Welcome to S.S.U., Suffering State University

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

Suffering is relative, isn’t it? I mean, I could run low on toilet paper and say I suffered, yet a friend could experience the death of a child and say she’d suffered.

During a difficult season of suffering that was light years beyond TP shortage, I was told quite matter-of-factly by a wise and and influential woman, 

“You are in suffering school.”

At that, I shrank back, screwed my brows. Because somehow, sometime, without my realization, I’d been registered for this unpleasant place of higher education and ushered down its narrow hallway.

Imagine this exchange…

“So like, where do you go to school?” 

With nary a tinge of pride, I’d respond, “Um, S.S.U.”

They might return a blank stare, head tilted a little. “Where’s that? Like, California or…?”

I’d place a hand against my heart. “Uh uh. It’s right here.”

S.S.U. Known by its students as Suffering State University.

With a name like that, would you apply for admission?

Right. Me neither. Especially if their school colors were something dreadful like black and…black. However, I regularly find myself enrolled in this place of education. By Divine intervention. On full scholarship, lavishly paid for by the blood of Jesus. 

At S.S.U, I don’t live on campus, but, rather, in God’s presence…for as many semesters as it takes. I’m told my ultimate degree is holiness.

I’ll be taking courses on Perseverance and Character. No easy A’s here. But they’re prerequisites for the one I’m most interested in. Hope.

Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (vs 4)

Upon graduation, God Himself, the Almighty Dean of Students, will place that hard-earned degree in my hand while I’m mid-point across the stage and offer a robust, “Well done, child!”

I’d likely squint my eyes at His radiance, return a smile, then direct swift steps toward the exit…until His unsolicited question lands at the back of my graduation robe. 

“You’ll be considering re-enrollment?”

I’d swivel on my feet and stare blankly. “Thank you just the same, but, uh, no. Sir.”

“So you’ve learned the secret of being content through suffering?”

I sense He knows the answer to his inquiry but, like all wise educators, invites me to discover new truth. 

“Content and suffering. Can these co-exist?”

He’d nod. “It’s how you’ll know hope. Apostle Paul learned this when he was a student here at S.S.U.”

“But, Sir, isn’t one degree in suffering sufficient?”

A knowing smile would split across His face while He thumbed the darkened, circular scar in the palm of each hand. “The best way around suffering is to go through it.”

He’d draw me to His side with that long arm, usher me off stage and, at some point, I’d find myself re-enrolled at S.S.U.

A scan of the course offerings suggests I’ll be taking Practical Perseverance II and Character Construction II. The syllabus doesn’t detail any test dates. I’m simply told to expect them and to be ready.

As promised in scripture, the Professor’s required text, I’ll experience hope. Maybe develop a good bit of holiness, too.

Attentive and teachable students in S.S.U. learn that suffering serves a good purpose because God, the Master Engineer, works all things for His glory and for our good.

A great job opportunity awaits those who persevere through the rigors of S.S.U.:

Head of Proclaiming Truth to Incoming Freshmen.

Where are you on the road to S.S.U.? If already enrolled or a worthy graduate, what have you learned?

Mary

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✏️ Two of my 2019 inspirational articles that were published in Refresh, Online Bible Study Magazine, are featured in this 40 short Bible studies compilation, The Power to Make a Difference Available on Amazon.

2 Comments

  1. Martha M. Mullins says:

    We Americans aren’t to interested in developing our character if it involves PAIN, perseverance, difficulty, and the like. Andrew Brunson (in a Turkish prison for about 2 years because, as a missionary, he was deemed dangerous to national security) spoke at chapel recently at Columbia International University, where he relates his deep concern that we who believe are not ready for suffering or persecution. May we accept the loving training of our Lord, and be able to finish well, faithful to the end!
    Beautifully done, Mary! The Truth got through.

    • Mary Felkins says:

      Yes, true, Martha. You’ve certainly interacted with many who have suffered in incredibly difficult-to-bear situations but who’ve overcome and gained richness of character as a result of their perseverence. The Lord’s loving training is, indeed, for our good and His glory.

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