I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a student say – “I’ve read this before.” and hear myself saying “You might see something new today then!” I honestly mean what I say, but it’s always cool when I actually experience it for myself. The following is one of my favorite Bible verse from Romans 5 beginning in verse 3.
3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 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.
I’ve always loved it because it shows there is a reason for the suffering we endure – the development of our character. Look at the syntax structure (how the sentence is put together). This is called anadiplosis and it’s a form of rhetorical writing that is really cool. Anadiplosis – A rhetorical term for the repetition of the last word or phrase of one line or clause to begin the next. Anadiplosis often leads to climax. In stories, the climax is the high point of a story or I like this definition – when the character or plot changes directions. In the highlighted verse – this shows progression, the building of the event – suffering can make you a person who hangs on and have the will to not give up, which develops character and finally hope. I think if I were to put that in a story map showing the rising action, the character building might be where the turning point is made. We have to decide if we become that unbearable character stuck in the mirey depth of bitterness and despair who has lost hope or one who continues to be a character who sees the light of hope up ahead and is faithful to the end? It’s always a choice. We are always going to be on the road of suffering and will reach the crossroads and have to decide which path we take. Yet if you read a little further, we’ve been given a traveling companion – the Holy Spirit. We are not alone. He even brought along a few goodies for our journey –love, peace, patience, joy, gentleness, goodness, self-control, kindness, faithfulness. We don’t even have to ask for these gifts – because they are gifts.
During one of the hardest journeys our family endured, right at the first leg of it, I felt the incredible presence of joy. It was the moment the funeral director handed me my sister-in-law’s, Jimmie’s, purse. All around me was chaos as our family was in throes of anguish as we had just lost Jimmie, Jeff, and their baby Jordan in the car wreck. Up until that moment, I was also in crisis because we had to not only be a family grieving loss of our loved ones; we had to go to church and assume the responsibility of helping our church walk through this as well. Yet – the moment Charlie, the funeral director, handed me her purse, I felt this incredible sense of peace envelope me like a blanket. I also felt – stronger. I don’t know why it was given at that moment. Maybe it’s when reality hit that this was indeed real because Jimmie always had her purse with her in perfect order and the contents were in chaos which was not like her. Joy is not happiness in my definition – but it’s akin to hope because it can give you strength. Joy is an assurance and if you look in scripture – it always runs parallel with sorrow or suffering, meaning to me – the bad stuff produces the joy. Psalms 30:5 says this – For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. The joy comes after we’ve spent the night in our sorrow, when our pain is the pinnacle and the night is at it’s darkest – joy greets us in the morning.
Our life is a journey and how we handle the events along the way is our choice. Like I said – it’s like that verse progression -it’s just that- a progression. Our journey will always start out with suffering – but the end of the destination is Hope. That is -if we don’t take the wrong road and lose Hope.