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Despairing of Hope, or Living With It

But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came. Job 30:26

I wonder if you’ve ever felt the heavy weight of our opening scripture.

Perhaps you allowed your heart to hope for good—believed God for something good—but the good you hoped for didn’t appear. Instead evil leered at you, taunting you with a darkness that overwhelmed.

And you were tempted to disbelieve John 1:5.

 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I faced that temptation last week, beloved. Pain has a way of casting a shadow that seems impossible to escape. Especially pain evoked from loss.

And I recently lost someone I love to glory. The frail tent of my dear aunt’s body gave way to the cancer she battled. Now my mother grieves the loss of her beloved sister while facing another three months of chemo herself. Chemo she didn’t anticipate. Her doctors and faithful prayer had projected remission.

It didn’t come.

Now faith is tested while hope dwindles. Darkness approaches, proclaiming a message of hopelessness, sucking away life like a vacuum. Only the emptiness isn’t a void. Fear fills it. Unimaginable pain. Sorrow. Despair.

We so easily allow the darkness to rob our hope, beloved.

But what if we refuse to let the darkness win? What if we recognize that we are the light that overcomes darkness? What if we choose to believe what God says despite what circumstances declare?

I know my God, dear one, and I know His goodness. He is incorruptible. Perfect. Kind. And He always keeps His Word. Always.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

It seems impossible to believe. Can God really bring a great good from death and suffering?

Yes, beloved. Just look at Jesus. What appeared to be humanity’s darkest hour became its brightest. Jesus’ suffering unleashed life and blessing that still produces a harvest.

And now He challenges us to follow His example.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13

Glory looms on the horizon for the heart infused with faith. And hope for a future joy that waits beyond the darkness.

Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:49-50

Life flows into the hearts of the afflicted when we choose to believe God’s promises. I am living proof of the miracle faith produces when we yield our hearts to the will of our good, good Father. My heart hurts for the people I love. But I do not despair. Hope in my Father’s Word engulfs my heart with peace. It beats with purpose, anticipating a harvest we cannot yet conceive.

Joy released through suffering.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Beloved, God loves us too much to allow us to live lacking. He wants us perfect and complete, and He will do whatever it requires. He gave His Son to remove our lack. Will we also trust Him by surrendering our loved ones?

The Holy Spirit recently gripped my heart with Jesus’ words in Mark 10:29-30.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”

What are you willing to leave for Jesus’ sake, beloved? Will you relinquish your suffering loved ones? Will you entrust them to God’s will, feeling the sorrow but releasing all bitterness?

No one who has surrendered a loved one for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the gospel will fail to receive a hundredfold blessing, now in this time. This isn’t just about heavenly crowns. It represents an earthly harvest. But the fulfillment of that blessing will be released through persecutions. Pain. Suffering. Loss.

And faith.

What is that harvest worth to you, beloved?

Surrender your heart to your Father’s will. Find hope as you believe His Word. And experience His resurrection life.

You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint. Isaiah 57:10

I believe, Lord Jesus. Bring life.

Blessing the Overcomer

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV

Hmmm. God allows trials in our lives to test how genuine our faith is.

Perhaps you don’t find that thought particularly comforting. After all, who really looks forward to going through trials? And let’s be honest. Testing our faith doesn’t seem like a very kind thing for God to do.

But here’s something to consider, beloved. What if God allows those trials as a direct result of His merciful love toward us? After all, our opening scripture reveals that various trials will grieve us if necessary. The wording suggests that if we didn’t need them, we wouldn’t have them.

Think it through with me, dear one. God already knows whether or not our faith is genuine, so He doesn’t test our faith for His benefit. That leaves only one possibility. He allows trials so that we can see how genuine our faith is.

I can’t help thinking of Jesus’ words to Peter on the night of His arrest.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:31-34

Peter felt pretty sure of himself. Look at his words in verse 33. “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” History reveals that wasn’t the case. Fear drove Peter to deny that he even knew Jesus. Not once, but three times. Then he heard that rooster crow.

I’m sure Peter believed those words when he said them. He thought his faith would stand up against any test.

But Jesus saw beyond what Peter could see. He saw straight into his heart, the same way He sees into yours and mine. And He knew what Peter believed about himself wasn’t the truth.

So in His love for Peter, Jesus did the unimaginable. He allowed Satan to sift him.

I confess I can’t type those words without tears. You see, like Peter, I’ve had a sifting. Like Peter, I believed some things about myself that weren’t actually true. And like Peter, I needed to know what I was really capable of.

Jesus explains why in John 8:32.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

You and I will never be free from sin’s hold on us until we can acknowledge it has us.

[bctt tweet=”We will never be free from sin’s hold on us until we can acknowledge it has us. John 8:32″]

And that’s the purpose of our trials, dear one. They reveal the true nature of our character. Not for God’s benefit, but for ours.

You see, sin that entangles and controls us has the power to cost us dearly. That’s why the writer of Hebrews commands us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1 NIV).”

Peter himself offers a sobering warning in his second epistle.

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 2 Peter 2:20-21

Jesus sees straight into our hearts, dear one. He knows the things that threaten to entangle and overcome us, to pull us away from His promises. And He longs to set us free so that we can overcome them instead. Like Peter, He wants to transform our character and set our feet firmly on the Rock. He wants us to live the promise of Romans 8:37.

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Beloved, Jesus promises blessings to the one who conquers. Perhaps you’ll notice a common theme in Jesus’ words to the seven churches.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. … The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” Revelation 2:10-11

“To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

“Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations … And I will give him the morning star.” Revelation 2:25-28

 “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Revelation 3:5

“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” Revelation 3:10-12

“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Revelation 3:21

Do you see it, dear one? Every blessing Jesus spoke of goes to the one who conquers, to the overcomer. Our trials provide us the opportunity to overcome.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4