GS Letter Feb 2020
…knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
and perseverance, character;
and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4).
Sometimes when we go through hardship and tribulation, we may not understand why God has allowed it to happen. More often than not, our focus is on how to halt the suffering or prevent it from causing further distress. This is normal and understandable. Similarly, in the current situation when the COVID-19 outbreak is still uncertain in Singapore, people tend to put more attention on how to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
However, the recent incident after the DORSCON orange alert level announcement, where many people did panic buying and wiped out basic supplies from supermarkets, may provide an indication of people overdoing that self-care. Consequently, I believe that the more we are fixated with the latter, the further we might be from comprehending the purpose of hardship in our lives.
On the contrary, the Apostle Paul believes that tribulation is for building perseverance, character (in another translation: proven character), and hope. Our current situation is not even near to the sufferings the early church experienced. They went through famine and poverty, were ridiculed, persecuted and even killed. Yet, Paul was still able to boast that tribulation will produce good.
It is interesting to note that the above conviction is located immediately after his great thanksgiving to God because “we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2, bold is mine). In other words, Paul believes that if suffering is juxtaposed with what we have gained in Christ, it will eventually produce similar outcomes: perseverance, character, and then ultimately hope (5:4).
How does the above outlook on tribulation help us produce perseverance, character, and hope?
For students, many of your large-scale events and gatherings are now cancelled. Instead of being overwhelmed by disillusionment, let us with perseverance and creativity, think, plan, and initiate smaller-scale assemblies or something on a different media platform, which would probably give deeper impact.
For staff workers, the various restrictions and additional measures recently applied on campuses and in offices, may irritate us. Instead of being swamped by disenchantment, let us exercise the virtues of patience and empathy.
For graduates and supporters, looking at the growing number of confirmed cases and the fast transmission rate of the virus may make us anxious and fearful. Instead of being flooded by self-centeredness, let us show kindness and caring attentiveness, especially to those who are more vulnerable (children, the elderly, the sick and the poor) and who work tirelessly in controlling the outbreak (government officials, health care workers).
For all of us, whining over why the people from China came to our shores and inadvertently caused a problematic outbreak of COVID-19 here only makes us succumb to xenophobic fault-finding. This will only aggravate the sense of despair. Instead, let us reverse the hopelessness by staying hopeful having the assurance that we already “have access by faith into [his] grace in which we stand” (5:2). Hence, we are able to “boast in the hope of the glory of God”.
Perseverance, character, and hope. Let’s aim to see these three virtues produced in our life at the end of this hardship.
In His grace,