Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5: 3-4 (NCV)
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
Romans 5: 3-5 (The Message)
“You have got to be kidding!”
There have been many moments in my life, when that is exactly what I felt like saying to the Apostle Paul concerning what he wrote in those passages above in the book of Romans.
“Joy in our troubles!” That’s not my first instinct for a response.
“Shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with our troubles!” Really?
But in my calmer, more rational and thoughtful moments I know better, and Paul is right. Because as I have learned, it’s in those moments, as well as the better ones, that God has me in His hands and is molding me, shaping me, strengthening me for all He has planned for me in the days and years ahead.
It’s a bit like what happens during the formation process of a diamond. Not that anything in me or my character would ever begin to resemble such a beautiful thing as a diamond, but the analogy of my life, and your life, to a diamond makes sense. Genuine diamonds are known for their beauty and their incredible strength. But they begin as common carbon— a lump of coal, and under constant pressure over an extended period of time are formed and created into something of rare and extraordinary value.
The same is true with strength of character in us, which, as Paul says above, is just as rare in our world, and even more valuable than the example of the diamond, or of anything else. True character exhibits integrity through consistent moral alignment with God—always seeking to move toward Him.
We don’t always get it right, but it’s the recognition, when we don’t, of where we need to turn back to that continues to develop the character which God wants to form within us. And God does it in an unexpected way—as Paul says above—by calling us to an attitude of JOY when suffering under pressure or troubles or problems or whatever other unpleasant things are going on in our lives.
The reason is because we know that going through such suffering, pressure, problems and troubles with Him will continue to develop our character in Christ, and that journey will lead us closer and closer to Christ, and closer to becoming more like Him, closer to the Light, closer to the Hope of all the world.
In several different translations of scripture the word for “suffering” is noted as “tribulation.” That word comes from the Latin word “tribulum” which was the name of a piece of farm equipment used during New Testament times. A tribulum was a heavy piece of timber with spikes in it that was drawn across newly picked grain lying on the ground. It separated the valuable grain from the worthless chaff.
Tribulation, or suffering, or troubles, causes the same thing in us and within our character. It sifts it, helping us to sort out what is important from what is of little value in life.
Paul reminds us that as our character grows more and more like that of Christ’s, so does our hope in Him grow more and more. And as a result, all He calls us to be becomes clearer.
Seeing and experiencing first-hand how God can use difficulties we are confronted with in a positive way in our lives moves us to joy, knowing that we can trust Him again and then again, to carry us through whatever we face as He has done time and time again in the past.
It strengthens not only our trust in Him, but our character, as we find ourselves embracing our troubles with joy, knowing that He is there with us and will use whatever we are going through for our good.
A diamond has no choice how it responds to pressure.
But I do. And you do.
Choosing to focus on hope and joy will, according to Paul and our life experiences with God, continue to develop the character within us that begins to look more and more like that of Christ’s.
Your choice. My choice.
Choose joy, no matter what.
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2014. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.