“. . . we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:4
The air looms heavy with the threat of hard times, does it not? The fear is that if we are not able to quell the spread of the coronavirus quickly, to stop it in its tracks, our livelihoods will be in severe jeopardy, not to mention our health and safety. Individually, many of us have suffered difficult times, but few of us have experienced them universally on a national or global scale like that of, say, the Great Depression. And that is our fear, and perhaps a valid one. But since we’ve mostly never experienced it, neither are we able to predict what life will truly be like should such conditions occur.
Since I was born post the Great Depression and World War II and did not experience those dark years, except for hearing stories from my parents and their generation, I was always curious how people of that age managed. I recall once asking my mother what it was like. Her answer was simple, “we just lived one day at a time,” she said, and that was it. I don’t believe she was trying to be flippant in her response, but somehow her answer seemed incomplete. I felt she left something out, on purpose maybe, something I needed to experience or figure out for myself.
What I’ve come to believe she left out – and for me to figure out – is that when hard times do occur that is when the “better angels” of human character begin to emerge. I observe it happening even now from the phone calls we receive from friends just checking in, and the calls we find ourselves making doing the same. There are more emails and text messages floating around, staying in touch, offering encouragement, even jokes and humor to lift our spirits. It’s a strange thing, but when we face suffering it makes us more aware of the suffering of others, awakening our compassion.
As much as we all may fear the looming threat of hard times, the Apostle Paul reminds us that we should instead “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” So, how are we to survive hard times should they occur? The same way as the generations before, by persevering one day at a time, joining in the band of those “better angels” of human character, then opening our eyes to the hope before us in the gift of God’s grace.