Yes, I’m serious. Well, more importantly, the Bible is serious. It’s not that God makes a virtue of suffering itself, but that he uses our trials for such glorious purposes that we can rejoice in the midst of the pain. Truly rejoice. I know this must sound crazy, but please consider the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:1-5.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 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.”
The ability to have true joy in the midst of suffering doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s founded on something much deeper than itself, and more eternal than the trials it endures. Specifically, it’s founded on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he’s done to give us eternal life.
First, Paul says that those who believe in Jesus have been justified by faith in Jesus, and therefore we have peace with God through him. To be justified means to be forgiven of all our sins, and to be declared perfectly and eternally righteous in the sight of God. This is what it means to have peace with God, and indeed, this is what Jesus grants to all who put their hope in him! Because this is so, the Christian knows that the greatest issues of life are settled for him or her. The storms of life can blow, the waves can rise and fall, but our standing with God cannot be threatened because of the grace and power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Second, Paul tells us that those who believe in Jesus have obtained access to the grace of God which causes us to stand, and therefore we rejoice in the unshakable hope of the glory of God. Those who cling to Christ know that nothing can threaten our lives. We know that we have a hope that cannot be shaken or taken. As Paul says a little later in Romans, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). This hope is the ever-flowing fountain of joy for all who believe.
Third, because these things are true, those who believe in Jesus can actually rejoice in our sufferings. Anyone can take joy in things that are inherently joyful, but Christian joy is so high and deep and broad and wide, it’s so strong and stable and unbendable and immovable, that Christians can actually rejoice in things that are not inherently joyful. In fact, we can rejoice in things that make many people bitter toward God and others.
And we rejoice, not merely because we know that one day our sufferings will pass away, but because we know that God uses them to develop our endurance, character, and hope. In other words, Christians are able to rejoice in suffering because they trust in Jesus. We know he’s in control. We know he’s working all things together for his glory and our good. We know that through it all we’ll be shaped into his very image.
We know that we’re being given an unshakable hope because the love of God in Christ has been lavished upon us, and times of suffering only serve to show that this is true.
So yes, I’m serious. And more importantly, the Bible is serious. We can learn to rejoice in our sufferings through simple faith in Christ, and therefore I pray that we will cling to him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.