Rejoice in Our Suffering {What? How?}

I see and hear this idea in church circles. I’ve heard it from friends and stages.

It’s so simple they say…it’s right here in Romans: …we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (5:3-4)


I’ve seen this: Perseverance producing endurance and endurance producing character. We observe it in the lives of others often. We gain strength in suffering. {It’s a song even: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…yes, you’re welcome. You might hum this all day!}

Here’s my hang up: Rejoice in our sufferings.

I’ve never been able to say this to another human. Oh, you’re getting a divorce?  Rejoice! Cancer is back? Rejoice! You lost your job? Rejoice! You live without clean water or access to food? Rejoice!

No way.

Truly, how does one rejoice in sufferings?

I have assumed the super Christians know how. I’ve even heard them give this advice. Or, appear to live this way.

But, as so many around me grieve deeply for divorce and diagnosis, I look at the words rejoice in suffering and think…Lord, that could not mean “to feel or show that you are very happy” (dictionary definition). That just doesn’t sound like you.

So, I google “define rejoice in Greek.” {The New Testament, which is where I am reading in Romans, was first written in Greek} So, my hope is that rejoice meant something else in Bible times. That God doesn’t really expect us to go around “showing that we are happy” when life seems so very difficult.

(Patience needed here – it sounds a bit mumbo jumbo;)

Rejoice in Greek is xairo from the root xar-, meaning favorably disposed, leaning towards. It’s from the same original word or root as xaris meaning grace. Specifically, to delight in God’s grace. Literally, to experience God’s grace and be glad for His grace. And xairo, which means glad for grace, also comes from the same word as rejoice and grace. **

Doesn’t this make more sense? God doesn’t expect us to walk around faking happy. He isn’t asking for our response to “how are you?” to be “oh, just rejoicing over here even though I am devastated.” Perhaps He’s saying…

Follower, in the face of suffering – rejoice! Lean towards grace. Be glad for my grace. Delight in my grace.

During this season of suffering, I pray you experience His grace and you’re glad for it. Lean in to His grace. For when you do, suffering produces endurance. Endurance produces character. And character produces hope. And we can all use more hope.

How are you “rejoicing” today?

**Thanks to Bible Hub for this information. Disclaimer: I am not a Greek scholar; I simply love words and etymology (word origins).


  1. The words “leaning toward” stood out to me. In my circumstances, whatever they may be, God’s hand is in it. He has allowed. He also has ultimate power. So…..wherever the road is going, I’m leaning into it because He is there, even if I’m feeling, “Golly, where? Where? Where?????” It can be a tremendously bumpy ride, one I’d rather not go on, but here we are, going on it. Buckle up.

    This whole idea of “rising above,” which we’ve elevated to a high art form in the Church – always smiling, always happy, always cheerful – becomes a real problem when we live as though grieving and rising above are mutually exclusive. The Bible acknowledges grief. Isaiah spoke of the Messiah as one “acquainted with grief.” Jesus was deeply moved by the loss of Lazarus (John 11), in spite of knowing Lazarus would not remain dead. In our humanness, we grieve. We must because grieving plays a role in our healing and reconciliation. It does, and adding shame to grief is an obstacle to healing.

    Walking through a devastating loss fully present to both the grief and the grace is not for the faint of heart. I am so glad God has provided not only His Spirit but some excellent walk-alongsiders for me at different times. The world has very few really good walk-alongsiders. If you have one, sometimes you get the chance to pay it back, but sometimes all you can do is pay it forward.

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