Thursday, December 08, 2011

From Suffering to Hope

I had an experience with Scripture this week that shouldn't shock me, but it did.

I'm sure there are many professions that cause the worker to cease his/her amazement over time. For instance, I'm sure there are brain surgeons who get so accustomed to doing dangerous procedures that the amazement of his/her first successful brain surgery wears off over time. In fact, if I ever need brain surgery, I hope I get a doctor whose hands don't tremble and jaw doesn't drop when she slices open my skull. The sign of a good brain surgeon is that she forgets the incredible/daunting nature of her task.

I'm sure most people who do their day job over time lose their initial excitement to some degree. I can't imagine a PGA Tour golfer or professional surfer wanting to change professions, but it happens. I'm sure marine biologists long for a day when they can work above water and astronauts wish they could spend more time on planet earth.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

Confession: It can happen to preachers too! It is possible to forget the incredible blessing of bringing the word of God to the people of God.

I know it's shocking. But I'm guessing your preacher goes through the motions from time to time as well. Even searching the Scriptures can become a bland weekly task.

But there are moments (you preachers know what I'm talking about), incredible moments, God-breathed moments, when a text you have read a thousand times cuts through you like, well, a double-edged sword. Usually those moments occur when we stop reading to find a sermon for others and start reading for a change God wants to make in us.

I think these moments happen when our lived experience in a particular moment meets with Scripture's power that is ever-present. I had one of those moments this week.

I heard these words from Paul at a Men's Breakfast:
"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:3-5

How had I not seen it before? I've read these words a thousand times.

But if I'm reading that right, suffering leads to hope. What? That woke me up.

Now, I haven't endured much suffering in my short life. I'm in the 1% when it comes to the level of suffering I've endured in my life. But the past few months have been a time of trial.

Through this time of "suffering," I've lacked a few things. But most of all, I've lacked hope. And my loss of hope has affected many around me.

But in a moment of God-breathed inspiration, ancient words from a guy from Tarsus answered my dilemma. Hope is not found in the absence of suffering. Hope is found through suffering. Counterintuitive much?

I'm not sure how suffering might be branding your life as you read these words. I'm sure your suffering is greater than mine. I'm also sure you belittle your suffering because you can think of hundreds of people who have been through more.

But what if on the other side of suffering, if you live with perseverance and character, is hope. That's a game changer!

May this word of hope comfort you in your affliction!


1 comment:

Larry Wishard said...

Great points. Scripture when approached with an open heart is like a scapel at times doing open heart surgery. At times its like a kalidioscope looking so beautiful and so differnt. At times its like a mirror or better and KAT Scan Reading me an then telling me to persist and keep going.