Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) More than that, 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.
When I was deep in the dark pit of suffering from a life threatening brain injury, rejoicing was the farthest thing from my mind. I reacted to my adversity like most people; with anger and fear. I shook my fist at God, “Why did you let this happen to me? I’ve been a good person. I don’t deserve this!” I whined. God answered by telling me to go tear out my front yard and plant a flower garden. I pouted, but I did as I was told. My front yard slowly became a lush garden that invited people from all over to enjoy. Many of them were suffering in their own right. The garden gave me something to focus on and of course, God was working his magic on my heart among the blossoms, bees and butterflies!
As the garden grew, my anger and fear diminished. I was more able to face my suffering. I surrendered to God and humbled myself before him. I thought I had finally found a healthy spiritual way to cope. But God knew I wasn’t yet spiritually mature. There was still more I needed to do to grow. God didn’t just want me to be submissive and surrender, he wanted me to be rejoice for my suffering, for it was transforming my life!
It took me some time to be joyful for my suffering. I found myself dipping into anger, fear and self-pity. But when I could sustain gratitude for my hardship, amazing things happened. It was then that I could see the Holy Spirit working in my life.
When I woke every morning and gave thanks, and rejoiced for my brain injury, truly grateful for how it was not only changing my life but my relationship with God, amazing things began to take place. Love entered my heart in a very deep and profound way. My fears and resentments crumbled away. I felt reborn. Even the garden was raised to a higher and better level of healing for the community!
My brain injury hadn’t healed 100% but I was no longer suffering, because I felt whole. Even in my disability, I felt my life was better than it had ever been. I could see the gifts God was offering to me.
Now that I am mostly healed, I look back and wish that I had been able to find more of the gifts that were in my suffering. In the darkness, I couldn’t see them, but they were there. I encourage you to look for the gifts in your suffering. How is God using your suffering to strengthen you, and to bless you? The Bible tell us He is using your suffering to give you endurance which produces character which produces hope and that hope will keep us from shame. God’s love is pouring into our hearts. There are other gifts to be found in suffering. I encourage you to consider looking for them. They are there. They are always there, for God’s love never falters, nor does it ever leave us. If you are having a hard time rejoicing in your time of suffering, start by simply saying “Thank you!” for your present condition and seeing what begins to take shape. Be active in thinking about how your life is changing for the better, because of your hardship.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! God is using your time of suffering for great things. Give thanks. Give Thanks. Give thanks.