“We are meant to be people of hope because our God is alive. Because we have seen the demonstration of the extent of His passionate love for us”. These are the words Lord Micheal Hastings encouraged us with, during the Gospel in a Broken World Conference (Day 2: Living Hope).
Times of Suffering
My grandad died when I was 9. The days leading up to his death are not a distant memory. Though I was a child and was incapable of comprehending the severity of what was taking place, I still knew something was very wrong. The day he died was one of those hot days where all you could do was either chores or sleep. I was obviously indulging myself in the latter until I was woken up by a searing wail. It was my aunt and I knew exactly what had happened. I didn’t have to ask, but still, I asked. My lovely, bald, towering, hearty grandad was dead. The next three days of mourning were just constant tears, constant visitors, constant cooking, constant lamenting until they buried him. Everything went back to its place but in a different manner.
Nothing can quite cover the great big gaping hole that someone leaves once they are gone. I always wondered how my grandma managed with the sudden death of the man who was meant to be there, holding her hand, as more etchings of wrinkles sprouted on her face, as her back gave up straightening itself, as more cracks appeared on her feet. How did she manage? How was she still singing? How was she still faithful to her Lord?
My grandmother is someone I considered to be a super saint. She calls Jesus the husband that will never die, wakes up religiously at 4am just to commune with God, her Bible is falling apart and in tatters and the soundtrack of her life is hymns. Whatever befalls her, she has so much joy in knowing God. When I became a Christian, I started to realize that her joy stems from the hope she has in Jesus. He is her living hope.
The Purpose of Suffering
One can never evade suffering in this world, just as Elisabeth Elliot puts it, “God allows both Christians and non-Christians to experience every form of suffering known to the human race, just as He allows His blessings to fall on both”. Because of the sin that was brought into the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, suffering is rampant. Suffering is not just limited to death, it comes in all forms- be it a failure, a breakup, insufferable colleagues, family strife, homelessness, a life-altering diagnosis, redundancy, racial injustices, and worldwide pandemics. In many cases it has no introductory line or a theme tune, it may suddenly appear with no invitation. Just as it appeared in Job’s and my grandmother’s life and tormented them, it can appear in our lives as well. However, what makes the suffering of the Christian distinct to that of the world’s is this, we know and understand God (Jeremiah 9:24) and for this reason, it is why, though his suffering was great, Job fell to the ground and worshipped God and did not charge Him with wrong though all had been taken away from him (Job 1:20-22).
We have great knowledge and understanding of God because He has revealed Himself to us through His Son Jesus Christ, displayed His deep love for us through the death, life, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the dispensing of the Holy Spirit to all the saints.
God in His precious love and sovereignty does not always remove crises or suffering from our lives. Instead, He uses it for our own good, to refine and sanctify us. This allows us to: be instruments fit for honourable use in serving others with all love and humility, be able to comfort others with the comfort we have experienced from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) and also become more like Jesus- who for the joy set before Him, endured the pain of the cross and now He is seated at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 12:2). This is the hope we possess through suffering.
God, Our Supplier of Hope
Additionally, through all these sufferings we experience, God does not leave us to our own devices. He is not a negligent Father, all the promises of His guaranteed presence are spread throughout the Bible to bear witness to His character.
Have you not known?Isaiah 40:28-31
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint
In light of this, the Bible beckons us to live in hope, in such a way that we radiate with it, even in times of suffering, as Romans 15 portrays it:
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13
This hope stems from a trust that leans on the Lord Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Good Shepherd that is spoken of in Psalm 23, the One who leads us by still waters, the One who makes us lie by green pastures, the One whose rod and staff comforts us and the One who lays down His life for His sheep. With such a great and loving Saviour by our side, we must continue clinging on to Him as He is our source of hope because in Him we have the promise of eternal life which He purchased for us on the Cross. According to John 1, He is our Light that shines in the darkness and the One who gives light to those who receive and believe in Him and also the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that will be brought to completion upon Christ’s return. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing Him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:3-7
Now dear brother or sister, bury yourself in the Word which sustains and builds hope in those times of hardship and sorrow. You are being kept by the Lord’s power, so that He may present you faultless with exceeding joy, before His Father’s throne above.