The Role of Suffering

Read: Romans 5:1-11

We rejoice in our sufferings. (v. 3)

I have a friend who is one of the only female Christian leaders in Pakistan. Imagine living in a poor Muslim country with only a 1 percent Christian population and then repeatedly facing questions about your legitimacy as a seminary professor (because you are a woman) from inside the church. Although she is hopeful and joyful, her life is challenging. I saw my friend a while ago, and she told me about many difficulties she’s encountering: persecution from the majority population, flooding damage in the seminary, illness among students from record rainfall and oppressive heat, and hostile treatment from a certain church official. Then she said, “Of course, I know as a Christian I must expect to suffer. Still, it is hard.”

What a statement! This clearly is the sentiment of a Christian from Pakistan, not from the affluent West. I don’t expect to suffer. I get upset and angry at God when I or someone I love suffers. I’m part of the Western church that’s been greatly influenced by the so-called prosperity gospel with its message of health and wealth. We see suffering as an affront, not a normal part of the Christian life.

One way to reorient our relationship to hope is by reorienting our relationship to suffering. Hope, like health or wealth, is not something we are entitled to. Paul exhorts us to “rejoice in our sufferings,” because “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” and hope does not disappoint (vv. 3-5). —Jeff Munroe

As you pray, talk to God about your attitude towards suffering.

About the Author

Jeff Munroe

Jeff Munroe is the editor of theReformed Journaland, in addition to being the author of the best-selling book Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher, is also a poet, blogger, and essayist. His work has appeared in Christianity Today, The Christian Century, US Catholic, and The Reformed Journal.

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series Hopeful, Not Optimistic