This is the fourth of the gifts of the Spirit and by far the most personal for me.
In the description of love in Corinthians 13: 4, it says “love is patient, love is kind.” But, another translation of that exact same passage says, “Love suffers long, and is kind.” A few years back when the turmoil and pain was at its peak in my life, I found solace in the idea that true meaning of the verse: “love suffers long, and is kind.” I held on to that because I had suffered for a long time, and I was still suffering. Even to this day there are pangs that wring out my heart in pain and desperation. In those moments I know that God asks us to suffer for a long time periodically, because His timing is perfect and His will is perfect. It is only in retrospect, when we reflect on the lessons we have learned through difficult times, that we recognize the immense values and lessons we have learned. In those moments, the realization hits me in the gut and I know that I have evolved to be a compassionate, intuitive human being because of my suffering.
This leads me to the second verse that discusses suffering. This one is located in Romans 5:3-5. “Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Here there is mention of the Holy Spirt and love. It teaches that through our suffering we learn perseverance which builds our character and ultimately gives us Hope. I can attest to this in my life over and over again. I have suffered, and in seeking guidance from God, I was told to persevere with His strength and through His will. The reward to bowing my head in obedience to God was a building up of my character and then giving Hope to others because of my suffering. It has been an incredible journey through my own difficulties which have given me the ability to step outside of my comfort zone and to reach out a hand, ear and tongue of kindness for people who need it. I have been blessed to see the world through less judgmental eyes and with more compassion ones. My most amazing interactions with others have been born of the fruits of my own suffering. It is the kind of growth only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit who asks us often to walk through the fire instead of granting our prayers of escaping it.
It was once told me that I would be grateful for the suffering I was experiencing. I couldn’t comprehend that concept then, but I attest to it now. My personal suffering has given me the ultimate gift of compassion, and understanding for others. And that is worth more than any gold, fame, or pleasure the world has to offer…even the exclusion from pain.