Romans 5:1–5 (NRSV)
5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Notice that faith in Christ invites us to participate in two ways with God – both glory and suffering.
Now participating in God’s glory I eagerly embrace! To know this victory and live in justice that is an easy prayer for me.
But to participate in the suffering…hold on a minute! Can’t there be some other way to produce hope in our lives except through suffering which builds endurance which builds character that leads to hope? Paul doesn’t think so.
We are pretty clear on what suffering looks like through circumstances. This fallen world we live in provides many opportunities for us to suffer in our bodies, relationships, emotions and even intellect. And I don’t want to ever lead anyone to believe that God causes suffering or hardship…nope…never. But God does choose to help us through it and give us something meaningful and lasting from these times of difficult. The religious word is redemption. God redeems our circumstances by bringing beauty from the ashes.
But there is also the choice of suffering. Let me explain before you check out!
Maybe suffering is not the right word. Maybe choosing to create situations in which we deny ourselves is a better way to say it.
Fasting is a prime example. Living with a deficit of food, or something else in our lives, produces endurance which leads to character and then hope. In this way, we can choose to align our lives in a way that leads to the hope and not just simply wait for difficult circumstances to provide that opportunity. I love that God gives us tangible ways to produce hope in our lives if we so choose to adopt them.
The problem is that most of us, myself included, don’t regularly avail ourselves of these means of grace. As a result, fasting has become a diet not a means of grace. Fasting has become the way of a handful instead of the majority.
Hope, as these last few days have shown, is always a needed component of our lives. But what are we doing to consistently develop hope? As Scripture explains it is not merely a matter of waiting around for it to dropped in our laps. We can, with God’s help, pursue hope. No time better than the present!