What a strange thought we have here: “We even boast of our afflictions…” (Romans 5:3-5). This seems to be completely counter to our experience. We would rather avoid any kind of suffering, but here Paul is boasting of the suffering he and his companions have endured for Christ. Why does he say this, and what are we to take from such a comment?

Paul helps us to understand this idea more as he continues his message in this 5th chapter of his Letter to the Romans by writing that, “…knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” This is a lot to chew on. But the logic is flawless.

If, in faith, we willingly accept the afflictions that come our way for loving others as God loved us, and if we do this in humble dependence on his grace, there are graceful rewards for this holy behavior. Paul identifies the first one as “endurance.” This gift and habit of endurance builds something that is terribly important for us in terms of our being able to live a moral life, that is, a life governed by moral character rooted in God’s law. It is in having developed this mature, faith-inspired character, that our hope finds reason and becomes certain. And this hope, as Paul tells us, never disappoints.

Paul also reveals the joyful force behind all of this ability and hope, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the love of God that fills the willing heart with the courage to endure and even to boast in afflictions of all kinds. It is the Holy Spirit who strengthens our moral character and who gives us hope in the face of all that is troubling. And because our hope is in the Holy Spirit, it will never disappoint us. And how is this made practical in our lives? Our suffering is delivered from what appears to be senselessness through our faithful and willing participation in the saving work of Christ. It is in this willingness to live as Jesus lived that we are filled with the unsurpassable joy of his Holy Spirit. Let us praise and give thanks to God.

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Lord, Help us to endure whatever afflictions come our way with unconquerable hope and indomitable character. Send us your Spirit that we might be joyful in all things. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!