During these 12 weeks of summer, Pastor Bob is preaching a series called
“Exchange: Lifestyle,” exploring chapters 12-16 of the book of Romans. I divided it up into daily readings and have committed to daily journaling my reflections about each.
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer. [NET]
The first thing that strikes me about this verse is the middle statement, endure in suffering.
As Americans we have been conditioned to avoid suffering and discomfort at all costs. The media continually advertises for us to seek pleasure, to pamper ourselves, and to buy this product or that to eliminate whatever ailment or imperfection or unhappines might keep us from the perfect life.
Even churches can fall into the health-and-wealth, prosperity-gospel mindset. The idea that God always wants you to be happy and comfortable is simply unbiblical.
Paul, in contrast, directs us not to seek to aleviate suffering or avoid it, but he simply says to endure it. He calls us to a quest that is not about eliminating suffering, but to one that goes through it with endurance. To endure suffering is embrace it and to remain in it as long as God determines is useful. And as we endure it we become stronger, like the baby chick pecking his way out of his shell. (Crack it for him and he won’t have obtained the strength to survive.) So suffering has great value and it should not be shunned. Even if suffering goes so far as to kill us, we would actually be better off than we’ve ever been anyways.
The other two statements in today’s verse seem related to this theme as well. Rejoice in hope, causes us look beyond the current suffering to the future victory in glory. And persist in prayer reminds us of our need to not give up depending on God through the trials.
Our best youth trips have been the ones in which we suffer the most. Our annual Mexico trip is such an experience. Last year we had an 18 hour bus breakdown necessitating two back-to-back overnight drives in a row — without allowing us to even change clothes for 48 hours. Once there, a leaky roof allowed rain to pour down on us and our stuff all night. We dealt with everything from sandstorms to tarantulas to Montezuma’s revenge! Yet not a complaint was heard. It was glorious misery!
Our worst trips are the ones where we pamper ourselves. The group gets self-absorbed, critical, complainy, easily offended, and demanding of their rights.
Those who know me have learned that I rarely pray to avoid suffering. But I do pray that whenever it does come — and it will — I’d handle it honorably and learn from it. It’s too valuable a resource to not seek to gain from it.