Romans 5:3-4

James Gandon encourages us to look for what God is doing in our lives during these difficult times

James Gandon
James Gandon

I wrote a column in the local paper this week and used the phrase that I felt we are in a stage of having to 'keep on keeping on' through this virus and the lockdown and restrictions we are all living with. We cannot just get back to our previous way of living, having freedom to go out and about and see who we want. For the sake of protecting ourselves and others we have to continue to take precautions. But there is hope at the end of it all. A hope that this virus will come to an end and life will return, not just to how things were before but to something new and better.

Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4 that we should celebrate in suffering. That sounds like a ridiculous thing to say in many ways and I firmly believe that God doesn't produce or send suffering on us, that's not in his character. However when suffering and trials come along, which we all will have experienced, we are to look for how God changes us through it.

Paul spent plenty of time in trouble and in prison in his life, shipwrecked, beaten and put in chains. He knew about suffering and could speak with real experience and integrity about his experience. So here in this letter, it is worth taking these words to heart. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character, hope.

As we go through times of suffering, we develop an ability to cope, a perseverance ion our prayer lives, our reliance on God - a determination to keep going. I enjoy mountain climbing and hill walking but know that sometimes there comes a moment on your ascent where you're ready to give up, you're done and your legs are crying out to stop. But in those moments, it is a sense of perseverance and determination which drives us to get to the top.

Character is the next element Paul speaks of - when we overcome the initial and immediate feelings of wanting to give up on the task God has called us to, he builds our character. We should strive to have the character of Christ, full of the fruit of the Spirit, and through our experiences and the choices we make in moments along the way, God builds our character. This lockdown has been tough on everyone but there's been moments for me where I have had to make a choice, sometimes a difficult one in a relationship or situation which I really didn't want to make - but in hindsight it was incredibly character building. God used it to show me how he wants to stretch and grow me.

And as we have our character built by God he points us to hope. Hope is such an amazing aspect of God isn't it? We have hope for a better future, hope for God's blessing and provision - based on the promises in scripture and our own experiences. And ultimately hope that because of Jesus we can know him and be with him forever, in eternity.

So as we 'keep on keeping on' throughout this lockdown and whatever the future may hold, can I encourage you to persevere, look for what God is doing in your character and what he is pointing you towards in hope. Things may never look the same again in our churches or lives but we do know that God is with us as we journey up the mountain, supporting us as we make difficult decisions and constantly pointing us up to Jesus and the hope he brings. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.