Suffering in the Spirit

Romans 5:3,5 – …we rejoice in our sufferings…because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 

One of the sacred honors of being a pastor is having a front row seat for the best and worst days of people’s lives.

A pastor is there when a person is born and when they are buried.

A pastor is there when a couple is married and divorced.

Having a front row seat to the seasons of struggle is an incredible opportunity to watch the Spirit rise to the level of the suffering. When Paul speaks about rejoicing in our sufferings, he is not saying we should rejoice because of the suffering but because the more we suffer, the more power and presence of the Spirit we receive. It is the Spirit in us who gets us through the suffering around us.

This is the first mention of the Spirit since Romans 1:4 and, coming up in Romans 8, Paul will have a lot to say about Spirit, naming Him some 20 times. The more suffering we endure, the more of the Spirit we experience.

When you are suffering or walking with someone who is there are three things I find myself saying a lot as a pastor.

  1. If it happens, it is because you are now ready. This may not have happened previously because you were not ready to pass this level of testing.
  2. God does not cause all that you suffer but uses all that you suffer. God is good, and sometimes our suffering is demonic, mysterious, or part of the fallen world. Nonetheless, as Jesus was attacked by Satan, suffered in ways we cannot understand, and lived in our broken world, God used it all for good and does the same with our suffering.
  3. Suffering shifts our focus from what we have to who we become. Suffering involves kinds and degrees of loss. When life is going well, and we are feeling strong, we focus a lot on what we have and how to protect it, enjoy it, and multiply it. When we suffer ,we lose a lot of what we have (money, time, freedom, health, possessions, status, etc.). The silver lining in this rain cloud is that we focus on the one thing that we have that cannot be taken from us – our character and the kind of person we want to be in the Spirit.

It is often said that there’s nothing in this life that is guaranteed. One thing that is guaranteed is that, if we suffer in the Spirit, we are guaranteed to rejoice in who we are becoming by God’s grace and power. For those who struggle to know how to do this, Jesus keeps it simple, saying in Luke 11:14 that God is a good Dad and, “the heavenly Father [will] give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” In the suffering and the struggle, simply stop and ask the Father for the Spirit to meet the need in the moment and He will come to empower you as He did Jesus.

Are you suffering right now? Is someone you love suffering right now? What would it look like to suffer in the Spirit? 

To find the free Romans study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit or download the Real Faith app.

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