Romans 5 describes a process. The process of the Israelites was Suffering leads to Arguing. (Exodus 17:1-7)
Here is a better process. It is not a How-To project. This does not describe what we should be doing by ourselves. It is what God does in our lives. We can fight against it and make it worse, or we can work with God and make it work better.
We encounter suffering. You will face hardships. Jesus was lead into the desert by the Holy spirit, where he fasted for 40 days and faced the Devil. He did not suffer because he disobeyed, but because he obeyed. This is just how Israel was in the desert and they faced trials. They did not face trials because they disobeyed – that was God’s plan. Their problem was that they fought and resented the ways of God.
We persevere. When we face suffering we can quit or we can continue. This is true of many things. Start to play the guitar and your fingertips will get sore and red, but you have to continue, and then they harden. Start to exercise and you will have pains, but it gets better as you get into shape. When we continue forward, despite the suffering, we gain perseverance.
We develop character. As you continue, you become a different person. As you face hardships you learn; Your personality changes. Instead of crying like a baby, you become more mature and learn how to handle problems. Crying is fine for the helpless, and it is even ok for adults, but we have to move forward.
Character results in hope. Here is where we learn from our experience. In Exodus 17, Israel forgot that in Exodus 16 god sent Manna. They should have said, “If god send bread, he could also send water.” But they did not learn or develop character. So every new problem was a crisis.
When you face hardships, and you survived by Gods’ grace, you lean that God is faithful. You learn to have hope.
Let me say a couple of things about this process.
1. It is not as neat and tidy as a chart. Our hardships do not come with labels on them. So when you get a flat tire, there is not a large blue box that labels that hardship. And when you face that problem with a car jack, it does not have the sign “character” or “hope” written on it.
2. You do not go through this only once. This is constant, you are maybe part way through one lesson on character, and another starts. Don’t think that you can say, I went through that now, I am a graduate!. Maybe so, but if you were in 1st grade, now you are in 2nd. Or if you were in high school, now you are in college. Of if you were in middle age, now you are a senior citizen.
3. It is not automatic, like a machine. It is much more personal than that. There is not a process inside of us. There is not data inside of us. There is not “something” inside of us. There is “someone” there. This is a personal thing, not a mechanical thing.
God has poured his love into our hearts in the person of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us encouragement. He is the one who helps us to understand God’s promises, and later to remember them when we need them. It is the Spirit who prays for us in words that we cannot form for ourselves