Down the end of my parents’ street, there is a soccer field where the local ‘all-age’ team used to have their home matches. On Sunday afternoons throughout the winter months, we would often see cars drive down the street to watch a game. Many of the cars would have streamers on their aerials that displayed the team colours of purple and white. Then, about two hours later, all the cars would drive back in the other direction. We could always tell if our local team won or lost based on whether they were driving fast with horns tooting (which meant they had won) or driving slowly (which meant they had lost).
While we may not go round tooting our horns, as Christians we always have a sense of joy, even through the trials of life. As followers of the king who was crucified, we know that life is not a bed of roses; sometimes life is tough, really tough. And while we don’t enjoy such times of suffering, we are comforted by God’s love for us. For we know that even through the darkest valley, the Good Shepherd never forsakes us, but he is by our side, gently bringing us through.
This term in church we are following Paul’s three missionary journeys from Palestine to Rome. Along the way, Paul is thrown into prison several times, stoned, whipped, and persecuted by angry crowds. In our Bible studies we are looking at these journeys from a different perspective as we study Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, his final destination. In this letter, Paul writes, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Roman 5:3-4). Paul is not pretending that life is easy; for he knows full well that life is hard. But Paul, like us, can persevere through the tough times with the joy of knowing that Christ has won the victory over sin and death and no power can snatch us from his care.