God can turn Discouragement to Hope
The last several months have been difficult. I have not responded well to many of the challenges encountered. I have grown discouraged and frustrated and have struggled both emotionally and spiritually.
Last Sunday was the first of four Sundays of Advent. Our focus was how the birth of Jesus brought hope into the world. In preparation I reflected over Romans 5:2 which reads, “We boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
Paul, the writer of Romans, continued with the astonishing words, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Rick Warren has said, “God never wastes a hurt.” This truth is a paraphrase of Romans 5.
Glory revealed through suffering
Still farther into the Book of Romans Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).” Once again, we have reason to be joyful in the face of pain.
God is glorified by the transformed lives of ordinary people. Paul knew that painful opposition to the gospel is actually used by God to bring about our transformation.
Paul is not alone in this incredible proclamation. Peter wrote, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12-13).”
James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).”
Each writer declared that we should be joyful over any painful challenge encountered because suffering is used by God to shape both our faith and life.
The challenges I have encountered should not lead to discouragement or frustration, but should kindle a keen anticipation of what God is bringing about in me! Each challenge contributes to the glory of God that will ultimately be revealed! Any pain or difficulty we experience as we sincerely strive to follow Jesus is actually a glorious gift as each contributes to the work God is doing in us.
Hope in the facE of criticism
Sunday afternoon Phyllis and I saw the new movie about the beloved Mr. Rogers. In the movie Fred Rogers is criticized, but rather than respond defensively he thanked the speaker for the criticism. I sat in the theater and prayed, “Lord, help me to be thankful for the hurt I have experienced because I know, as Paul knew, that you are powerfully and profoundly at work in my life to manifest your glory.”
When you sincerely strive to follow Jesus and yet experience pain inflicted by others, stay hopeful. We know that suffering helps us to persevere. As we persevere our character is shaped. As our character is shaped we have a steadfast hope that God himself is going to glorify himself through it all.