How many happy and giddy people have you ever seen lifting weights? Let's say, a real tough guy lays down on the bench press, “Put 200 on there,” he says to his spotter. He begins and as he struggles under that tremendous weight, is he laughing? Is he shouting for joy? No, he’s grunting and exerting all his strength. And the next day, his shoulders, chest and arms are sore. But his muscles grow stronger.

Our sufferings are like weight training. And God knows exactly how much weight to put on there. And it hurts for a time. But in the end it makes his believers stronger. Paul puts it this way in Romans 5, “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope…” Perseverance is staying power—endurance. Suffering, for as much pain as it brings, makes believers able to endure the hard times. And that endurance shapes them and makes their faith stronger. It gives them character so they see their faith is proven true in suffering. And that character forces them to focus on God’s promises which leads to hope. Suffering -- Endurance -- Character -- Hope

God loves us so much that he wants to make us better Christians. So he trains us with suffering. Suffering teaches us to hold on to God’s promise that no matter what, he has declared us not guilty through Jesus' death on the cross. Holding on to that promise is perseverance. Holding on shapes your character so that you become stronger and stronger. Isn’t that a good reason to rejoice when you suffer? God is not punishing you; he’s training you, making you stronger. Doesn’t that put our hard times into a different light? They are meant for our good. A bad economy: for our good! Hard times for my family: God is training us, teaching us to persevere and hold on to hope.

God’s answer to suffering is different from the world. He teaches us to rejoice in his verdict—we are declared not guilty. Rejoice and hold on!