When I look back on 2016, it won’t be one of those years that I will look at in my rear view mirror with fondness. We all have years on which we can gaze that have a certain glow about them; the memories remain suffused with warmth and love. Years that hold special events such as marriages or the birth of a child or grandchild come to mind. This year has held more than its share of hardship and heartache from January to October.
Our friends have had a rough year, too. One has had chronic health problems; another experienced a compound fracture in her foot in a freak accident. Yet another has had constant heartache with an adult child. In fact, in the last week two families whom we love have experienced tragedy among extended family or close friends.
I’m not sure why I find myself surprised when God’s people experience difficult times, but when it seems to be ongoing, it’s silly, I know…but I do initially feel surprised. Next, if it is in my own life, I might go on a sin hunt…you know, what did I do wrong to deserve all of this? However, I am quickly reminded that my Father isn’t a punitive God, so eventually, admittedly after some questioning and whining, I come to the place of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:25-26, and wait quietly,
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Paul is a certainly a guy who knew what it was to experience one hardship after another! Throughout his letters he does not withhold the trials of his life. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us, in whom we trust that He will still deliver us…2 Cor.1:8-10
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body. 2 Cor. 4:7-10
As most of you know, that isn’t the first time Paul told of his trials and tribulations, but always, consistently, he writes of our God who “leads us into triumph in Christ”, and of the Spirit who gives life, and somewhere in his letter he begins with his ‘therefore s’…(hint: a former Bible teacher always instructed to look before the ‘therefore’ to see what it was there for!) 🙂
Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech…
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.
Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
Losing heart…that is what we must guard against in these days, my friends. Unlike many Christians, Paul wasn’t timid about admitting his fears, his pain, hardships, sorrows because he didn’t camp there, nor must we. His focus always returned immediately to his faithful God. And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 2 Cor. 3:4
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 2 Cor. 2:14
Be encouraged, whatever you are facing right now. It hurts; you don’t understand; you’re weary…
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:58
Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:7