Note: This is entry 5 in a study guide series called “Four Seasons of Healing: A Pathway for Those Living with Chronic Illness.” For a list of entries click here.
Part II: Spring (March to May)
April: Love Poured Out
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 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.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If Paul did not receive healing from the thorn in his flesh, I reasoned, then I might not receive healing either. At the same time, I figured God allowed me to endure it for a purpose. Like the man born blind, his inability to see led to a great miracle that pointed to God’s power: “’Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:3).
The way Paul interpreted those events of his life provoked me to think of chronic illness and suffering differently. Amid my dark time of false hope and taking ineffective treatments, I heard these words: 9 But he [God] said to me [Paul], “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I allowed the idea of boasting about weakness and allowing God to work through my limitation to sink in. Psoriasis did not make me less of a person; instead, it led me to be a better follower of Jesus.
God’s love is not only found in removing suffering and sin as many would desperately seek. It is found in the acts of love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the God-man. Through the incarnate Jesus, God understands what it is to suffer and provides the grace, love, and help needed to persevere and heal. Through the springtime of renewal, a new perspective blossoms—one that sees and believes that the Father is working out all things for His good, for those called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
James writes to “consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds” (1:2), and Paul talks about glorying in suffering (Romans 5:3). What kinds of trials and suffering have you faced in your life? Have you thought about their role in your understanding of God and His love?
- Have you experienced the love of God “poured out” into your heart? If so, what did it feel like?
- Paul says that while people were sinning against God Christ died for them. What does this truth tell us about the nature of God’s love for broken people?
For Further Thought
The first half of Romans 5 begins to expound on the ramifications and benefits of salvation by faith through grace. A believer can adopt a different view of suffering because of the hope and love poured out by God’s Spirit.
When Paul says that God’s love has been poured out into a Christian’s heart through the Holy Spirit, he is talking about the experience of God’s love. His love is poured out especially in the midst of suffering and weakness.
- What is different about a Christian’s perspective on suffering that leads to a unique view and response to it?
- Why might a Christian claim to not feel God’s love on an emotional level? How might suffering impact how one receives and internalizes God’s love?
- What do people typically base their identity and worth on? What does God’s love, even while we were “yet sinners,” say about the Christian’s identity and worth?
- How have difficulties produced perseverance, character, and hope in your life? What role does God’s love have in experiencing hope and growth of character in suffering?
Close in Prayer
Take a moment to thank God for his salvation and love poured out in your heart by the Holy Spirit. Place your current difficult situations, including struggles with chronic illness, into God’s powerful arms of love.