We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5
Once hope is let loose, there is no telling what may become possible…
Did I ever mention how much I love the springtime here in Wake Forest? We’re nowhere near the level of intense color outbreak we’re going to see before too long, when the dogwood and the azalea burst wide open, but it is enough right now to set the stage, and to get the promise of what is to come right at the front of our minds.
Often, promise is enough – or almost. Just the idea of what may be next can be sufficient to set hope into motion. And once hope is set loose then there is no telling what may become possible.
Sometimes hope is hard to grasp:
Monday afternoon, out walking Max through the park in order to blow some of the cobwebs out of my mind, I paused at a friend’s front garden and we talked for a while. It’s an interesting thing, but whenever we chat we always tend to end up deep into faith and theology – even though neither one of us intended it at the outset.
We were talking about a particular tragic situation, and how easy it is to believe, yet be angry with God at the same time. “I talk to God and I express gratitude,” he said, “that things were not any worse; but at the same time I am angry that anyone would have to suffer in that way at all.”
It’s a conundrum we all deal with from time to time. We want the people we love to be insulated from pain and – much as we love and trust our Creator – we resent God for not intervening. We long for a conflict-free, pain-free world where nobody suffers, especially those who are so good and have done nothing to “deserve” such distress.
“But we do not know,” I said, “what will happen over the next months, the next year, the next decade….” And a story came to mind of a young woman named Joni Eareckson (Forgive me, Joni, if my words here misread or trivialize your suffering in any way). “Because of the accident that paralyzed her,” I said, “Joni’s life was redirected in ways, and into profound blessings, that would have been unimaginable had she remained ‘whole’.”
I cannot say in good conscience that Joni Eareckson benefited from the tragic circumstances that led to her paralysis, but I can say in good faith that she found new life through a unique connection to the Spirit of God, and that she engaged life, and purpose, and even joy in ways many people never begin to imagine.
This is why I do not believe in a religion that guarantees health, an easy life, protection from difficulty, or rescue from distress if we “live (or believe) right”.
Instead, I believe in a God who promises to be with me in whatever struggle I endure, to work in me and through me when I walk through the valley, and to lead me through the winters of my life and – always – into another springtime.
On Eagle’s Wings:
There is a song the young people sang at First Presbyterian Church in Brandon, Florida. It was their tradition, every Youth Sunday, to invite former youth to join them as they led the benediction. When we first arrived (in 1996) it was a handful of teens at the front of the church; then in later years they were able – hands held – to circle the sanctuary and surround the congregation with song:
I know I’m a soft-hearted guy, but I would challenge any of you to stand with us in that space, listen to scores of teens sing that song, and not feel hot tears run down your cheeks.
I’m talking about the glimmers of hope that promise so much. That is the spirit of springtime. Once hope is let loose, there is no telling what may become possible – DEREK