Romans 5: 1 – 5
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Over the course of church history there have been very different ideas about the place of suffering in the life of those who follow in the way of Jesus. One extreme compels people to choose a life of suffering and the other promises affluence and comfort. Most of us live somewhere betwixt these two.
When you have access to privilege and resources, it is a largely academic exercise to argue how suffering fits into the path of discipleship.
But when you are in the minority and have experienced oppression, the question of suffering takes on a very different hue. When you’ve been told that you must “take up your cross” and “count the cost” by suppressing and denying an intrinsic part of your personhood and closing yourself off from the potential of loving relationship and family, the question of how our suffering refines our character often triggers re-traumatization.
Indeed, LGBTQ+ siblings in Christ have often become well acquainted with suffering. And while sometimes this has caused bitterness and disengagement, I have the privilege of witnessing the ways it has birthed deep capacity for grace and compassion.
Indeed, the church is impoverished if we fail to fully receive these gifts.
And if we are the cause of another’s suffering … Jesus said, “… it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matt. 18: 6)
What has caused the suffering you’ve experienced in your life?
Has it cultivated bitterness or compassion?
In what ways has suffering built resiliency in you?
O most merciful, open my eyes to the suffering of others,
that I, like you, might partake of their pain, and thereby
observe a glimpse of all that you have done for me.
O most long-suffering, my I apprehend the affliction of your creation,
that I, like you, may ache for its recovery.
O most compassionate, give me tears
With which to soften the hardened soil of my heart.
For you are the lover of humankind,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. (Scott Cairns)