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From Suffering to Hope

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And w boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And 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 5:1-5

According to Paul, our suffering produces perseverance.  The suffering brought on by COVID-19 has produced a level of perseverance not seen in this country for some time.  Consider those who have suffered through actually having the disease, those hospitalized, those who have lost loved ones to it, those who have suffered job loss because of it, and finally all of us who have suffered through social distancing, and all the other inconveniences associated with the disease.  We have collectively persevered through much, and it appears there is still much more to come.

The dictionary defines perseverance as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”  We all have to persist in fighting the virus. We must persist in bearing the inconveniences and hardships brought on by the disease. After all, what is the alternative?  Should we throw caution to the wind? Some prison inmates were reported as sharing breathing out of a shared Styrofoam cup, hoping to contract the virus and get an early release. Shall we give up our struggle, embrace, and kiss one another until we catch the virus and “get it over with?”  Shall we all give up, get the disease, and accept that thousands will get horribly sick, thousands more will die, more businesses will be shuttered, and more jobs will be lost?

No, God would have us persevere in resisting and fighting this scourge. In a very real way, we hold the health and lives of our neighbors in our hands. Our actions- whether we distance ourselves, wear masks, wash hands, etc.- very well may decide whether our neighbor gets sick or dies. You may be personally immune to the disease, so there is no danger to you. But who are you to spread it to others because you would take no precautions?

“Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  Through the present suffering, God is working in us perseverance, character, and hope.  The character he is working is Christian character which follows the summary of the law at all times: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Christian character is not selfish or self-occupied. It cares for other people and seeks to help with their needs.

Character produces hope, and hope looks always to the promises of Jesus Christ. The Lord wants peace and stability on earth, among all the nations, so that the Gospel can have free course and be preached to all who do not believe. Christ is with us in this fight. He certainly did not bring the virus upon us and he does not want the suffering caused by it to continue.  Pray for victory, for the Lord surely hears our prayers and will answer them.

“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”  Our hope will not be disappointed.  But hope is at the end of the equation!  ” But we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  May God grant us grace in our sufferings, that we might learn perseverance, and that perseverance might produce Christian character in us, and that character might produce hope. And how we need hope!  Look to the day when our fervent hope is realized, that we may thank and praise our gracious God together.

-Pastor Anderson