Today a friend of mine has to tell her children that her cancer has spread and there does not seem to be a miraculous healing in sight, they must prepare for her death. Another friend will wake this morning to find that the death of her husband was not a nightmare, but a reality, and that she must force herself to keep going today and tomorrow in spite of her grief. A homeschooling friend will face another day of triumphs and frustrations as she deals with educating and disciplining her children. A mother must say goodbye to the last of her children leaving the home for college and adulthood leaving her to face another life and another identity after 21 years of mothering. Someone somewhere faces the challenge of feeding her children without the resources and will have to endure seeing their sunken faces and listen to their growling stomachs. There are women who have chosen to sell their bodies or dispose of their babies and are filled with guilt and remorse who listlessly face another day of despair.
These are not new sensations of people living in the 21st century, this is life from as far back as history records. Yet there is a way to live that embraces pain and suffering with hope – that is by faith.
Hebrews 11 lists what has been referred to as the hall of fame of the faithful throughout the history of the Jews. It begins with defining faith as the ‘assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ (NASB) The third verse goes on to say that ‘ by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.’ The chapter goes on to list people that lived in light of a promise or hoped in a future reality that gave them the ability to endure hardships. Many of them experienced great triumphs by the hand of God – what we would refer to as miracles. Yet it took, on their part, a great trust to go forward when there was no evidence of anything to support them. Moses did in fact separate the waters for the Israelites escaping from Egypt, but it took a great deal of faith to go out into the midst of the parted sea. But for the freedom and deliverence set before them they walked ahead, trusting God to preserve them. Envisioning this pathway I am reminded of Psalm 23 that says, ” though I walk through the valley of death, I fear no evil for You are with me, Your rod and your staff they comfort me. ” God does not abandon us, He walks alongside of us and sustains us. He often gives us a peace that is unexplainable as we persevere through that which otherwise would be unendurable. (Phil.4:6-7) this is the hope we have, and beyond the valleys in our lives He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. (Ps. 23:5).
For the joy set before Jesus, He endured the cross scorning the shame and took,His rightful place at the right hand of God. What were the joys set before Jesus that He was willing to endure the cross? Reunion with his Father in heaven, casting down Satan, obliterating the fear with which Satan held the world captive, sitting in His rightful place, redeeming creation, establishing His kingdom, preparing a place for us, etc. The joys were eternal and endless as are the joys set before us. We too will enjoy reunion with our Father in Heaven, we will be able to embrace Jesus who saved us from the wrath we deserved, we will experience life anew without the presence of suffering, war, or death, we will know blissful joy and eternal peace, the taste of freedom that we have known here will pale in comparison with the true and complete freedom we will know in eternity. Oh, come Lord Jesus, we long for the joys set before us!
But how do we persevere now? How do we go on living each day with that hope?
The Scripture tells us that we are to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. To hold the vision of our future in our minds as we walk forward through the trials that we face. We see His loving example and can have confidence that we do not walk through our difficulties alone, He is with us. Nothing can separate us from His love. He will guard our going out and our coming in forever. He delights in us. The lives we have been given have purpose and meaning and how we live will have an impact on our eternal joy. These truths inspire and motivate us to walk forward trusting our lives and the lives of those we love in His care. The Bible says that God’s lovingkindness is eternal. We can trust Him. He is compassionate and gracious. He allows the suffering we face, but it will not consume us.
I urge you, as I battle my own anxious thoughts each day, to hold onto what is true, lovely, pure, right, excellent, praiseworthy, and fix your thoughts on these things. Be anxious for nothing, but with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-8)
Finally, keep the joy in sight. Psalm 16:11 is on my bulletin board to remind me that God will make known to me the path of life, in His presence is fullness of joy; in His right hand there are pleasures forever!
Keep the faith and God Speed.