“…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 5:5)
When a new trouble strikes or an old one obsesses our mind we need to think, how can this particular trial of mine focus people’s attention on God, his glorious character? It really depends on how I respond, doesn’t it? Faith is the alchemy that turns dread into praise to God. Praise to God when people see our faith response. And growth in us, too. Instead of spiritual deterioration that comes of un-faith, through trusting him in that adversity, the adversity itself becomes a fast track to becoming more like Jesus, the one who learned obedience through the things he suffered. And the greater the victory, the more glory to God. Here are four more reasons to hope:
- God isn’t gleeful about your pain. Jeremiah 3:33. God is the reluctant pain dispenser. He weeps with us. During the Iraq war I watched on TV a young wife weep over the terror her husband was facing in the gulf and heard her testify of how she was praying for his success, that he would “wipe ‘em out” and then she thought- “those Iraqi boys, their mothers, their wives are people, too. God have mercy on us all!” That young wife had caught God’s heartbeat. God takes no pleasure in the death of the sinner or the chastisement of the saint. He weeps with us. He understands, he feels our pain.
- Expect trouble. Lamentations 3:38 “Expect the worst, rejoice when it doesn’t happen.” We live in a fallen world. There is going to be sin. Against you. There’s going to be disease. In your family. There’s going to be failure, war, death. We’re not exempt. We should never be surprised that trouble strikes but should try to discern what God has in it for good. And what good can come of MY trouble? Many possibilities, but always 2. And when we work with God to bring about those 2 purposes, the pain is transformed into blessing: our growth, God’s glory. Don’t complain- you deserve it! Lamentations 3: 39,40. Pain in my body causes me to investigate, to take action. Without pain we’d deteriorate and die. Many do. How many cancer victims die because they didn’t have the blessing of pain? And with pain of spirit–it’s the same. But we don’t treat it as a blessing nowadays. In the old days when tragedy struck people immediately said, “For which of my many sins is God judging me?” Nowadays we say, “What’s wrong with God? Why me? I who deserve so much better?” Our society has become the fellowship of the victims.There was a highway sign on I-77 that advertised a new upscale development called “The Summit” with the tagline: “Get what you deserve.” Hallelujah that I don’t get what I deserve! If I did I wouldn’t take up residence at the Summit, I’d take up residence in hell. When trouble strikes, reflect on whether it’s God’s discipline to turn me from some wrong way.Do all the wicked of earth deserve to be punished? What about Saddam Hussein? We think so. But remember the ruthlessness and power of his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar. In evil, he makes Saddam look like peewee league. Yet how does God describe Nebuchadnezzar through Jeremiah the prophet? “I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon” (27.6) Who is God’s rod today? If we conceive America to be God’s rod to punish the wicked despots of the world, does that mean we deserve no punishment for our own idolatry of material things, sex, prestige, for our anti-god behavior, like the murder of the unborn innocents? Or perhaps the rising confrontation between Islam and the West is God’s rod to punish his church. Let’s examine ourselves and repent. Then there can be hope!
- God is with you. Lamentations 3:55-57. He comes near, so don’t be afraid. God will go with you through it, all the way. Indeed, he is with you in your suffering today. you don’t have much that could be called hard-core pain. Just wait! And when it hits, don’t forget–no matter how alone you feel, you’ve got a close companion.
- Ultimate redemption. Lamentations 3:58. In Jeremiah’s case he may be thinking of his salvation from the mud of that deep cistern into which his enemies had pitched him. Like Jeremiah, our redemption is not always the way we would wish, in the time frame we would hope. It certainly wasn’t for those four missionaries killed in Iraq. But even if not in this life- we’ve read the final chapter of the story. That’s our ultimate hope! Rejoice that your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. “My soul is downcast within me,” laments Jeremiah, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.”