I guess being slightly ADD, or HD (High Def) has added to this problem. I have to ask my husband on a regular basis how to get started going somewhere. Oh, I don't have difficulty with the places I'm really familiar with, like work and church and the way back home....but places I go to only occasionally, like Meridian or Atlanta or ANYPLACE other than the norm...I have to ask which way I go to get started. He is always patient and tells me something like, "Go like you're going to Laurel..." or "Go past the convention center," or even "Go past the school where you work, but don't turn in there...just keep going straight." Once I'm on the road, I'm pretty good....make that pretty good if I have a map.
Well, this past week I read a verse from Romans 5 that really caught me off guard. It was talking about hope, something that we could all use a lot of this year! What struck me was the unexpected way you go to get there! Here, see for yourself: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but 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." The emphasis part is mine, cause it is what caught my eye! I never thought of suffering as the road to hope before.
The translation I was reading at the time offered a bit of help. According to this translation, suffering was translated as 'thlipsis' (Strong's) and a further explanation was given that it meant "pressure, oppression, stress, adversity....imagine taking your hand on a stack of loose items and manually compressing them. That is thlipsis, putting a lot of pressure on that which is free and unfettered. Thlipsis is like spiritual benchpressing." Okay, so evidently the first leg on the journey to hope isn't at all what I had imagined...it is difficulty!
That suffering takes us through the next town on our journey - perseverance. This trip is tougher than I'd imagined. Perseverance means endurance....the ability to keep on keeping on. I know from running, one of the hardest parts is building up your endurance, and sometimes it comes down to mind over matter! My mind wants to quit long before my body reaches its limits. Please tell me I'm not alone in this battle. Surely others know what I mean.
The next town we come to on our trip is "character". We've all met some real "characters" in our life, but that's not what this word means. Here it means more strength of convictions. I heard once that "character is who you are in the dark when no one is looking." That's a pretty good definition. I knew that trials helped produce good character in us, but I'd never really thought of it as part of the route to hope.
Finally, we reach our destination...hope. According to Strong's, "hope is not a sense of optimistic outlook or wishful thinking without foundation, but it is the sense of confident expectation based on solid certainty." have you ever met someone who had that hope? I have, and come to think of it, they had all gone through some pretty tough times, yet with God's help, they had endured. They had a character that shines like the sun in the dark places, and no matter what, they had hope. It wasn't some Pollyanna attitude, it was based on what they knew...that no matter what - God is faithful.
This year, this decade....I hope you find your way from here to hope. You may not like all the towns you pass through on the way, but trust me - it's worth it. May your years be filled with hope that never fails.
Happy New Decade everyone.