“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5
Nobody enjoys suffering. St. Paul didn’t, and I certainly don’t. Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes, in illness, pain, death, loss, weakness, uncertainty, insecurity. Suffering follows each of us, appearing here, manifesting there, the continual reminder that our home is not here and our security is not in ourselves.
But in this verse St. Paul expands the idea of suffering and the “problem of pain”. So much could be said, but in the space of a simple reflection let this suffice.
Our suffering has meaning in the rising “virtuous cycle” of growth; suffering, perseverance, character, hope. Pushing through our suffering strengthens us to bear our suffering more readily, which build up our character, purifying and enlivening our path, leading it upwards, right of the plane of human virtue, to the vertical summit of Theological virtue, raising our hearts and minds to the threefold gifts of Faith, Hope and Love. St. Paul speaks directly to hope, and thus creates a bond between human effort and Theological virtue. If we suffer, and persevere, and build our character, the hope of God’s love will be poured into our hearts.
So remember that. Know that. Take that thought to your sufferings. It won’t make them easier, but it will make you better able to bear them and see beyond them to the vistas of divine life beyond this valley of tears.