:
“1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
When a person trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her personal Saviour, God “justifies” that person. In other words, that Christian now has a right standing before God; in God’s eyes, the person is a saint, one who has been imputed His Son’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s wrath against our sin is now satisfied because His Son went to Calvary to pay for our sins. Thus, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we suffer, it has nothing to do with God being angry with us—remember He punished His Son to deal with our sins.
In verse 2, Paul speaks of us having access (by faith in Christ Jesus) into God’s grace. We can now depend on God’s grace, for it is in God’s grace that we now stand as believers—grace teaches us how to endure suffering. We can then “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” In difficult times of anguish and heartache, how can we have “hope?”
Paul says in verse 3 that we “glory” (rejoice, boast) in tribulations; that is to say, we endure challenging times and suffering with joy! Paul describes this chain reaction:
- the more we suffer tribulations (trying times), the more patience we can gain
- the more patience we gain, the more experience we can gain
- the more experience we gain, the more hope we can have
- the more hope we have, the more confident we can become because “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
We want to bypass the tribulations, but we cannot. Grace never teaches us Christians that we will live carefree lives, separated from suffering and hardships. No, not at all. On the contrary, grace teaches us “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 KJV). Later in that chapter, Paul continues:
“22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
All of creation suffers and groans in pain—even us Christians! We suffer because of three main reasons: (1) The Bible says we live in a sin cursed world, which is why we grow sick and eventually die at some point. (2) As sinful human beings, we make mistakes, and those mistakes cause ourselves and others to suffer. (3) Furthermore, as believers, we suffer persecution from the lost world. Until we leave this life, we cannot avoid suffering. Despite all this, there is hope, the Bible says. There can be remission of despair!
Everything we could suffer in this world is “not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). And Paul knew what it was to suffer—he had various illnesses, he was beaten, imprisoned, whipped (almost 200 times), and stoned, all of which was for the sake of spreading the Gospel of Grace (2 Corinthians 11:22-28; Galatians 4:13,15).
In 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:4 KJV, we gain some wonderful wisdom in regards to enduring hardships:
“16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.”
No matter what happens in this life, God has promised us something so wonderful in heaven. A glorified body, just like our Saviour’s glorified body: a body that will never hurt or grow tired and sickly, a body “eternal in the heavens!” As Philippians 3:20,21 tells us: “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” That will be the day of the rapture, when our physical bodies are redeemed (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Ephesians 4:30).
For the next year, may we allow God’s grace to teach us to have “patience and faith in all [our] persecutions and tribulations that [we] endure” (2 Thessalonians 1:4). As we study God’s Word rightly divided, and place our faith in His Word to us, the Holy Spirit will use that sound doctrine to impact our lives and the lives of those around us. Galatians 2:20 says to let Christ live His life in you!! “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Who knows what trials we will face this upcoming year, but we know that God has equipped us in His Son Jesus Christ, and we can handle the whole gamut of circumstances (good and bad). Whether poor or wealthy, whether hungry or full, “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11,12). As Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Whatever happens, let us remember to never lose hope and grow weary—“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4 KJV). Paul wrote that in prison, you know! We cannot rejoice in our circumstances because they always change, but we can rejoice in the Lord—in who He has made us in Himself. Our position in Christ will never change. We can rejoice “alway,” literally meaning “all the way” throughout the next 365 days… and that will bring glory to the great God and our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ….
This upcoming year, there will be times of joy and peace, but also those of sadness and suffering. We can always handle the good times, but we always struggle when coping with the bad times. For the next year, remember what Romans 5:1-5 told us about enduring tribulation to produce patience, bringing experience, giving hope, and gaining confidence in grace. A part of spiritual maturity is being able to handle greater trials. No matter what happens, God’s grace is “sufficient for thee, for [God’s] strength is made perfect in weakness, therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10 KJV).
Who knows, this upcoming year, we may be caught up to meet the Lord in the air! 🙂