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.

    • So much goodness in this comment, Marilyn. Indeed, the Church has taken “rising above” as an art form. I am not sure I was aware of it, but during times of grief – or devastation -I never knew what to do at church. Who to be. How to act. Five people knew the truth. 300 did not know. So how does one present a smiling, happy, rising above version to the 300? It feels so fake. So sad. And I also want to ponder “fully present to both the grief and the grace.” That’s hard as the grief sucks you in and causes you to forget the grace. I, too, have been given so many walk-alongsiders who did not let me slip into greasy grace or engulfing grief. They helped me stay the path, allowing just enough veering for me to heal. I am always grateful for your voice – your wisdom. It’s so very valuable to me!

  2. Hi Sarah! Visiting today from H*W! Absolutely LOVE this post! I’m a total word nerd, so I did a little happy dance to your Greek lesson!

    What a wonderfully fresh perspective on a seemingly impossible directive from God: to rejoice in our suffering! Thrilled to know that it doesn’t mean we should throw a party for suffering’s sake, but rather, be glad for the grace we’re given when we find ourselves there! Looking forward to your next post!

    • Hi Allison! I’m just now catching up on comments – and to think: We’ve now met in person! Yay! I love a fellow word nerd, but I also love knowing His word is alive and active. So comforting! Thanks for visiting:)

  3. Just a thought….(Hi Sarah) I think it’s important to also consider context here. The Roman audience was suffering under the occupation and suffering for their choice to join this ragtag religion and not completely assimilate. They were being encouraged to rejoice because it meant that they were actually suffering as Christ suffered for them which was very important to the first church. I think it’s important to allow our emotions to be felt and to be known to the Lord. Doubt, anger, fear, anguish, etc are all emotions that we are blessed to have been created with and each with a purpose. Remember, Thomas was seeking healing and he had to feel, sometimes we have to feel and sometimes those things we feel are not so pleasant but I think you’d agree that Abba father as in the case of Thomas is more than happy to invite us over and allow us to feel any way we need to. Maybe it’s in that moment, that moment of surrender after the pouring out or lashing out of our feelings that we can somehow rejoice because we have somehow found a new freedom after the emptying out of ourselves and maybe through whatever the situations are, that emptying out process is a process that would need to happen frequently until the healing started to seep in to the emptiness left from the pouring out. I dunno. Just a thought. Love ya.

    • I love this…I am always better for having heard your perspective. Emptying ourselves needs to happen…until the healing starts seeping into the emptiness left from the pouring out. Such truth. Thanks for sharing. I plan to print this and ponder it more. Love you, Dave!

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