We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Rom 5:3-4)
Imagine the conversation with me for a moment.
“So like, where do you go to school?”
Glibly I respond, “Uh, SSU.”
Blank stare. “Where’s that at, California or something?”
I give my head a shake, place a hand on my heart. “Right here.”
S.S.U. Suffering State University.
Would you apply? Didn’t think so. Me neither. However, I regularly find myself enrolled in this place of education. By divine intervention. I won’t live on campus but, rather, will live in God’s presence. For as many semesters as it takes. My ultimate degree? I’m told it’s holiness.
It won’t be the dean of the university who hands me my hard-earned degree mid-point across the stage. Better. It’ll be the Lord Himself.
“Well done, child!” He’ll cheer.
“Thanks?” I feel my brow narrowing above slightly squinted eyes. “I mean, thanks. Sir.”
Almost escaped His question, I groan before redirecting swift steps headed for the exit and turn, instead, to face Him.
Hesitant, I scrunch my face into a wad. Are you out of your mind?! Sheesh. God knows all my thoughts. “Uh, thanks just the same, but no…Sir.”
“Yet have you learned the secret? You know, of being content through suffering?”
“Content and suffering? They co-exist?” Yeah, like little bunnies hop freely on an African plain.
“Yes, it’s possible. It’s how you’ll know hope. Apostle Paul learned this when he was a student here at S.S.U.”
I nervously scratch my head pretending to eliminate an itch (forgetting again that He knows there’s no itch). “I honestly think one degree in suffering is sufficient, Lord. Isn’t it?”
A knowing smile splits across His cheeks, He thumbs the scars in the palms of His hands. “The best way around suffering is to go through it.”
He swings a long arm around my shoulder to draw me close, ushers me off stage. “Mary…”
Hearing Him state my name, it renders me nearly speechless.
“Are you rejoicing in your suffering? Or are you hopelessly suffering?”
I rotate my shoulders beneath the weight of His question and cling to my hard-earned degree from the last experience.
But, of course, He already knows the answer.
I find myself re-enrolled. He hands me a class schedule and along comes the next hard circumstance. I wisely retrieve my spiral notebook, pen in hand, and prepare to take notes. Upcoming test dates aren’t specified on His course syllabus. I’m simply told to expect them and to be ready.
Some remarkable things come from having graduated over and over again. Perseverance, character and, as promised, hope. And a tad closer to holiness. All good stuff. Yet they come through suffering.
The Lord reassures me that upon graduation from S.S.U. a great job awaits me.
What is it you ask?
Proclaiming this truth to incoming freshmen.