But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us… (Romans 5:3-4 CEV).
Hope never disappoints.
This is a very bold statement. I would guess many of you would question never having been disappointed by trusting in hope. And who gladly suffers? What’s the lesson to be learned from this piece of scripture?
I’ve read this scripture many times over the years. It goes without saying that how I understand these three sentences has changed. Experience has taught me much about suffering, endurance, character, and hope. Yet I am still challenged by these simple words from scripture.
Several questions arise.
First, is there anything for which you would gladly suffer? And just what is “gladly suffering”?
Second, how does your suffering help you endure? Has that been your experience- to endure suffering when given a chance to choose other outcomes? Do you readily and eagerly attend to the needs of others who are also suffering?
Third, how has your understanding of hope changed by your enduring? How has your character helped you find a sense of hope for your future?
Suffering can be experienced as mild or miserable. We suffer in mind, body, and spirit. By that I mean when we doubt, when we second guess ourselves and others, when we find fault with our lives and our actions and the lives and actions of others, we experience suffering.
We also experience suffering when we react and respond to the conditions around us such as poverty, homelessness, hunger, injustice, and discrimination. We suffer as we respond to various crises in the world such as terrorism, violence, lack of leadership, nuclear threats, and global warming.
Unless we are hermits or we have achieved enlightenment, these events, and others, affect us. They cause us to doubt the power and promise of hope. They diminish our joy.
But we can learn to endure distractions. We can actively work towards lessening the effects of the world’s challenges. We all know people who have been deeply affected by local or global issues. They have gone about finding ways to bring a sense of hope to those affected by the suffering and striving to endure, who have not found a way to endure their suffering.
Finding Purpose As One Strategy
By finding a purpose in our lives, a purpose that transcends our own needs and encompasses the needs of others, we endure. Through our intentional efforts of “making the world a better place,” we endure. We build our lives, our character, as we strive to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe those without cover, and find shelter for the homeless.
I find hope in the work of so many people who volunteer, who sacrifice themselves by offering their time, talent, and other assets for the benefit of those who suffer. They seem to have found a way to lessen their own suffering. They never give up finding ways to make the world a better place. They never lose hope.
Hope builds upon itself. Hope multiplies as we experience it for ourselves and share our hope with others.
Each one of us knows that for which we hope, that for which we would gladly sacrifice some of our comforts to assist those in need. Even as we struggle, as we suffer, we find strength of character from enduring. Our character, our new understanding leads us to hope.
William Faulkner wrote, “Man performs and engenders so much more than he can or should have to bear. That’s how he finds that he can bear anything.”
Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, “We draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.”
Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
I believe we are equipped to find hope in the dreariest moments of our lives and our learning. Attending to the suffering of another eases the suffering of at least two individuals.
Endure, find strength of character, sacrifice, and in the joy of easing suffering, whatever the source, hope will appear. Seize it, share it, nurture it.