Romans 5:3-5 “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Here in Roman’s Paul doesn’t downplay the probability of problems, or shy away from suffering. Unfortunately many people today are living in the lie that God won’t give them more than they can handle. This false idea seems to originate from 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God does promise that He will provide a way out when we’re tempted but He never says that He’ll shield us from struggles. This scripture is specifically dealing with God not allowing temptation to overwhelm without Him providing a way of escape so that we can endure the temptation and not fall into sin. He didn’t promise a problem free life but His presence forever in life. Paul often faced adversity 2 Corinthians 1:8-9: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 Paul doesn’t preach the prosperity gospel, rather he seems to advocate an adversity gospel: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked; I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” Paul understood that in this life he would have problems and pain and today that may be where you are, pounded by the problems. Some are dealing with a difficult diagnosis, or flooded with financial distress, struggling with singleness, or a messy marriage, overwhelmed by the addictions of alcohol or adultery, deep in drugs or depression, worn out by wayward kids. The list could go on but at some point in life we all discover the disillusionment that occurs when life doesn’t live up to our expectations. Some of us have graduated more than once from the University of Unmet Expectations. Paul doesn’t shy away from sharing the real message on suffering, it’s guaranteed for anyone who takes on the task of living. That’s the difficult part but here is the delight, God can use what isn’t good to graciously transforming us through our trials. We don’t like the thought of trials but there are some things we can’t learn in a lecture or a sermon but only through the school of suffering. One of the core classes for the Christian involves the challenging study of suffering. We will all go through seasons of suffering; we don’t have a choice in the curriculum, but we do have a choice in our response to Christ. How we do in our course of study through suffering is largely determined by our response to His curriculum. Often, we just want God to give us a pass so we can skip the pain, but problems are a prerequisite in this life, and we can’t be excused from the syllabus of suffering. No matter what side of the pond you find yourself on you can find joy in the junk and rejoicing in the rubbish. Some of life’s greatest lessons are learned in the school of suffering, but it’s not just about the results but our response.