The Habit of Rejoicing

by Cherry Pedrick, RN
Reprinted from,
April 29, 2002, Revised

Rejoice, even in suffering. When we rejoice in our everyday suffering, perhaps it trains us for the big time suffering.

In Romans 5:3, Paul tells us to “rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character hope.” After the events of the past few weeks, I’m convinced Paul had a point, not just about big time suffering like illness and loss, but even about everyday suffering. My revelation began early one morning in our guest bathroom. My son James was home from college with three of his buddies, and I was enjoying some quality time watching late night movies with the guys.

Then my son entered the room and said, “Mom, the toilet’s overflowing.”

I rushed to the bathroom. My husband Jim, who had gone to bed, heard the commotion and was already there. First, he pointed out to our son that the water needed to be turned off. I was so proud that he knew that. You see, my husband isn’t much of a handyman, or at least I didn’t think so. Maybe I just hadn’t given him a chance though, and he possessed hidden talents. He always seems to hurt himself, so I don’t encourage too many handyman activities.

As Jim turned off the water I got extra towels, and the mop and bucket. James snuck out of the room. He’d learned all he wanted to know about plumbing for the night. As I mopped, my husband plunged. That’s when we learned something about plungers. Plungers have a lifetime. This one was at least 25 years old, the rubber was worn, and it no longer plunged. We had met a plumbing roadblock.

“Walmart’s open.” I said.

This seemed crazy, going off to Walmart at one o’clock in the morning, but that’s where we found ourselves. Las Vegas is a 24-hour town, and even in the suburbs the roads still had plenty of cars. Where were they going? The parking lot at the fitness center was partly filled; cars were lined up at the Jack in the Box drive through; and Walmart’s parking lot was almost full.

In the store we even saw a girl we’d taught years ago in Sunday school, a college-age young woman now. We had to introduce ourselves because she didn’t recognize us. A week later I saw her mother in church. “Oh yeah, she said she saw these ‘old people’ in Walmart. She thought only people her age hung out at Walmart late at night and early in the morning.”

We bought our plunger and a fancy looking toilet-unplugging tool, just in case the diagnosis was more serious. I’m not sure we’d have known how to use it, but we felt safer armed with it. Then, home we went and directly to the bathroom, excited to use our new plunger. I left the bathroom briefly, to get more towels I think. When I returned, my husband was flushing the toilet, a big grin on his face. I was so proud. After 24 years of marriage I realized he really could be a handyman. I was a bit disappointed though because I’d missed the big moment. The next day I realized with surprise that I had enjoyed our late night plumbing. We did it together. We didn’t yell at each other. The next day we slept in. I guess we rejoiced in our suffering. Easy enough with toilet repair, but more difficult with the bigger sufferings of life.

I wonder if Paul had this type of everyday suffering, not just illness and loss, in mind when he counseled his followers to rejoice. When the crowds gathered someone had to wait on tables, wash the dishes, and take care of the unexpected – like repairing holes in the roof after unexpected guests dropped in (Mark 2:1-5). I can just imagine Paul looking at my husband and me, and down at the mess on the floor, and saying, “Come on Jim, Cherry, let’s build some perseverance and character. Rejoice!” I think when we develop a habit of rejoicing in our suffering it does build perseverance. That builds character, and that produces hope: Hope and reassurance that when the big time suffering comes, and it always does, we can face it, and rejoice.

Seems I’ve been given plenty of opportunities to build perseverance and character lately, or perhaps I’ve just been recognizing them a bit more. A few days after our plumbing activities, I spilled coffee on my laptop and destroyed it. (I know, you’re not supposed to have liquids near a laptop or other electronic equipment.) A week later, I fell in a parking lot, breaking my glasses and banging my head enough to require six stitches.

Then one day last week, sitting outside the car wash, this rejoicing thing started to make a bit more sense. That morning I’d ordered my new glasses; I’d had a small problem with my publisher; my old software decided it didn’t like my new computer and printer; and now this. I’d just pressed the button to go through the car wash and my window wouldn’t go back up! The green light flashed, signaling for me to move ahead into the car wash. As I frantically pulled at my window I gained more understanding of the verse. I can rejoice in my suffering because I have a car with a window, money to get new glasses, a new computer for my software to dislike, and a publisher to publish my book. And I have a handyman husband, a wonderful son and a house with a toilet to plunge!

Be sure to check out The Habit Change Workbook:
How to Break Bad Habits and Form Good Ones