THE TREASURE MAP
I’ve read the book of Romans many times, but today, this scripture sent me on a treasure hunt for hope. In Romans 5: 3-5 the Apostle Paul said he actually rejoiced in his sufferings. I’m sorry, what? Thankfully, he didn’t leave us hanging too long before telling us why in verses 4- 5. He rejoiced because within those trials he discovered hope. The concept of hope being found within pain seems counterintuitive and even ironic. Isn’t trouble and pain the opposite of hope? If you’re going through a rough time, this where you can find hope.
NARROW PLACES AND UGLY TRUTHS
The path to hope in Romans 5:3-5 begins in verse 3 where the writer credits his sufferings for producing endurance. No one wants to suffer. We try to squish ourselves spit, go around, under and above, but that doesn’t work. Unfortunately, the only way to build endurance is to endure something that pushes our limits. It’s within the fire of our affliction that distractions are burnt away. The severity of our situation becomes crystal clear, and with it, fear is revealed as a giant we face as David faced Goliath. Its when our hearts are pushed to near panic so that we nearly lose our breath. In this, our kryptonite isn’t the trial itself, but it is the hope-eroding, faith-depleting fear and anxiety. During treatment, there were times I wanted to scream hand cry, and I did both. However, it was liberating to express my unlikable, raw honesty without the torment of self-judgment. Acknowledging the ugly truth in ourselves, in hard situations, and in God’s word gives us liberating freedom.
TUNNEL VISION AND TIGHT SPACES
Enduring hardship is the only way to produce endurance. The Greek word for “tribulation” in Romans 5 means “to make narrow by pressure.” It perfectly describes how it feels. When we suffer, we get tunnel vision and can’t really see a way out. When we cry out to God and our voice dissipates into the wind of anxiety, we can trust that he won’t let us go. In both times of peace and tribulation, we must determine that no matter how many times we fall, we only have to rise just one more time. I would never want to have cancer again, but I am thankful for the good things that have stayed in my life as a result of enduring the battle. As with most tight spaces, the only way out is through.
EATING ELEPHANTS AND CASTING CARES
God guides us on how to manage our trouble, anxiety, and fear in 1 Peter 5:7. He shares that we can cast our cares on God because he cares for us. What if it’s too painful, too devastating, to hard or heavy to “cast?” There’s an old adage that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. It’s impossible to eat something that big with only one bite. Jesus gave us elephant eating instructions over 2000 years ago in Matthew 6:34 when he said that should not worry about tomorrow, because today has enough to handle. We weren’t designed to handle tomorrow’s troubles today. When we break our troubles into pieces, we can more easily cast them to God. When we get into the habit of doing this, we begin to eat that elephant. We can endure hardship regularly and allow it to make us stronger and more resolved. Before we know it, this situation has caused us to become stronger and we can more easily turn to God with our faith. The very act of managing, casting and standing over and over, changes you.
CHURCHILL, WEIGHTS, AND SMALL BITES
When life gets hard, I have to remind myself, “This is what my faith is for.” Our trials do for our souls and spirits what weight training and cardio do for the body. We get stronger whenever we are pushed to our limits. Our character is built within that furnace of affliction when we chose to manage, cast, and keep moving forward. Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” The very act of moving forward no matter what that looks like builds our character, and our faith. When we endure regularly, we become strong in our faith and hope. This is where hope is no longer a concept, but a reality in our lives. Our definition of a hope that doesn’t disappoint changes too. We move from a hoping God will answer every prayer and give us a care-free life to finding unfailing hope within impossible circumstances.
“If you are going through hell, keep going.”Winston Churchill
The path to hope isn’t easy. During a dark chemo day, after involuntarily and forcefully evicting the entire contents of my stomach, the dry heaves came. I mustered the strength to craw to the bath. I laid there weak and sick as the water grew cold. That’s when God stepped in through a friend. Her text contained a few loving words and a link to the song by Kirk Franklin. As it played, I let the music deliver life-filling words and melody into my spirit. I grew strong enough to wearily sing the words that proclaimed that I could take this because my life was in his hands. I walked on water in that moment with a little help from a friend and a faith-building song. Though God didn’t heal me then, and I felt like death warmed over. Through this trying journey, I found my treasure. I was able to stare into the abyss of hopelessness, weakness, pain, fear, and I found my hope.