“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom 5:3-5)
Every time I’ve gone through what feels like hell on earth, I’ve come out the other side the better for it. Only from there can I say with conviction: “It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it; for I learned, changed, and drew closer to Jesus.” There is every reason to believe this time will be no different. I have hope.
Bullish outlook notwithstanding, I am not to be mistaken for any sort of paragon of resiliency. Not I, as one who whimpers unrestrainedly when fighting a head cold. Nor am I by nature the upbeat-sanguine type, relentlessly optimistic and forever persevering. To the contrary, there are many times—they seem necessary to me now—when I break miserably under the load of this fallen world. Drained of emotional reserve I stop moving forward and cling, just barely, to the last spark of hope I have left. This is the final surrender, the moment when I discard my demands that things be a certain way and accept God’s plan for my life, unconditionally. Only then does something (or Someone, yes?) fan that last vestige of hope into flames until I can again embrace God’s promise that in the end He’ll make it all “work together for good.” (Rom 8:28) The Bible says all this in better words and thus it’s the sensible point of view. But with rare exception, I only accept its liberating truth retrospectively and when out of other options.
Prior to returning full bore to the hopeful perspective—when I’m still in the dark of some latest struggle—one of my go-to defenses is to wail forth with false bravado: “This journey of life is not for the faint of heart!” It is my version of whistling in the dark and it is of no more help than my whimpering tantrums. For I couldn’t be more wrong. This journey is meant especially for the faint of heart, not to mention for the downtrodden, the weary, the hungry, the weak and the small; known in aggregate as the needy. The reality is we are all of these things and there is no point in pretending otherwise. We are the epitome of needy and we have been specially chosen for an unavoidable journey.
By now I’ve logged my share of miles along its harrowing segments. I trust you have too. And through trial and error I have come to see—if I am understanding God’s intentions correctly—that the formative aim of this process is to find that place in our hearts where we never journey alone, where God’s ever-present hand leads us to the great days ahead, where “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”( 2 Cor 4:17)
I am the needy. You are the needy. And contrary to worldly opinion, that is the best thing to be, for there is heavenly splendor in store for such as we. All we need do is hope; to but clasp the hand that reaches for ours in order to keep us moving forward one step at a time. At its core, to hope is to begin to step again, and again, and again. And whenever we do, we rediscover a great truth: hope does not disappoint.
I hope this encourages you to move forward with God today.
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