Be joyful in hope.
Hope, when one’s faith is placed in Christ, is a confident expectation that everything is going to work out the way it should, because God is sovereign, and because he is good. Neither God, nor the Hope we place in him, changes. They are solid.
Notice that it doesn’t say to be “joyful in affliction.” We don’t have to “like” our trials in order to experience Joy. In the book of James, we are told to rejoice when we face various trials (James 1:2-4). Do these passages contradict one another? Not at all! We don’t rejoice because we are having trials, but because of our knowledge that the trials are producing good things in us. Namely, perseverance and maturity. We rejoice because our trials are never pointless. Ever. Our Joy rests in our Hope of God’s faithful working in us and through our trials.
No one enjoys being a martyr, but every martyr enjoys God’s presence, and his faithfulness through the fire, and find themselves able to be patient in their affliction.
Certainly, Joy and Hope are still present in our trials, because those things are not emotions. Instead, they are pieces of the foundation we stand on, which is Salvation by Grace, through Faith in Christ. They are not necessarily evident in our outward expression (though they can be), but they are evident in the way we endure our afflictions. In our Patience to withstand each fiery trial. To endure, to persevere, to grow through it instead of admitting defeat and cursing God.
Patient in affliction.
And what is Patience? Dictionary.com defines it this way:
1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner.
3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience.
Where do these abilities to suffer without complaint, to suppress annoyance, to have diligence come from? I would argue they flow out of our joyfulness in Hope, enabled by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us.
When we know that God is with us, from before the beginning of time, and all the way into eternity, then Patience makes more sense. Why not actually believe what we know to be true? That God really does work all things together for our good?
Of course, because we are flesh-and-blood creatures, we are very much subject to temptation to be the opposite of patient. We know we ought to be, but we struggle, because Patience is a virtue that is hard to exercise, day in and day out, twenty-four-seven. Moment by moment, in everything, all the time. That’s a lot to ask of creatures such as we are.
We will never lose our Joy, but our Patience? That’s quite another story. Patience is a choice we must make in the midst of emotions we have no control over. It is a discipline in which we need help.
So, we learn to be faithful in prayer.
Faithful in prayer.
Be joyful in hope, because our hope is more than a fleeting wistfulness.
Be patient in affliction, because we know that God is good, and it will not last forever.
Be faithful in prayer, because that is the natural overflow of joy and patience. We trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty, but we struggle to be patient, so we cry out to him, knowing he hears us and will answer and help us. Indeed, he will do in us and for us what he asks of us to do. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Ultimately, we are not called to be happy. We are not called to like every circumstance we face. In fact, I would argue that there are some circumstances it is acceptable to utterly hate and abhor. We are called to stand, to endure, and to be faithful in our relationship to God in the midst of our circumstances, and to trust that he has us in the palm of his hand. He will not let us go.
Remember where your Hope lies, and take Joy in that Hope.
Let that motivate you to be patient in trials, struggles, and afflictions.
Don’t try to be patient on your own. Be faithful in prayer, and God will help you. Indeed, he will do it for you and in you, in spite of yourself.
God is so good.
I am not a Bible scholar, but this verse has been reverberating through my mind, and I had to share my thoughts. I hope this encourages anyone struggling, though I’m sure there are errors in my reasoning.
Please, know that I have not mastered this by any means, but I want to. I’m still struggling to apply this to myself and my own struggles. How is this supposed to look in me? I don’t really know just yet, but I pray that God opens my eyes, softens my heart, and works the transformation he has in mind for me, in spite of me.
Thanks for reading. When you read this verse, what does it say to you?
Grace & Peace,