Rejoicing in Pain

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11–12)

Christian Hedonism says that there are different ways to rejoice in suffering as a Christian. All of them are to be pursued as an expression of the all-sufficient, all-satisfying grace of God.

One way of rejoicing in suffering comes from fixing our minds firmly on the greatness of the reward that will come to us in the resurrection. The effect of this kind of focus is to make our present pain seem small in comparison to what is coming: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16–18). In making the suffering tolerable, rejoicing over our reward will also make love possible.

“Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great” (Luke 6:35). Be generous with the poor “and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). Confidence in this promised reward cuts the cord of worldliness and frees us for the costs of love.

Another way of rejoicing in suffering comes from the effects of suffering on our assurance of hope. Joy in affliction is rooted not only in the hope of resurrection and reward, but also in the way suffering itself works to deepens that hope.

For example, Paul says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3–4).

In other words, Paul’s joy is not merely rooted in his great reward, but in the effect of suffering which solidifies the hope of that reward. Affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces a sense that our faith is real and genuine, and that strengthens our hope that we will indeed gain Christ.

So whether we focus on the riches of the reward or the refining effects of suffering, God’s purpose is that our joy in suffering be sustained.