The Good and Bad news about Christian suffering
In a year when we in Australia have had bushfires, floods and a once-in-a-lifetime (we hope!) viral pandemic, I wonder what we have learnt about suffering as Christians?
St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:3-5) says we rejoice in our sufferings, “knowing that 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 who has been given to us” (RSV).
There is a lot in that short text.
In essence, the message is that sufferings are necessary for our spiritual growth. That’s the bad news.
The risk is that we can be tempted to give up on our walk of faith at such times, feeling that God has abandoned us.
But St Paul lets us know that if we persist in times of suffering, we will emerge better for the experience.
More than that, we will be even more aware of God’s love which has been poured into our hearts.
Think about that image. Imagine God’s love as water coming out of a hose. God does not send his love into our hearts as a little trickle of water. It is poured in. Like from a fire hydrant! It gushes in, filling us up. That’s the good news.
But God will not pour His love in without us giving permission to Him. God’s fire hydrant of love is primed to pour into our hearts but our ‘yes’ to God is needed before the water from the hose starts flowing.
St Paul tells us that the endurance, character and hope that follow suffering supports us in being open to God’s fire hydrant of love flowing into our hearts.
– Deacon Tony Hoban