Signposts: Daily Devotions

Sunday, February 1

We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
—Romans 5:3-4

I wonder how many of you will stop reading after seeing today's scripture. Paul’s famous, or infamous, words used to be a real turn-off for me. I think it is awful theology to proclaim that suffering is GOOD. For a long time, I thought that is what Paul is saying. But I've changed my mind.

After living a full and increasingly long life, I think I understand much better what Paul means. It isn’t that suffering is good; it is that suffering is inevitable. And the crux of the matter is how we reflect on that suffering. Suffering is real and agonizing, and anyone who romanticizes it and says it is good for you is, to me, cruel and condescending. 

Paul means that suffering breaks us open and, though we would never have wanted the suffering and never want it repeated, we realize that when we were broken, God was able to be with us in a whole new way.

Paul continues: “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: 5) Thanks be to God, who does pour love into our hearts, and who nurtures us and sustains us.

Almighty God, help us in the midst of things we cannot understand to know you are with us. Give us grace and courage to admit our discouragements and disappointments. And give us the wisdom to be still, and know that you are God. Amen.