Does suffering produce character? The writer of today’s devotion began with this quote from Paul’s Letter to the Romans:
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5: 3– 5)
A similiar question came up in our first online discussion of Good Courage. We are ZOOMing every Wednesday night for the remainder of Lent. In a conversation about Hope, I mentioned that a thought that instilled hope in me during the early COVID lockdowns was the oft-quoted line from Julian of Norwich.
“All will be well, and all be well, and all manner of things will be well.”
In the group we discussed how we would be careful about using this quote to “make someone feel better”.
The discussion led me to take another look at Julian’s Revelations:
“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.
In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”
I wonder if what Paul calls character is actually something like the outer shell around our true selves, which has to grow, and catch up to the sense of assurance that lies deep within, that we are in God’s hands, and whatever happens, we are okay, even when we are not.
This is also not something I am likely to say to someone who’s having a very bad time. Especially if what I’m really trying to do is comfort them, so their discomfort won’t discomfort me.