There is something that appears, on first glance, ill-fitting about seeing ‘rejoice’ and ‘suffering’ in the same sentence. They do not really seem to be words that ease well into each other, complement each other or even seem to deserve shared sentence space. It’s all in all, on the face of it, an entirely uneasy concept.
Paul finished off at the end of Romans talking about how we are justified through our faith in Jesus. This chapter begins with what could be seen as the aftermath of that faith in this world.
Yet we who lead first-world lives in affluent countries, with modern conveniences, good healthcare, education, freedom of speech and access to many of life’s luxuries do not sit comfortably with the notion of suffering because our societies, communities, governments, media outlets are all telling us that our lives should be anything but marked with suffering. Our culture encourages to find our help in any number of modern conveniences, establishments, institutions, and so reduce any kind of suffering we might endure.
If we suffer financially, there are endless banks and loan companies willing to provide short-term, expensive solutions to our problem.
If we suffer with our health, there are multiple free and paid for institutions to meet our medical needs.
We can change the way we look, the way we feel, the place we live, the office we work in – we have abundant opportunities at our fingertips.
But what can be our blessing can also be our disaster. As we fight the waves of an entitlement culture chanting to us that we should, could, can, will, must have anything we want, need, desire in order to avoid suffering, if we’re not careful when we can’t change our circumstances we look pitifully inward and fail to see God’s richest blessing within it.
In these verses, Paul encourages us to remember that suffering is not the end. In fact, it is just the beginning. [Continue reading…]