Monday, July 11

Returning to Joy

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. --Romans 5:2-5

So many people misunderstand what is meant by the phrase "rejoice in our sufferings". This does not mean that we are supposed to grin and bear it, nor does it mean we should put up a false front and pretend that everything is peachy when clearly it isn't.

I understand the word "rejoice" to mean a return to joy. One of the definitions the dictionary gives of the word is "to fill with joy". When Paul writes that "suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope" he is clearly outlining a process that leads to being filled with joy.

Becoming filled with joy is a gradual process and not an instantaneous one. When you sit down to eat a meal, are you instantly full? Of course not. You become full by taking one bite at a time. The same is true of becoming filled spiritually. Today's verse is sort of a meal plan as to how we are to proceed if we are to reach the point of being filled with joy. It is also a flowchart of how God develops our inner strength and our identity in him.

Life will continue to present each of us with trying circumstances. The good news is that with God's help, we have the strength to persevere. Furthermore, such experiences will inevitably teach us about ourselves and about God. If we have the maturity to learn those lessons, we develop a more godly character and possibly a different outlook on life. People who have strong character know that God will, in his timing, allow them to return to a state of joyfulness.

As Christians we have our hope in the Lord. We know that his plan is an ever moving process--a journey rather than a destination. Personally, if I didn't have hope in the Lord, I would most certainly feel overwhelmed by the times of suffering in life. Thankfully, I have God as my source of strength. Even when I'm not particularly joyful about things that are going on, I trust God enough to believe that he will fill me with joy once he's developed in me more perseverance, character and hope.

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