“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:4).
My children used to build domino chains on the floor of my kitchen. Knocking down the first domino would set off a sequence of falling dominos until the last domino collapsed. In today’s verse, Paul outlines a chain reaction that is put into place when followers of Jesus respond to difficult circumstances in the right way. The chain begins with suffering but ends with hope: suffering - perseverance - character - hope.
Suffering (or tribulation) is translated from the Greek word ‘thlipsis’, which means to be under pressure. The term was used of squeezing olives in a press in order to extract the oil, or of squeezing grapes to extract the juice. When we are “squeezed” by difficult circumstances, the Lord is trying to extract perseverance from us.
Perseverance is a spiritual fortitude that bears up under, and is made even stronger by suffering. It is like the resolution of a marathon runner to keep running in spite of the difficulties encountered. Perseverance leads to character. The Greek term denotes character of a “proven” nature—like precious metals that have been tested and found pure. This, in turn, leads to a deeper hope in the glory of God.
Like a muscle, hope will not be strong if it goes unused. It is in suffering that we exercise hope by persevering and by being tested and proved pure in the midst of seemingly hopeless circumstances. This process results in an even deeper conviction of the reality and certainty of that for which we hope (Romans 4:18-19).
The harder nails are hit, the deeper they are driven. Sufferings drive us to a deeper level. When we feel the pain of that first domino’s fall, we can be confident that when the last one falls, Christ will have produced in us a deeper certainty in His goodness and in our destiny as children of God.
~ Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that at the end of my suffering I will have a deeper hope and certainty in You. Thank You for using difficult circumstances to increase my perseverance, character, and hope. Help me be strong and endure to the end. Amen.