This world’s brokenness is near tonight. A misty rain has been falling as my prayer alarm reminds me to lift up a friend enduring hardships. I’ve just said “thank you” to another friend whose help has been imperative as I can’t leave the house to care for my family. Again. This pain seems endless. I know it will have an end, but it lingers and permeates everything.
I’m discouraged. I, the one who is about to self-publish an entire book on the need for hope. Tears streak mascara across my blotchy skin and I wonder why I was never any good at pretty crying. In fact, I could win an #uglycrying contest. I remember how in the early days of our marriage I would hide my face from my husband so he wouldn’t see the reddened eyes, the quivering chin, the slobbery mouth, the snotty nose. But he would lovingly pull me to him, uncover my face so I could see his love and his hope for me. He wanted me to allow myself to be held.
Held by hope. Is there any such thing? In this rotten, foul world I can lose sight that God loves me. Sometimes I can’t see that He doesn’t want to just hold me, but is growing hope in me, a hope that won’t falter.
After expressing how we have been justified before God through Jesus, Paul wrote how we can persevere in faith, continue in grace, and how we can hope in God’s glory in this seemingly hopeless world:
. . . we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3b-5 (ESV)
Though the apostle Paul was specifically talking about sufferings, or tribulations that were caused by persecution, the translation of the Greek is talking about trouble stemming from outer circumstances (William Arndt, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature). I feel most of us, even those of us not suffering persecution as the early church was, can learn a great deal from this passage so that we too can boast in the glory of God and allow Him to use difficult things He allows in our lives to produce endurance, which produces character, which produces hope.
If I think of rejoicing as enjoying my suffering, I lose my way. If I think of rejoicing in my difficult circumstance as boasting in God, I start to see Him. The truth is, I don’t really know what these tears mean in view of eternity, I live right here and I can’t quite envision beyond now. I do know from past experience, there is something here, something bigger than what I can see. Even in my discouraged state, I feel urged on by the Holy Spirit to stand, to keep living and breathing and trusting. He is teaching me and so many of us endurance and character. As He does so, I have this confident expectation (sounds like faith, doesn’t it?) and that is the hope that doesn’t put us to shame, or doesn’t disappoint according to the New American Standard Bible.
I have a friend who uses her social media platform to constantly brag on God in the midst of her hard circumstances. I have another friend who uses the hard things she has gone through to be more compassionate to others and serve them better. I find myself praying more diligently, something I can do even when the pain is pressing in. I also find when I begin praying, I often begin confessing my fears, and praising His goodness. Suddenly, I am drawn to hope. Even though I can’t see it, I am sure of what is coming beyond this moment.
I know. I know that whatever you are going through right now may feel difficult, but what if we choose to trust that He is doing something we can’t see (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) and start to hope in Him? What if we allow Him to work through us? What if we allow Him to show us how He is already working through us?
A precious friend of mine reached out to me the other day. She told me that God was already doing something, He was encouraging her through me. I was stunned, humbled. Her words reminded me to hope, to not give up. She encouraged me to endure. I pray you have someone to do this for you. I pray that together we will find a way to continue to hope.
Photo Credits: Arwan Suntanto, Manuel Barroso