Living in the Two Hearts

My Spiritual Insights and Musings

Romans 5:2-5

Suffering: What is it according to Romans 5:2-5?

Through [Him] we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:2-5, NRSV.

To begin at the “very beginning, a very good place to start,” suffering comes to all who live on this great earth.  Male or female, young or old, rich or poor, wise or foolish; holy or profane, we all suffer.  This is a result of our very nature – fallen and corrupt – that renders us open to suffering.  Our particular sufferings are often owing to the choices we make or by the choices made by other that affect us.  Therefore, we will all experience suffering, not a single one of us are above it or beyond it.

Since all suffer, what is it then that can give us endurance?  Some say endurance is nothing short of a stubborn will.  Others say it is a grace that comes directly from God.  Both are right.  So let us look at each in turn, starting with the first – a stubborn will.

The stubborn will desires very much to succeed, to survive the hardship that they find themselves in, no matter what the cost.  It is their stubborn desire not to give in that gives them this ability.  The question is, can a corrupted and fallen nature succeed against suffering and hardship time after time?  The answer may surprise you.

Yes, it can.  But it has been my observation, and perhaps you too have noticed this: when a person with a stubborn will begins to “succeed” against their trials and sufferings, they also begin to gain a sense of “pride” in their triumph.  With repeated success this “pride” continues to grow, and sure enough, they begin to believe themselves invincible.

Thus the wise old adage, “Pride cometh before the fall” (based on Proverbs 16:18), begins to take shape.  This pride always leads to a self-satisfaction known as Complacency, which produces the sure result of knowing you can always succeed against your suffering.  This self-assurance inevitably leads to resentment, and before you know it, resentment is replaced with bitterness and life has just become burdensome “Why am I suffering?  What have I ever done to deserve this?”

Not only does life become burdensome, but people around them become burdensome.  Why?  Because the complacent person says, “Well, they’re not suffering the same as me!  There must be something wrong with me if I’m suffering like this.  After all, I should be able to avoid this suffering, right?  I’m invincible,…right?”

Needless to say, when the bitterness begins to replace the resentment and all life becomes a burden, compassion and charity take a “backseat” in their journey through life; especially when concerning themselves.  And why not?  Life has “knocked them about” and seemingly “horrible and unexplainable things” have happened to them.  Yes indeed, it looks as if life is out to get them! So now bitterness has turned to HATE.

Hatred is never a good thing, for it will often lead to despair, and to despair IS a mortal sin that will lead to spiritual death and even physical death (suicide) if not caught early.

Do you know anyone like this?  Someone who just seems to hate anything and everyone and all life in general?  Take a moment and think about what you’ve just read, apply it to them, and then PRAY FOR THEM!  Those who suffer like this are in much need for the healing Love of God.  Yes, you will struggle to do this because they probably “get under your skin”… a lot!  PRAY EVEN HARDER!  Your prayers could aid in the softening of their hearts.  If you could only hear how much their souls are crying our for help!  Your help…(See, Matthew 5:44).

Now, let us look at the other kind of endurance, the kind that comes only from the Grace of God.  The question  we now asked is, “How does one endure suffering so that it becomes a blessing and not a curse ?” To answer this we must return to the original statement: we all suffer because we all share the same fallen human nature. The only difference in a blessed suffering is this: You embrace your Suffering(s) and Hardship(s) out of LOVE.

In the movie by Mel Gibson, The Passion of Christ, what did Jesus do upon receiving the Cross?  He kissed it and He embraced it – thus demonstrating a great Love for the suffering He was about to endure.  One of the thieves to be crucified with Him even shouted, “Why do you embrace your Cross?”  Definitely a very powerful moment in the film, and a very good example for us, so that when we face our own sufferings and hardships we aught to do as Christ did, embrace them with Love.

Embracing your hardships and sufferings should not be confused with just enduring them.  For when one just endures something it is usually because we believe we have no choice, or maybe we believe that by enduring them we will become a better person. This is a lie.  Remember the first example?  The stubborn person endured because they were determined to succeed, but ultimately it led to their ruin.

When we lovingly embrace our trials we freely accept those hardships that come our way and we follow the example of Christ who so lovingly accepted the Cross – which really was for us, for we have sinned – but He who is righteous died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The result of our embracing with Love is the flow of GRACE, “Through [Him] we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand,” as it says in verse 2 of Romans chapter 5, which began this exegesis.  It is also by this GRACE that we are able to endure suffering in a loving way, and it is in this loving way that Character takes its reference.

For in this loving endurance, Character becomes efficacious (producing a desired affect), that it produces HOPE, as contained in the LOVE and GRACE found in the Heart of God.  In other words, when we allow God to work through and in that which we suffer, that very suffering become efficacious enough to begin to “move mountains” – that is, those impediments that exist not just in our own lives, but in the lives of others in the Body of Christ.  This is such a mystery of TRUTH!

Our sufferings are never just for ourselves, but also for others.  We may never know while living on this earth who has benefited from our free and loving gift of suffering, but rest assured in Heaven, “…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body, (2 Corinthians 5:10).  Those who were helped by your gift will know you, and those who come after you into the Kingdom of God will most likely find you and thank you for helping to bring them into heaven.

Conclusion, your suffering will never be in vain when it is freely given and endured with Love.  Just as one who begins to resent their suffering becomes bitter and complacent, the one who embraces their suffering out of Love will become ever more peaceful and loving towards themselves and others.  Their suffering will become efficacious in the Love of God and bring countless souls into the Kingdom of God;  because suffering becomes glorious when it shares in the Glory or God, who suffered and died for us, then rose again on the third day, and is not seated at the right had of the Power of God (See ref, 1 Corinthians 15:3,4; Mark 1:14; Psalm 110:1; 1Peter 2:21,24).

Remember, it is His LOVE that is poured out for us into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit – Who resides in each one of us by right of our baptism – that gives us the ability to freely suffer out of Love.  So, are you suffering right now, or are you enduring your suffering?  Are you actively living in the Love of God and embracing your suffering, or are you just trying to survive?  Or perhaps a better question, are you bitter… or … are you at peace?

A Prayer for Help and Guidance with Suffering:

Lord Jesus, I encounter suffering as a result of my fallen nature, help me to reach out to You and embrace my suffering with Love, joining it to the suffering You embraced so lovingly on the Cross; for Your burden is easy and Your yoke is light (Matthew 11:30).  Make my suffering efficacious for the salvation of many souls, including my own.  In Your precious and holy name, I humbly pray.  Amen!

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