Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Up Side of Suffering

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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Romans 5:5 NIV 1984
And hope does not disappoint us, 

because God has poured out his love 
into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, 
whom he has given us.

I love this verse, God has given us His Holy Spirit and poured out His love to us by the Holy Spirit. Hope does into disappoint us.

I know some of you who are reading this are struggling. Your life is hard and some to the things you are facing seem unfair and impossible. I want to share the rest of this passage with you today.

 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I suppose you probably don't want to read about the up side of suffering. Most folks would just assume avoid suffering.  While I don't suggest that anyone go looking for suffering, because we all do suffer at various times throughout our life. While its no picnic it does produce perseverance as we do our best to walk through those difficult times and season. That perseverance produces character.
How exactly does hope fit in. Is it simply a hope for things to get better. Or is it that those things remind us that this world is not our home. We are on a journey and we have not arrived at our final destination. 

I am reminded of how pearls are formed. A bit of sand gets into the oyster shell. That sand produces suffering for the oyster. What does the oyster do? It coats the sand or other irritating foreign substance with the same substance that coats its shell. Over time it forms a pearl. 
I think like the oyster we were designed to be able to deal with the sand like troubles that come into our life.  Why not just take us home as soon as we accept Jesus. Why does God leave us here to wade through the trials and troubles of life.

Trials and trouble help us see what we are made of. I think we often find we are stronger than we think. Even when we fail, hopefully we are learning and adjusting and have given ourselves permission to experiment until we figure out what works for us. Trials either turn us from God or turn us to God. I think God allows them to help us discover where our hope lies. Does it lie in our own strength and ability or does it rest in God? 

Everyday we have opportunities to discover if our foundations are built on shifting sand or if they lie securely on the rock of trust in Jesus.

I like the old hymn that says

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

Refrain: On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.


His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.


When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

If my hope is in anything but Jesus it will be shaken. That hope will likely fail us. Hope in Jesus and resting in the provision of His grace, helps us to view the trials of this life with different eyes. 
Every difficulty we face is an opportunity to not only turn to God but to create a pearl.  

God knew the oyster would encounter sand and foreign substances and He created the oyster to have a way to deal with it in a positive way.  He also created you knowing you would go through hardships and trials and He has equipped you just like the oyster, to turn them in to something of beauty and value. 

Dear Lord, 
You see the things that each of us face. You know how those things are working your perseverance and character into our lives. Help us to turn those things over to you and to trust you in them. Help us each to place our hope in you. Cause that hope to grow and become a testimony of your love and grace working in our lives.   When we put our hope in you, we will not be disappointed.

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