From Suffering to Hope

You’ve been there.  I’m there right now.

It’s those times when the pressures in life are emotionally crushing, spiritually draining, and physically exhausting.  To make matters worse, a relief from the suffering seems distant and hope, sadly, isn’t even on the horizon.

The Apostle Paul speaks to the community of believers in Rome about the transitional steps from hardship to hope in Romans 5:1-5. He encourages them to “glory” in their suffering  because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” 

I love the way Eugene Peterson translates this same text into contemporay language:

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

That last line reminds me of a beautiful phrase I was given by a friend just this evening, “I am blessed beyond my comprehension.”

I’m carrying quite a bit of anxiety right now, but if I can focus on God’s gracious power to remove suffering and transform it into hope, I know I will survive this time and more than that, I will sing praises and rise above!

May you rise as well!

HOPE

HOPE.

This week, the first week of Advent, HOPE is our focus as we consider as Christians how our faith stirs hope within us.

This is the time of year, however, when that word is often plugged into sentences that have more to do with the pressures the Holidays than the hope that can be found in the Advent Season.

hope I can find something for everyone on my list.  

 I hope the mall traffic isn’t horrendous.

I hope I don’t go into too much debt again this Christmas.

I hope the drinking doesn’t get out of hand this year.

I hope there isn’t too much family feuding.

I hope no one mentions our recent loss.

I hope the depression or loneliness isn’t too severe.

Whatever is anxiously bubbling up for you this time of year, consider these words from Romans 15:13:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   

My friends, do not allow the frenzy of this Holiday Season to distract you from the Holy Season of Advent.

Let your focus be on the joy and peace that comes not only in following Christ, but in trusting that the God of hope is at work in our lives.  No matter the struggles, no matter the despair that can rise up in the dark winter days or when you’re not sure how you’ll afford Christmas or when family tensions are rising, remember that God does not forget nor forsake us.

This Advent may we witness hope being transformed into peace between family members, neighbors, and countries. May we fashion with God’s help a hope that comes in the form of courageous and creative change to dire situations. In this Holy Season and every season, may we plant seeds of hope in the hearts of the downtrodden and feel it overflowing from our very own souls.