Suffering -> Hope
Suffering > Perseverance > Character > Hope
I enjoy Disney movies, Hallmark love stories and a good rom-com with all the other "hopeful" romantics. The world does a good job of playing on our senses and emotion to fill us with a desire for happy endings. We can fall prey to believing our lives should or could look like a Disney movie.
Social media allows us to believe other people are living lives that resemble fairytales and somehow our hearts have been rivaled to believe in a fairytale Jesus. It is easy to become entranced in a fictional Disney version of God. A God that promises if we trust him our lives will be filled with happy days. It is easy to anchor our hope to a happily-ever-after, but the Bible does not promise hope in the form of fairytales. The gospel message is that hope, at its root, starts with suffering, which is the opposite of what culture teaches. Culture teaches we should avoid and end suffering as quickly as possible. “And they lived happily ever after” should not be our end goal or even the desired outcome. The desired outcome should be change; moving from suffering to perseverance to character to hope – the perspective of our lives will change based not on our own ability, but on Jesus work within our hearts.
Hope sees the hardship of the situation, steps in and trusts that God is working for my good in spite of the circumstance (Romans 8:28) Hope endures the suffering for the purpose of refinement and change. Hope holds steady.
I used to sit in a deep-rooted belief that more people would know Jesus if they saw His work and therefore it was my job to demonstrate God’s work in my life and others. I became the agent of change and the pressure of demonstrating His work to others did two things: it exhausted me and took the focus off of Jesus and placed it on me. Over years of trial and error I’ve learned that more people know Jesus if they experience His love. More people experience God’s love if I am honest about my sufferings and sit with others in their sufferings. My role is not to be an agent of change, but to rest in the truth that in suffering we are called to persevere; both in our own sufferings and in the sufferings of others. The willingness to choose perseverance allows the Holy Spirit to begin the work of character building. It is not up to us to build our own character and produce hope. It is only up to us to keep moving forward in our sufferings, relying on Jesus that deep rooted hope will be the end result.
I was talking with a friend the other day who has been faced with much suffering and loss in her life. She told me, “I really thought things would be redeemed by now. I really thought at this point I would have answers to why I have suffered so much, but the truth is we are not promised wholeness of redemption this side of heaven.” As much as a “feel good” story with a happy ending is more popular among the masses, I know that real life gives unexpected twists and turns. Life has the ability to feel overwhelming often, and I want hope that endures the times that take my breath away more than I desire a few minutes of a warm and fuzzy feeling.
A few year ago I had the honor of visiting Auschwitz in Poland. As you can imagine it was a haunting and heart wrenching experience. The stories, the grief, the photos, the railroad - all marked by such evil, tragedy and loss. How could anyone endure? How could there be perseverance moved to character building moved to hope? Then we read about Corrie Ten Boom and we are reminded that we have examples of how God fulfills promises. He demonstrates over and over that He will fulfill the promise to turn our suffering into hope.
"He uses our problems for His miracles. This was my first lesson in learning to trust Him completely."
- Corrie Ten Boom, 'Tramp For The Lord'.
So friend, press on, be willing to endure the suffering one step at a time, but don’t choose to do it alone. Invite God to fill you with the strength to endure and then call someone to sit in your suffering with you, choosing perseverance that God promises will lead to character building and deep rooted HOPE.