Rejoice in Suffering
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
I love going to the beach! Sitting in the sand, enjoying the breeze, playing frisbee, and walking on the boardwalk are some of my favorite things to do when I go there. My absolute favorite thing to do, though, is swim in the ocean. Now, I use the term swim lightly; I more so stand there and let the waves hit me. I even try to walk out as far as I can and try to hold my ground from the ocean’s oncoming barrage. One time though, the waves obliterated me and knocked me off my feet. I was under the water for no more than a few seconds, but it felt like hours as the waves held me down and stopped me from coming up. Now a massive wave of fear and panic was coming over me as I struggled to find something or some way to bring me above the water. Thankfully the waves finally calmed, and I was able to come up for air. Even though I still face the waves when I go to the beach, I never forget that fear and panic.
I felt that same fear and panic this past year. My wife Holly received an email saying that she had lost her job. Holly was four months pregnant; I was already working three jobs and struggling to make ends meet, and now we lost Holly’s job. In one swift moment, it felt like everything was being pulled under by the waves. I kept telling myself that I had to pull us up above the waves; I needed to step up and provide for my family. Holly could not work during the day because of our daughter, and at night she felt horrible from the pregnancy. So we made the decision that I would get a fourth job. Now I could lie and say I faced this decision with all this maturity, but I was so afraid. Even with that decision, it felt like we were getting pulled deeper. All these thoughts swirled in my head. How was I going to manage it all?
However, this amazing thing happened; the more time went on, God kept reminding me who he was. He reminded me of his power and protection as I read about the Israelites and the Red Sea. God was the one who parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could walk on dry land. God reminded me of his perfect provision as I read Matthew 6. God provides for the birds and the flowers, and how much more he will provide for me. He then reminded me of his providence as COVID hit. See if Holly had not lost her job in January, she would have certainly lost it during COVID. So this fourth job, even though it took me away from my family at night, protected us during COVID. We never went without pay. God also reminded me of his presence among his people by using you all at Renovation as you came alongside us and supported us in so many ways. I cannot even begin to list them all.
All this led to rejoicing in my suffering; I realized that the more I suffered, the more God moved me away from self-reliance and toward reliance on Him. The more I relied on him, the more he helped me to endure; the more I endured the more He grew my character; the more my character developed, the more he gave me hope. The impenetrable fortress that is our God surrounded me. While the waves of life may crash and rage, they will never break down the walls that are our God.