Romans 5:3-5

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 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
Our hearts and minds war against the first part of this verse. We simply don’t want to believe that any good thing comes from suffering. We hate even the idea of suffering. At the same time, our spirits long to believe it—that no suffering is wasted, that suffering produces endurance and character and hope. Even limited experience with suffering shows these words are true. Human nature wants a life of beauty and ease for ourselves and our children, for earthly streets of gold to lead us directly to the heavenly ones. But times of pain, loss, and grief grow compassion in us, lessen earth’s grip on us, deepen our faith in God and our eternal and sure hope of heaven. This beautiful result is no credit to suffering, but it happens ‘because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.’
 
Louis Zamperini’s life story (captured in Laura Hillebrand’s best-selling novel Unbroken) bears witness to this verse. Zamperini could run a mean mile, on pace to break four-minutes. On the 1936 US Olympic Team, Zamperini finished one of the fastest final laps in the history of the 5000-meter. But his endurance on the track was nothing compared to what he endured in his 97 years of life.
 
As a WWII Army Air Corps bombardier, Zamperini faced equipment malfunctions and enemy fire; he saw friends die. On a search and rescue mission, loss of power sent him crashing into the Pacific Ocean where he floated on a life raft, 47 days lost at sea, threatened by unrelenting sun, starvation, storms, and sharks. A prisoner of war for two years, Zamperini faced abuse and torment from his captors. He survived disease, malnutrition, exposure and regular beatings.
 
After the war, Zamperini’s past haunted him. He suffered from PTSD and recurring nightmares, turning to alcohol to self-medicate. Then, in 1949, Zamperini went with his wife to hear the Reverend Billy Graham preach where he asked God for forgiveness and accepted Jesus as his Savior: ‘I felt this perfect calm, a peace. The Bible calls it the peace that passes all understanding. I knew then that I was through getting drunk, smoking, and chasing around. I also knew I’d forgiven all my prison guards….…for Louie Zamperini, the war was over.’
 
After all he had been through, we would understand if Zamperini remained imprisoned by bitterness, resentment, pain, and addiction. Instead, he went on to live a life full and free, establishing a nonprofit camp for troubled boys and traveling the world to share God’s story of redemption. What happens to Zamperini is beyond understanding, the miraculous outcome of God’s love poured into his heart through the Holy Spirit.
 
Questions for Reflection:

  1. Has suffering in your life bred bitterness, resentment and addiction? Or has suffering produced endurance, character, and hope that will never disappoint? Pray, asking God to use your suffering to grow endurance and character and hope through his Holy Spirit.
  2. In what ways have you been encouraged by brothers and sisters in Christ who have shared their stories of God’s faithfulness to redeem suffering in their lives, ultimately bringing great hope? Take a few moments to call, send a text, or write a note, thanking them for their encouragement.
  3. Consider where you might use your stories of endurance and hope to encourage others on their journeys.
Rebecca Janni | Author

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