The Standard June 30, 2022
One of my best friends loves to quote the cult classic The Princess Bride when Westley says, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” If we are not currently going through a painful situation, we either are close to someone who is, or we have in the past. For those who have recently lost a loved one, it might seem like future prospects are bleak and that life has lost its luster. It is understandable to have bouts of a sinking feeling that things might never improve or that life might not ever be as joyful again. Feeling hopeless is not where God wants us to remain. Looking to the past, we can be assured that all of God’s promises are trustworthy and true. In Christ, we have the best hope of all.
Relatively few people have experienced hardship and persecution the way the Apostle Paul did. Beaten, lashed, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked and martyred, Paul’s perspective on suffering was otherworldly. He encouraged Christians to have a clear understanding of suffering, viewed through the lens of our future hope.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, 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.” (Romans 5: 1-5)
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:18-25)
“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.” (Romans 15:13)
“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:24-27)
The Apostle Peter also illuminated the practice of maintaining hope in the face of suffering. May we focus on God’s past, present and future faithfulness to carry us through difficult times.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:3-6)