Hopeless brats. Wonder if I have ever been one of them?
Maybe the problem we have with hope in our society today is we skipped the steps of suffering, patience, and character building from which hope is birthed. Paul said to the church in Rome,
“We also celebrate in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces patience, patience produces a well-formed character, and character like that produces hope. Hope, in its turn, does not make us ashamed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
It would seem Paul saw a connection between suffering and hope. The suffering that we go through in life develops in us something that doesn’t get created any other way. Suffering and patience work together to create well-formed character in us. We can try to skip the steps and put on the façade of character, but true character is slowly formed in us over time and through endurance.
As we go through experiences in life they leave their mark upon us and difficult circumstances tend to leave deeper marks. This is the place of character building. It is where well-formed character is produced in the one who endures the trauma of being reshaped. Suffering changes us forever, leaving behind character in our lives that would never have come any other way.
It is this character working in us that gives birth to hope. For without the suffering and the subsequent development of patience there is no character. And if there is no well-formed character then there is no hope. When we endure suffering, are patient enough to see God, and allow well-formed character to grow, then hope bursts forth in our lives. Hope is given birth in that moment when we have hit the bottom, all is dark around us, and somehow we recognize Jesus is with us. This happens when we stop trying to avoid suffering or pretend that it is not part of faith. Hope, which is not ashamed, is poured out in our lives through the Holy Spirit.
In our impatience these experiences cause us to look down upon ourselves and decide we simply are not good enough. We blame God for what has happened or not happened and hold Him accountable. Rather than endure to the end, we find a way out and circumvent the development of the well-formed character the suffering was sent to produce.
Maybe the problem in our culture today with hope is that we have not been allowed to suffer enough. It could be we have raised character “brats” who have no real character at all; at least well-formed character. In our endeavors to love our children we strive to spare them the pain of disappointment and hurt. In doing so we shortchange the process that would create such character. We make them the hopeless “brat” they have become because we didn’t allow suffering to work its refinement in us or in them.
Paul called the Church in Rome to a life of well-formed character. He challenged them to not be afraid of suffering and to be willing to endure the road of patience. Why? Because Paul wanted hope (a fruit of the Spirit) to be produced in their lives as they realized the depth and greatness of God’s love. Today, that same man and the words he wrote many years ago calls to us with the same message. Let your suffering develop in you patience, which grows well-formed character and produces hope in you.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.