Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 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.
This suffering and character building, it’s no joke. It wears us thin and it wants to steal our hope. I would have to say that I have always been a person of hope. People sometimes get annoyed at me for it, but I’ve never minded. I’ve also worn my heart on my sleeve since, well as long as I can remember. That is a beautiful gift and the specific way God made me, it also comes with a great capacity for pain. As my daughter gets older I can see it even more clearly. She is just like me. And I know all the hurt that is coming for her because of it. It makes me want to encapsulate her in packing bubbles, but I can’t. That isn’t God’s plan for her, and it isn’t His plan for me either. But here I am tired and bedraggled with emotion. And I want so badly to see the end; I want to know that all this will count for something; I want to know that my struggle to still feel and care and love will add up to God’s glory (v.2). These verses reminded me that they will, but I have to keep letting suffering produce endurance and character and then hope because I believe that hope will not put us to shame. We will get to be partakers in God’s glory and revel in all that He is. But for now, I’m still here. I have to struggle for hope and believe that all of this is not for nothing because endurance, character, and hope are only produced from suffering when I engage in the battle. Otherwise it produces bitterness, heartache, and distrust. I have to stop believing the lies that Satan so deceitfully whispers in my ear. He is a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. My hope is what he has recently set his targets on.
I’m learning that sanctification is part of a cycle. I don’t believe there’s a time in life when we plateau. Hardships and struggle and trial are meant to make us who we are becoming. They are refining tools that God uses to work sanctification. There are seasons of victory after seasons of battle, but battle is why we are here. I spend all kinds of time and energy fighting a cycle that I need to embrace. Even in the cyclical hurts, God is constant, and if I can hang on to that steadfastness of God, then I become constant in the cycle. The whole of my life is not meant to be comfortable, but I spend so much thought and energy trying to make it that way. If I want to be used of God, then I have to be willing to run into battle like David, and not away from it. I want to say with David that with my God I can advance against a wall. I want to embrace the battle and advance, not simply seek retreat. What if we were to focus all that energy we spend trying to manipulate our circumstances into battling Satan and our flesh? How much more victory might we experience?
The beautiful part of this cycle is evidenced in Romans 5: the result of the cycle is hope. It seems out of place in the list with suffering and endurance. But hope is produced when we finish the cycle, when we let it work completely in us and through us. If we fully participate in what God is trying to do in us, then we don’t get stuck in the middle of the process and we make our way to hope. To be clear, fully participating does not involve pouting, sulking, half-hearted attempts, or an ungrateful heart. How do you think the battle may have gone if David told God, “fine, I’ll fight Goliath, but I am not walking down to that dirty creak and collecting stones, and if I break a nail in the process I will not be happy”. That’s a hilarious picture, but it’s not unlike my attitude sometimes. Getting through the cycle to take hold of that hope is so important because it is that hope that advances into the next battle as the cycle starts again. We take it with us through the production of suffering, endurance, and character building. It holds our hand in the middle when we get battle weary and reminds us of the victory.
I often get battle weary when I encounter failure. Repeated failure can produce character and in turn hope because failure leads us to dependence on Jesus and that’s our only hope. Success can bring hope, but it’s a hope misplaced in ourselves. Time has taught me that I will repeatedly be disappointed in myself and that leads to disillusionment. Hope securely placed in Jesus kills shame because my failure pails in light of Jesus success. When we fail, hope does not put us to shame because we realize Jesus is not done with us; He continues with us. I am given the gift of sanctification; it’s the process in which Jesus makes all things new. It’s such a great gift because sanctification in itself is hope, the hope of another try, a new day, a new chance, real change. This hope is often overlooked in the mundane, but the truth is that Jesus is with us in the everyday and that is the best hope. He doesn’t just show up for the “big things” because he knows that the daily adds up to the sum of our lives. The patterns of our habits and reactions in our daily lives can be some of the biggest battles we face.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 AMP
I don’t know about you, but I have let deferred hope make my heart sick. This happens when my hope and desires are set on the wrong things. According to Romans 5 verse 2 we have, “access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” I want to rejoice in hope of God’s glory in all the cycles of real life and stand up in grace, the favor of God, not just His forgiveness and mercy, but his unmerited favor on us. It is a safe place to stand because it is the one place we will not be put to shame because grace lends us God’s favor even though we don’t deserve it. There is just as much favor when we sit in God’s grace and just bask in it, but victory is won when we really stand up in it. It’s a higher vantage point from which to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. When I am standing not only do I see the grace of God more clearly, but it’s a vantage point where onlookers can see God’s grace more clearly as well. When I am standing in the grace of God, my position lets me bring hope to others. We have a responsibility to be light and bring hope to the world. Standing in grace puts that light a little higher in the sky. It holds out hope to the people next to us. Satan wants nothing more than to knock us down and keep us from standing in grace because he knows what an impact hope can have on a soul.
I want to stand in grace and bring hope where there is a gap. I will continue to struggle for hope even when I take repeated hits. I will stand back up in grace because I know that my hope will not put me to shame no matter how many times I am knocked down. So friends reading this, remind me. Remind me of hope. Remind each other of hope and stand in the gap that Satan wants to create between suffering and hope.