Thursday of Lent III: Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but 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.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

There is so much in these words of Paul. We cannot possibly think about all of this in one sitting. Let’s focus on one part of this passage. Paul says that he rejoices in his suffering. I look around the world today and see so many people suffering, so many lives distorted by sin, so many people’s livelihoods threatened, and so much anxiety. Not long ago the Secretary of Health and Human Services visited the school next door to St. Michael’s where I serve. An eighth grade apparently let him know just how hard the pandemic and the situation in school was for her and her classmates. Paul’s words strike us as odd. Suffering seems like a strange occasion for rejoicing. Is Paul just a little crazy here? I sometimes wonder if he were alive today, would we pack Paul off to a psychiatric unit somewhere. We medication for this sort of thing these days.

Paul is not crazy, but he has been changed by an encounter with Jesus which started on a road to Damascus. One of the many changes that Jesus has worked in his life is the way he looks at suffering. It is no longer wrath God being poured out on Paul. He has peace with God. He stands in that peace through faith. God is no longer angry with Paul or you. Nothing can take that joy from Paul, not even suffering. For suffering itself has been changed. As Paul says, “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Through suffering, specifically the suffering of Jesus, God saved this world and all its ungodly people. Suffering has become something else and that includes my own suffering.

I don’t know what suffering will produce exactly in your life. Paul speaks of endurance, character, and a hope which is not put to shame. The devil may imagine that he has wrought some terror on the world through a pandemic, war, or some other crisis. In one sense he has. But God is bigger than COVID-19, an earthquake, or any other terror including our eternal foe. He will find a way to work in all things to the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28).

If you are suffering today, know that there are people praying for you and God is with you. Consider reading the words of Paul which he wrote at the end of chapter 8.

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