Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom. 5:1-5).
Cause and effect. An action produces a reaction. And most of the time, these effects and reactions are fairly predictable. So what about in the case of affliction? Of trouble? Of hardship?
We might think the most likely result of affliction to be despair. Sadness. Bitterness. And surely they can all be. We have all known people – or been people – who, having walked through difficulty, came out angry or morose on the other side. But there is another result, one more unlikely perhaps, but nevertheless more true for the Christian:
The unlikely result of affliction is hope. That’s the progression we see in God’s Word. That we can boast in our afflictions because we know that those afflictions are the beginning of a chain. The next link in that chain is endurance. Then comes proven character. And at last, there is hope. True hope – gospel hope – is not born of ease but of affliction. Why might that be the case?
Part of the reason is because affliction wakes us up to a reality of the world that we can tend to forget in the absence of that affliction. In the midst of our conveniences, our safety, our relative comfort and prosperity, we can easily forget that the world is a broken place. And that the world is not as it was meant to be. That something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. When we experience affliction, we are reminded of this fact. And until we have the need for hope, we tend not to have the reality of hope. We don’t have the need until we are acutely aware of all that is wrong around and in us.
C.S. Lewis was right when he wrote so many years ago:
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Perhaps this is one of the redemptive things God is doing during these days when we have all been reminded of the multitude of things that are broken about this world. Perhaps He is awakening us to all the false idols in which we have mistakenly put our hope and redirecting us to the nature of true hope. For the affliction around us is toppling our present hopes one by one, and as they all fall, we are forced to look further – look deeper – for true hope. For as all these false destinations for hope fall, we once again come back to what is rock solid. What we know for absolute certain.
That our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6-8).