Excerpt from ‘Expository Notes: Romans’, chapter 5 verses 3-4.
Paul says that we rejoice in our sufferings (or trials). This does not mean that we take an unhealthy pleasure in suffering for suffering’s sake. We are not of those who inflict pain upon their bodies, believing that this produces greater holiness of life or in some way commends a person to God. This is certainly not the meaning of the Scriptures when it speaks of yielding to suffering or rejoicing in suffering. What the apostle means is that we count it an honour when we are called upon to suffer for the sake of Christ’s name. Then indeed we are blessed. (Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 5:41) Again, we rejoice in those sufferings or trials that God sees fit to send into our lives to strengthen us or to mould our character. For we know that we are suffering at the hands of a loving heavenly Father who will always act in accordance with his wisdom, and for our own good.
To take an everyday analogy, a person might have to suffer some measure of pain for a while following an operation. This operation, however, has been for the person’s own good. Perhaps it was necessary to save his life, or to deliver him from greater pain and suffering later. So it is when the Lord brings suffering into the lives of his beloved children. It is not merely to cause pain, but to deliver from greater pain, and perhaps even loss of life.
Yet again, we rejoice in the sufferings that God brings into our lives because of our own sin and waywardness. For then we know that God has not abandoned us because of our sin—for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines. When, on this account, we suffer pain at the hands of the Lord, we know that it is because we have deserved it and because he loves us. We know that he is disciplining us so that he may not have cause to condemn us along with the world. Rather, God disciplines us so that he may induce us to acknowledge our sin and to seek his mercy and forgiveness. (Heb. 12:4-12)
Thus, in these and other similar forms of suffering, we rejoice because we know that we suffer for the sake of Christ’s name, or because God is dealing with us in love. Again, we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance… (v.3b).
Often, we experience suffering or trials at the hand of our loving heavenly Father. Yet, although painful at times, we realise that God disciplines us only for our own good and for his glory. Thus, we rejoice in what we have to endure as God’s beloved children. When seen in this light—as a blessing from God—our suffering tends to produce steadfastness or perseverance. It creates within our souls a resolute determination to pursue the course that the Lord has set before us. (Jas. 1:2-4) Of course, we cannot do this in our own strength. Strengthened, however, by our sufferings, and by God’s all-sufficient grace, we determine to run the Christian race with patient endurance. (2 Cor. 12:7-10)
(Read or download the full version of these Notes on Romans from the Expository Notes section of this website.)