Paul writes "but we rejoice in our sufferings". What exactly does "sufferings" (thlipsis) encompass in this context?

Some examples of situations some people may label as suffering:

  • persecution for the sake of the gospel
  • difficult living conditions during a Christian mission
  • financial hardship due to losing a job
  • bereavement
  • imprisonment (guilty of crime)
  • imprisonment (innocent)
  • being a victim of child sexual abuse
  • terminal disease with no obvious natural cause
  • terminal disease due to substance abuse
  • depression

These don't all fall into the same category. What does sufferings / suffering refer to in Romans 5:3?


Paul famously answers your question in 2 Corinthians, where he boasts about his sufferings.

"Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little... Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ?... I am more. (11:16,22,23; KJV)

If it's true that Paul wrote the book of Romans after Corinthians 1 and 2, and before Acts, then it's fair to include the following, from 2 Corinthians, KJV.

  1. "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one." (11:24)

  2. "Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;" (11:25)

  3. "In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;" (11:26)

  4. "In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." (11:27)

  5. "Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches." (11:28)

  6. "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" (11:29)

You didn't ask but it's interesting to note that, again, Paul says he's rejoicing in his sufferings:

"If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities." (11:30)

And again, he ends the chapter, boasting (about his success):

"In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands." (11:32-33)

Other sufferings, from Acts:

  1. "bonds and afflictions" (20:23)
  2. "they went about to kill him [Paul]" (21:31)
  3. "bound with two chains" (21:33)
  4. "carried into the castle... borne of the soldiers." (21:34,35)
  5. "Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live" (22:22)
    "examined by scourging" (22:24)
  6. "And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground." (27:41)
  7. "there came a viper out of the heat and fastened on his hands." (28:3)
  • Thank you for your answer. Do you mean to say, by your answer, that these are examples, from Paul's own life, of the kind of things Paul would consider suffering when writing to the Romans, or that Paul, when writing to the Romans, was specifically referring to his own sufferings, as you have listed? Or to put it another way do you see the sufferings of Romans 5:3 as specific or general? – atomice Mar 18 '17 at 14:50

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