One of the mama said-isms I grew up with was offered when it had been a day of struggle. The test was too hard, the friend too unfriendly, I had too much to do, or I didn’t know what to do. My Mama would listen, ask a few questions and then say, “Get some sleep. Everything looks better in the morning.”
Oh, man, that was frustrating to hear. I was steeped in whatever tragedy large or small was unfolding in my life and she was suggesting things would look better tomorrow. I didn’t ever feel like she was giving me the brush off. In fact, what she said validated my experience in a way. Things did look – or at least – feel bad. But I was left for the time being with no solution, no resolution. I was with the same pain or worry or fear I already had.
Paul writes: We boast in our sufferings because suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…
Was his answer to suffering and struggle to boast because sooner or later things will look better?
Think of suffering – yours or someone else’s. Now or yesterday. In your body or in the world. Think of the men and women we remember on Memorial Day who suffered through war for this nation. Think of the terror and grief as the Ebola epidemic rages through the Congo. The people with homes and farms under water along the Illinois, the Missouri, the Arkansas and the Mississippi Rivers. Our friends who live with chronic pain. The parents whose child has died or is dead to them.
Boast in these sufferings? Boast because these sufferings produce endurance and character, and eventually – tomorrow – hope emerges? That may be true, but it is hard to hear. Hard to hear in the midst of suffering when we just want the suffering to end or to have never happened at all.
Paul boasts in suffering that is being suffered right now. He says now – even now while it hurts, while you are grieving, while you struggle –boast in this suffering because all of it is steeped in hope.
That can only be true because Paul is not talking about what is humanly possible. Paul is saying what is true about Jesus.
Jesus suffering with us changes our suffering.
In the midst of pain, we cannot endure Jesus, endures for us.
When our character is flawed and flags, Jesus is faithful, filled with integrity and courage.
When we cannot figure out what to hope for, Jesus is our hope.
When we have no more love to give to ourselves much less anyone else, God’s love is being poured out into us through the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
This is hope that does not wait for tomorrow.
I don’t want to contradict my Mama, but Paul said it is true that today we have peace with God in our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is true in the bright days of joy and ease as it is in the days of struggle and pain.
Even now, Jesus stands with you.