“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Lately in my own life, I’ve had a lot of big tragic things going on. The fact is that though I’m used to going from one major trial to the next, these really rocked me because a) they were big and b) they changed a lot of what I thought would happen and c) I could no longer imagine a good future for my family and I.
One of my spiritual gifts is encouragement. It seems God loves to give me the right words to give others in times of need.
I love opportunities to encourage others but it’s also really cool because so many times when I encourage someone, God gives me a new perspective and restores my hope through what I’m telling them. This happened recently. Combined with God’s words of encouragement to another, the theme I’ve been finding in my devos and also hearing through various other means as well as chapel and classes and just in conversations with friends has all come together and given me a new hope.
As a starting point, when things go “wrong” or at least not as we planned, we tend to ask God why. The problem is our perspective. We think that our life needs to be happy and that God should be working everything out for our happiness. Now though we feel this, none of us would want to freely admit that we think God is failing or that His plan isn’t perfect or that we actually believe this because it doesn’t sound like something we should admit to believing, but by our actions, we often show this is true.
I have been reminded lately in my devos that we are “pilgrims and sojourners” and that we are to be living our lives rightly because the time is so short until Jesus comes back or until we go to meet Him and also because we were bought at a high price and are not our own, as well as the fact that we are Christ to the world and they are looking at our example. Again, it’s all about perspective. We tend to think that this life is about happiness. This is not God’s aim for us. Now let me clarify. God does put desires in our hearts and He does fulfill them. He knows that you wish to marry and the kind of person that will be best with you and has created that person. He knows that I love sunsets, stars, and beautiful cloudy days and there are many times where He works it out so that I get to see them and stand in amazement. However, He cares more about me becoming more like Him and about accomplishing His will than my happiness, so He often allows trials. I’ve often heard that the Christian life is a battlefield not a playground.
Through a lot of personal trials, I’ve been going to the Lord wanting to cry out that life is so unfair and I don’t understand why He is doing this. At the same time, I do know why He is doing this. He’s using me to accomplish His will in another’s life. Here are some of the questions that came to mind: What if all this hardship is the cost of this person’s salvation?” What if this is what it takes for this person to decide to fully commit their life to doing God’s will rather than just living a nominal Christian life? What if this is what it will take for me to learn how to comfort someone else? What if this builds the character in them that changes them more into who You see them as? Am I willing to allow You to do this with my life? Though I could see what God was doing, it didn’t make it any easier.
As I was talking with my friend who is going through a great many trials, she was thinking through all of the things that, because of her unsaved husband, she is having to give up. God is taking her family way down, but from the outside looking in, I could see that this was the cost of the salvation for her husband that she sought. I told her that maybe God allowed this to happen to her not because she wasn’t precious to Him or because she hadn’t been an amazing woman of God, but because He knew that she was strong enough and was willing to be used to accomplish His will. I told her that I didn’t mean to downplay the hardship that she was going through because there was a great personal cost to her involved. I told her that it was okay that she was realizing what would be involved. I told her how Paul had recounted (in 2 Corinthians 11) all that he had been through and told her, though clearly not as extreme, she could name off all of the things she’d endured just as he had. But the thing is, that as I said, this life is a battlefield.
I heard for the first time the other day that our life on earth is about service, but in Heaven, we are not going to be serving, but rather ruling and reigning with Christ. That had never occurred to me. How awesome that will be when our service is done and we’ve done all that we were to do and when we get to Heaven, we are greeted and commended by Jesus and invited in to the celebration.
Going back to my friend, now though this puts us in the right perspective, there is something else that we need to realize. When a person walks by, they don’t have a tag that tells what must happen in their life for them to turn to Christ. When a trial hits, we often don’t understand the purpose and therefore our natural response is to just resist it and try to get out of it. If on the other hand, God sent us a note attached to the trial and told us that through this trial our friend would come to know the Lord, we would be able to handle this situation that we would encounter, or this would cause us to have an opportunity to further the Kingdom, we would likely be willing to see that God had a point and would willingly go through the trial. But because we are unable to see that (just as Job was unable to), we don’t have the same response.
In the trials I mentioned earlier with my family, the reason that they rocked my world other than just the fact that they were really hard anyway, was that I couldn’t see the future as I would have imagined it. I could only see devastation and everything spiraling down. The thing that I didn’t take into account is that God already has an amazing plan worked out for my life. He doesn’t make mistakes and He knows what is best.
In these times when we can’t see hope, we have to realize, as my great-grandmother always said, that “The road is never so straight that it doesn’t have a curve in it somewhere”. Many times we are at the place where the road veers off to the right and we can’t imagine anything but jagged rocks, high cliffs, and man-eating animals just around the corner. We never imagine that there could be an awesome view of the sunrise, the most amazing field of wildflowers, or a river of water next to the road.
Friend, hope in God and realize that He is all you need. Though you may be going through horrendous trials or even just the little ones that annoy you, remember that you are a pilgrim, a sojourner, and as you’re passing through on your journey to get to the celebration in Heaven, you have to endure some hard times, but this is not the end. Don’t survive and don’t live “as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) because He gives hope and does not disappoint. Put on your armor, remind yourself that you are in a battle, focus on His Word and allow God’s perfect peace to reign and when you’ve done all of this, stand and support those around you as well.