What Afflictions Avail

St. Paul writes in Romans 5:1-5 –

Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 

Professor Scott Cairns, reflecting also on the works of St. Nil Sorsky (d. 1508AD) waxes poetically about “What Afflictions Avail“:

“If not for sufferings, the unknowable

Providence of God would not be apprehended

as acting on the crowd. And we would be

unable to approach God with boldness,

unable to learn the Spirit’s wisdom,

or to be assured of divine love in our souls.

Prior to sufferings, the poor man prays

as to a stranger; but if, out of love, he struggles,

soon he observes a stirring change.

Before this, he held God as a taskmaster,

but now becomes God’s true friend.”

(Love’s Immensity, p 125)

St. Paul continues his thoughts in Romans 5:6-10 –

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Christ did not die for the righteous, but for sinners.  Christ did not descend into Hades to save the righteous, but sinners.  Christ did not wait for us to abandon sin before dying for us.  He did not die for us to reward us for our goodness.  He did not die for us to save us from sinners, but rather died for us while WE were still sinners.  Christ died for us while we were enemies of God.  Christ died for those who are still enemies of God.  He died for those are still sinners.

This is the most amazing love of God for us.  And we are to love others as Christ loves us (John 13:34; 15:12).