The Value of Suffering
“Why would anyone in their right mind rejoice at the thought of suffering?” the world might reasonably ask. And yet that is exactly what Paul the apostle said should be true of Christians. But if we look closer at what Paul said in Romans, we discover that it is not so much suffering that Christians rejoice in, but “the hope of the glory of God” (v. 2)—referring to the future hope that all believers have of one day being in the presence of God. As it turns out, suffering is one of the steps toward perfecting that hope.
One has to wonder if Paul didn’t learn this truth firsthand from a Jewish convert named Stephen. He was a powerful man, full of the Holy Spirit, who worked miracles in Jerusalem and preached a convicting sermon about Christ to the Jewish leadership (Acts 6:4-7:53). When the Jewish council brought him up on charges of blasphemy, Stephen knew he was about to suffer for his faith. Looking up to heaven he “saw the glory of God” (Acts 7:55)—the same glory that Paul said we rejoice in hope of. In fact, Paul (not yet a Christian) was standing right there when, moments later, Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 8:1). Paul saw firsthand, and probably for the first time, the connection between suffering and hoping in the glory of God. Paul probably never forgot Stephen talking out loud to Jesus, his eyes riveted on God’s glory, even as stones knocked the life from his body.
Years later, when Paul wrote to the Roman Christians to encourage them in their suffering, he reminded them that suffering forces us to hope in the future glories of heaven we will enjoy. Between this day and that, suffering builds our character by perfecting perseverance in us.
Not everyone knows how to rejoice in the midst of suffering. But those who are filled with the Spirit do—those like Stephen. The next time you suffer, let your trials cause you to persevere and mature in faith as you look to the heavens in the hope of the glory of God. That is the right reason to rejoice in difficult times.
God’s Promise to You: “The more you suffer, the more clearly you will see me by faith.”
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