"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, NIV
The Apostle Paul knows how to turn a phrase. Prisoners do have a different perspective; complete loss of personal freedom can give a degree of clarity, I suppose. It certainly allows for deep thinking--the kind of deep thinking about life and brokenness most of us don't get to. When life is busy, we swim at the surface. We hit the high points and check the duties off our lists. Much of the time, a frantic pace keeps the sharks of fear and sadness at bay. Sometimes they bite.
Paul has time to think deeply during his imprisonment, and I praise God for the inspiration he shares here. Speaking God's truth to the Romans and to me, Paul reiterates that we can find glory in our suffering, because it is not for naught! It is a useful, necessary part of the educational process we refer to as sanctification. Good times do not have as much shaping power as tough times surrendered to Christ. God's love compels us through the character-building process. His great love reminds us through it all that we are His own, never forsaken, never alone, becoming in all things like Christ who is the Head. The power of the Holy Spirit in us works through hardship. When we are hurting, we tend to hear His voice more clearly.
In my trials, Jesus calls me to go deep--to look beyond what I see. I must search for glimpses of how He may be using the dark seasons in a way that will spread more light. My inclination to focus on my self blurs that vision. Yet when I focus on God's glory alone and how this trial might be used toward it, He gives clarity. The big picture purpose of my pain may take a long time to see. When the faint outline of purpose does appear, it is beautiful and fascinating.