Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
In today’s passage Paul lists “sufferings” as one of the blessings of our salvation and renewed relationship with God through Christ. The word “sufferings” here refers to all kinds of troubles and difficulties that may affect our lives. This includes such things as the pressures of school or jobs, family situations, financial or physical needs, tragic circumstances, sorrow, sickness, persecution, mistreatment or loneliness.
In the middle of these troubles, God assures us of his presence, enables us to depend on him and helps us grow closer to him. Through tough times we also gain strength and maturity that help us to overcome other difficulties in life. Instead of driving us to despair, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and proven character results in a mature hope a hope that looks to the future with God and that will not disappoint.
God’s grace lets us look beyond our present problems to find hope in our relationship with God. In the end, that hope is focused on the certainty of Jesus’ return to rescue his people from this evil world and to establish his reign with them in the new heaven and new earth. But in this waiting time, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” to comfort us in our troubles and bring Christ’s presence near.
In verse 5 the word translated as “hope” (Greek elpis) is different than the typical meaning we connect with the word today. Hope usually means looking toward something that might happen, depending on certain circumstances. But true Biblical “hope” is not wishful thinking about something good that might happen in the future. It is confidence from God concerning his promises, which makes it sure and leaves no room for doubt, because it is based on God’s word. We will experience the reality of this hope because God is “the God of hope” (Revelation 15:13), which means that he himself is the object and assurance of our hope.
We as Christians experience the love of God through the Holy Spirit, especially in times of trouble. The tense of the verb “poured out” in verse 5 expresses an existing condition based on a prior action. We have received God’s love, and the Spirit continues to flood our hearts with love. It is this ever-present experience of God’s love that encourages and holds us secure in sufferings and assures us that our hope for future glory is not a wishful imagination. Christ’s return for us is certain.