Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. –Romans 5:1-11
The greatest gift of all is “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Not that all people desire this gift. We humans become preoccupied with chasing after all kinds of other gifts—money, fame, success, security, worldly recognition. And then, when we fail to obtain them, we feel robbed. This is why so many people feel robbed when suffering touches them. Illness, grief, and life’s difficulties are seen as barriers to fulfillment and accomplishment in life—unfair barriers that keep us from reaching our full potential.
For the Christian, peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ keeps it all in proper perspective. Because we are at peace with God, in life and in death, we see suffering not as an unfair barrier or hindrance, but as a tool, a means for growth and development and, eventually, hope!
How helpful and inspiring are St. Paul’s words, reminding us of this fact and laying out for us how it is that peace with God transforms suffering, leading us to endurance, character, and hope—hope because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. So that now, suffering can be seen as a gift and as a blessing, not as a punishment. Now, suffering and trial can be understood as instruments for our own strengthening, rather than as negatives to be avoided at all cost.
During Lent, we focus greater attention on our Lord’s suffering and dying on the cross. But rather than seeing a man being persecuted unfairly, we see the Son of God willingly giving His life for the world, no matter how painful or terrible. Through His death, we have life. Through His suffering, we have hope. Through His condemnation, we have peace with God!
Heavenly Father, thank you for your love, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us, that we now have peace, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Taken from Wendel, David, From Ashes to Easter, Ashes Lenten Devotional Booklet, North American Lutheran Church.