Every once in a while, something in the Bible will puzzle me. This passage certainly qualifies. Paul writes,
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (3-5)
This is a pretty famous passage, and I’ve read it a hundred times, but I’ve never thought of this until a few days ago. I can see how suffering would produce perseverance, and perseverance, character. But character, hope? What’s the connection between the two?
So I looked up the Greek, and the word translated “character” has a much richer meaning than what we see in the English. The idea is of someone who has come out of a time of testing. They have come out of the fire so to speak, and have come out tested and approved. Their faith is no longer simply a matter of head knowledge; it has become real in their lives. They’ve experienced the faithfulness and love of God in their lives, and it has made their faith all the stronger for it. They themselves are made stronger for it. They now have a character that can stand through even the toughest tests and because of that, no matter what comes, there is hope.
And as Paul says, it’s a hope that never disappoints. Why? Because our hope is not based solely on who we are and the character we have developed. Rather, it is based on the unshakable fact that God loves us and will always be with us through his Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
I think of Job in the Old Testament. He certainly experienced all of this. His whole life was taken from him, his family and possessions; even his own friends turned on him. Yet he persevered. And when he came out of the fire, he had an even deeper sense of the love and faithfulness of God in his life. And because of that, he found hope.
How about you? What trials are you going through? Don’t let them chase you away from God. Rather, let them cause you to draw even closer to him. Because as you do, you will experience his love and faithfulness in your life, and you will find hope for your life. And in the end, that hope will never, ever leave you disappointed.