How to Rejoice in Suffering

August 1, 2018

Categories: Struggle

There’s an interesting passage in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome where he encourages his readers to rejoice in their suffering. I’ve always struggled with this idea, because it seems out of touch with reality. I don’t know anyone who likes to suffer. When I’m suffering, I want to get through it as quickly as possible. I want to move on to better times. I might be able to endure suffering, but rejoice? That seems impossible.

Suffering is Inevitable

We all suffer at some point in our lives. Maybe you or someone you love is suffering right now. Maybe you’re dealing with a scary diagnosis, a failing marriage, or a child who is making poor decisions. Even if things are going well for you right now, life has a tendency to go up and down. Suffering knocks on each of our doors eventually.

How can we engage our suffering in a positive way? Does Paul have anything to teach us about how to do suffering well?

How to Engage with Suffering

I think it’s important to read on in the passage where Paul talks about rejoicing in suffering. Here’s what he says: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

There’s a step-by-step process here for how to engage with suffering. Each step is important.

  1. Suffering produces endurance. When we suffer, we build endurance. Our capability for holding difficulty and struggle increases. It’s similar to building our muscles in the gym. In order to get stronger, we have to put our muscles under strain. In a similar way, when we suffer, our endurance for dealing with difficult things increases.
  2. Endurance produces character. As our endurance increases, our character develops. Our character involves our tendencies to engage in actions and behaviors in a consistent manner. For example, if a person has a character of courage, they tend to respond with courage in the face of danger. As you endure over time, your character begins to be shaped. You start to look more and more like Jesus.
  3. Character produces hope. Paul writes that character produces hope. When you develop your character, you experience hope for the future. Hope involves believing that you can move forward toward your dreams and goals. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all your problems will go away. But you experience hope that you can move forward toward what God wants you to do.

Paul also says that hope will not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. In other words, our hope will not be disappointed, because God loves us and has given us his Spirit. The Holy Spirit can be difficult to understand, but basically it means that God’s presence is always with us, even in our suffering.

Discussion: What do you think about Paul’s encouragement to rejoice in our suffering? Is that even possible? What have you found to be most helpful when you are going through a difficult time?


Related Thoughts

No Comments

  1. Vanessa Malinowski August 2, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    I love the book of Romans. I think those who are open to the Bible’s holiness and read it can find their spiritual selves in one or more of the people who, inspired and/or directly spoken to by God, wrote its books. Paul wrote Romans, and he seems very intuitive, understanding what people truly want and need, to me. I’m not adding anything to the sacred text and I humbly state I do not know for certain, but I imagine that Paul’s mindset could have been, what are people going to need help with in their lives on Earth? How to get through suffering would help. So perhaps he made sure to write in a way as to give us the bigger picture of suffering, including the positives of pain, so that we’d be strengthened when feeling upset.

    Thank you for posting this, Dr. Hook. I really appreciate how you’re taking a lead in religion in the field of counseling psychology, giving people of faith warmth, and Christians in particular, warmth, as opposed to judgement for their beliefs. They believe because they LOVE God and Jesus. Where is this point made, and where are Christians given acceptance for this? Here on your blog’s one place.

  2. Joshua Hook August 3, 2018 at 10:52 am - Reply

    Thanks for the encouragement Vanessa!

Leave A Comment

Subscribe To My Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog posts.

Receive my e-book “The Mental Health Toolkit” for free when you subscribe.