Romans 5.1-5 Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast 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 into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Reflection Some 30 years ago I was lying on my Rolfer’s table, wincing with excruciating pain. For those of you who may have missed out on the alternative medicine that was available in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the late 1980s, Rolfing was a ten session program intending to realign the body structure and functioning through manipulation of connective tissues. Rolfing is not to be confused with massage. In other words, it is not intended to produce relaxation. It systematically works on the connective tissues throughout the body, driving hard into the heart of physical pain and erupting emotional trauma along the way.
In any case, in the midst my third or fourth Rolfing session when tightening my shoulder muscles in resistance to the intrusion of Margaret the Rolfer’s elbow piercing my scapula, Margaret counseled, “If you would just relax around the pain rather than resisting it, this will not hurt.” Without missing a beat Margaret waxed on, “One day you will be grateful for all of the pains you have endured.”
It was a good thing I paid for all ten sessions in advance, insurance I would stick it out, because I seriously considered leaping off Margaret’s table to limp away and lick my wounds. I tell you this story because it is the first experience that erupts on my thought horizon when I hear Paul’s counsel to the Romans, “And not only that, but we also boast 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 into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Paul, Margaret, what are you saying? I believe the key to the meaning of this scripture as well as Margaret’s counsel lies in where it lands, “God’s love poured into our hearts…” You see, regardless of our situation, regardless of our suffering and the challenges we endure, “the Holy Spirit of God has been given to us.” When life is flowing along smoothly and we are enjoying pink sunsets and the freshness of brand new baby breath, it is easy to proclaim, “I found God in the extraordinary sunset. I found God in promise of new life revealed in this infant.” Lovely as they are, these experiences do not stretch or grow our faith.
The questions that actually grow and align (justify) our faith are, “How do we find God in the not so beautiful places? How do we welcome our uneasy places, our disappointments or challenges? How do we relax around the edges of our pain and endure?” For me the only way to do so is by remembering, “God is with me, especially in my suffering.” This is the substance of our faith, faith that holds us in right relationship with God, faith that God is faithfully with us, enabling us to endure no matter what.
If you found this post to be meaningful please share by clicking on the icons below. Thank you.
** The image represents the structure and function of a protein molecule.