No one in their right mind enjoys suffering, but there are times when we embrace it. Mothers embrace the pain of pregnancy on the road to holding a newborn child. Marathoners embrace the pain of training and the marathon itself for the sake of crossing the finish line. Army recruits embrace the pain of basic training in order to take their place among the ranks. No one in their right mind seeks out suffering for suffering’s sake, but we sometimes embrace suffering because of the fruit that it brings in our lives.
Paul has something like this in mind when he says that Christians glory in their sufferings in Romans 5:3. Suffering, he says, produces perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope. To put that differently, God uses our sufferings to strengthen our faith, make us more like Jesus, and help us understand the gospel so fully that a deep and abiding hope takes up residence in our hearts. We Christians glory in our sufferings because we know that God is at work within our sufferings. We have confidence that by God’s grace we’ll turn out stronger and better on the other side.
As we face COVID-19 with the rest of the world, we are in a moment that trends toward suffering. Some people are battling illness. Some are worried about finances because work has dried up. Some wonder how they can keep up with their jobs while tending to kids. All of us are probably going a little bit stir crazy. As Christians, we’re not called to enjoy these challenges or to explain them away. We can, however, glory in them. Our firm confidence is that God can and will use even these trying times to bring about good in our lives. Not only do we have hope in a time like this – Romans tells us that we’ll come to experience that hope more fully!