“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but the longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:12).
Hope is biblical concept mentioned over 150 in Scripture. In fact I do not find the word “hopeless” in my New Expanded Exhaustive Concordance. However, as a hospital chaplain I frequently find patients and their families saying when asked about outcome, “I hope so.” This is not an expression of hope, but of doubt. It is the secular response to difficult questions of life. This is a question as old as the oldest book of the Bible, Job. He uttered in the despair of his suffering, where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me? Will it go down to the gates of death? Will we descend together into the dust? (Job 17:15-16). Seventeen times Job speaks of hope through the storm in his quest to find answers from God. He comes to his final utterance on hope questioning “For what hope has the godless when he is cut off?” (Job 27:8). He knows of God’s power and presence. His poetic dialogue with God as the Maker performing wonders we cannot fathom. Yet he goes on in chapter 9 to say, “Even if I washed myself with soap and my hands with washing soda, you would plunge me into a slime pit so that even my clothes would detest me” (Job 9:30-31). It is hard to find the loving and compassionate God in Jobs story. Yet in chapter 10 it begins to tell us of a mediator with “eyes of flesh.”
The whole question of why we suffer is a theme of Job. It is to accomplish God’s purposes to prove Satan a liar in the spiritual war intended to vindicate God and transform our lives and our pain. On a high plane it is to share in the sufferings of Christ. But it is to draw us closer to God. “Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:8). It is not always best to quote Scripture to someone in the depths of suffering. It is to help take the long or eternal view of it all from God’s perspective. You see God is good and loving and unchanging. He is patient and forgiving.
Life is a brief moment and suffering is temporary. Paul tells us in Romans 8:18 that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us, speaking of eternal life.
So suffering and hope are related. Hope is our anchor if it is in Christ, who suffered and died for us that we too might experience a resurrection life above the pain, now and in the long run.
So don’t put off or defer hope. It is the fulfillment of the “tree of life,” heaven with Christ.
Perhaps the best known verse in Job regarding suffering says, But he knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
In a recent Bible study one of the men offered, “stuff happens” regarding suffering and trials. So what are some of the lessons of it all?
· God draws near in our trials. He disciplines those He loves and restores us to a deeper understanding of His love, even in the valleys.
· God is refining us. He is treating us as His sons and daughters.
· To share in His holiness. Pursue holiness, be trained by the pain.
· To make us mature and complete, lacking nothing. So give thanks, rejoice in it for He is in it with us (James 1:2-4).
· To show His glory, bringing water out of rocks and healing us.
· He is testing our faith. You know that suffering produces character, hope perseverance that do not disappoint. (Romans 5:4-5).
· Trials produce staying power and steadfastness so that we remain under.
· Humility: “Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand and in due time He will lift you up” (1 Peter 5:6).
· Life transformation: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1).
· Bring wisdom: “If anyone lacks wisdom, ask of God and He will give it generously, but don’t doubt” (James 1:5-6).
· Trials are temporary. We are vapors and we are perishing day by day, but inwardly being renewed every day. (2 Corinthians 4:16).
· To learn not to grumble by the power of the Holy Spirit.
· Trust in your Creator.
· Don’t refuse it or run away like Jonah. Then you will not learn from it. (Hebrews 12).
· Don’t become bitter or angry or stubborn or unholy like Esau.
· God allows and does “stuff happen.” Yes. Did He cause Katrina?
· A messenger of Satan to harass me. (2 Corinthians 12).
· Causes us to submit and obey. “His grace is sufficient, His power made perfect in our weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
· Boast in Him. Count your blessings.
· Learn the secret of being content (Philippians 4) I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
· He is refining and sanctifying us so we come forth as GOLD.
“Put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).