Boasting in Afflictions
“Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:4-5, Second Reading for Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, 6/12/22)
Paul speaks of boasting in our afflictions, elsewhere he makes a point that we should boast of our weakness (2 Cor. 11:30, 12:5, 12:9). It seems so countercultural to boast in what we cannot do or over situations that look more like failure than success. We want to herald our victories and revel in our strengths. But in the upside-down nature the Kingdom of God, we are called to embrace the very things that seem to disqualify us in the eyes of the world. This was true of the Twelve that Jesus chose: poor and uneducated fishermen, an outcast tax collector, and a political extremist. As the saying goes, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”
The last several years have given me much to boast about according to St. Paul. I’ve been through my own cancer diagnosis, experienced personal betrayal, lost a job, had children dealing with various health issues, a house that seems to be in constant need of repair and is too small for our family, financial difficulties, and more. There have been many times that the wind and waves of life have pulled my attention from the Lord. Yet, as Paul writes to the Romans, these hardships can be opportunities for growth and blessing just as much as they can be obstacles of faith. The difference, of course, is our response to afflictions and weakness. When I surrender and trust in the Lord these difficulties become occasions of grace and growth. However, if I worry, panic, or try to make it on my own power these same challenges entrap me in a snare of self-reliance and rob me of peace.
It’s very much like the old Chinese finger trap:
May God grant us the grace to trust in him, to have confidence in his goodness, and faith in his power.