Why is it that some can experience extremely trying circumstances and still remain full of hope? You know the kind of people I mean? Those not in denial of reality, but rooted in a confidence that transcends the reality of the situation. I know several people who embody the exhortation in today’s memory verse: Romans 12:12. The situations are different for each one but the common theme I see in their lives is they have a rock solid faith that empowers them to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.
Today, I read the blog of a friend whose husband had a severe stroke five years ago. Every time I read her words I am humbled by her faith and attitude of joy. She authentically shares their challenges and doesn’t gloss over the grief and frustration involved. But even in the hardest of times, she ends each post with a prayer full of trust and submission to the Lord.
Another person who comes to mind is Michele Cushatt, author of Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life. I’ve been following Michele’s blog and her podcast with Michael Hyatt for some time now. I love her writing and outlook on life. In her story, one finds a woman whose life is turned upside down by cancer and the decision to take in two children in need of a loving home. The brutal honesty of her emotions is matched only by the beauty of her faith.
If you want a peek inside a Romans 12:12 life, read Michele’s book. And just as her book was being released, Michele experienced a reoccurrence of her cancer. Instead of attending launch parties and celebrating the arrival of her book, she was recovering from major surgery and aggressive radiation and chemo treatments. But what do you see in her posts on her blog and social media? Stories of a believer moving forward in hope, bearing up under the affliction, and continually turning to God in prayer.
Both of these women live as Paul instructs in Romans 12:12. Theirs is an honest life of joy, hope, perseverance, and steadfast communion with God in the midst of the mess of real life.
The Joyful Hope
Our hope as Christians is not that the circumstances will change. They might, but they might not.
The world thinks of hope as wishful thinking. Hope for the best, expect the worst. But hope for the believer is different. Our hope, to quote an old hymn, is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Our hope brings with it joy and peace because it is certain. We hope for the best in the expectation that God has already secured its outcome. Ours is a joy not tied to fickle circumstances, but a faithful God.
Believers are equipped to bear up under the trials, troubles, and tribulation of this world not because they are strong, but because the One in them is strong. They take to heart the words of Jesus in John 16:33 (our Memory Verse #6):
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
A Different Kind of Patience
In the movie the Princess Bride, the character Vizzini keeps using the word inconceivable. And his hired swordsman, Inigo, responds with “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”
We might say the same thing to Paul when he says for us to be patient in affliction. But Paul knows what he is talking about. He was intimately acquainted with suffering. And he was able to endure it because he relied on the Holy Spirit’s power, not his own.
We tend to think of patience as “not minding” a delay, irritation, or hardship; to accept it and not struggle with it. But the word Paul used includes within its meaning the concept of suffering. It is more along the lines of our word persevere.
God calls to us to not give up. He will sustain us. I used to scratch my head in befuddlement whenever I heard someone say of someone exercising what we think of as patience, “They have the patience of Job.” I wanted to ask them, “Have you ever read the book of Job?”
Job doesn’t take his affliction in stride, never complaining or becoming angry, frustrated, or distraught. He has a strong emotional response. But he takes his response to God. He leans into God. And even though he doesn’t get the answer he wants from God, he gets the presence and self-revelation of God. And it is enough to sustain him (and humble him).
Paul isn’t saying we won’t or can’t struggle under the weight of our troubles. He is saying we can endure them when we are in Christ.
Those who are joyful in hope and patient in affliction are so because they tap into God’s strength through continual prayer. They put their burdens in the hands of the One capable of carrying it. They sit in his presence and receive the grace and mercy they need to persevere.
If you read Paul’s writings you will notice how vital prayer was to his endurance. And when you read the Gospels, you will notice how essential it was for Jesus. Why would we think we don’t need prayer to be infused in our daily lives?
The response to last week’s post, How I Made Peace with the Mystery of Suffering, was eye-opening. It was shared more than any other post I’ve written. The struggle with suffering struck a chord.
So many people are going through painful circumstances and need the strength to not only endure, but to do so with hope.
If you are in the midst of a storm, I pray that you will meditate on today’s verse and allow God to pour into you his hope, strength, and faithful presence.
And if you aren’t, I encourage you to reach out to someone who is and put Memory Verse # 5, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, into practice.
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