Hope in the Midst of Trials
As the one-year anniversary of my husband’s death approaches, I realize I have learned many painful lessons. Here’s what I’m learning about hope.
In the last year since my husband’s death, God has walked with my children and me and provided for our needs. I would never wish this trial on anyone, yet I know that what God has been teaching me this past year will stay with me forever.
What is hope? How can we have more of it in our lives? What gets us through those difficult trials that many appear to crumble under? Why is hope so important to us today? How can we share hope with others?
I decided to study this topic at a time in my life when my hope felt ephemeral—when the world that I once knew had disappeared and what remained was unknown. I wasn’t sure I would ever experience the kind of hope I always thought that I possessed. So I went looking in the Bible to find comfort and the answer to these important questions.
What God says about hope
I’ve spent a lot of time studying Romans 5:1-5:
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
The section I was particularly interested in was verses 3 through 5. It says we are to glory in our tribulation, knowing that it produces perseverance, and after perseverance, then character and after developing character, we receive hope.
I meditated on this for some time. I knew that I felt no glory in my current trial. I saw nothing to rejoice about the tribulation of losing my mate of 25 years and the father of our two children. What was this scripture talking about?
I decided to look up the words, so I started with perseverance. Dictionary.com defines it as “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”
I sure thought that that definition was a mouthful. I know we have a purpose and that we are on a course toward the Kingdom of God. God promised the road would be a difficult one. But I don’t think I ever imagined it would be this difficult. I do not think I am alone in that opinion.
When I lost my husband, I felt like my whole world collapsed! We were seeking the Kingdom together. Our life revolved around that goal (“especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement”).
How do I find hope now to get through this life?
So, what about the next word, character? I have heard about building character for as long as I can remember. Character includes qualities such as honesty, courage and integrity.
I was beginning to see a pattern
I was beginning to see a pattern unfolding here. Tribulations are the trials we are required to go through in this life to fulfill a higher purpose for the Kingdom. What this is telling me is that when I am learning to persevere, I can develop character, integrity, honesty and courage.
Through all this, we learn to choose the high road when it would be easy to get discouraged, feel hopeless and ultimately give up. God says we are not to be hopeless, because we know the truth of the Kingdom of God. He tells us that all our struggles in this human life do not compare to that glory.
As it says in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
I know our family has sat around talking about what the Kingdom will be like, especially around the Feast of Tabernacles. God has given only a small glimpse of the wonders that will await us.
But what about the here and now?
How are we supposed to get through our physical lives? What do we do when we are under attack or when we are struggling with a particular sin that never seems to go away? What if we have undergone serious trials that have totally altered life as we know it?
Some people, like me, lost a spouse early in life. My children have become fatherless. Others have lost children in accidents. Still others deal with terrible ongoing sickness or debilitating pain every day of their lives.
Where does hope come in? God says He will not leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), even when our physical lives change through trials, illness and death. He remains constant when we can’t.
I see the passage in Romans 5 as a formula that God has given to help us grow up into His Kingdom, so to speak.
The next part of the formula is the part I originally was seeking answers for. HOPE. The Bible has much to say about hope and the absence of it in our life.
Strong, confident expectation
In Scripture hope means a strong and confident expectation. “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:25, emphasis added throughout). We believe in the testimony of God in His Bible and confidently hope for the results in our lives.
On the other hand, life without hope hurts. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).
We know hope is tied to faith—believing that, no matter what, God is going to take care of us. No matter how bleak things in this life can become, we have to believe that we will get through it. God is giving us every opportunity to grow and overcome, so we can handle the responsibilities He intends us to have in His Kingdom.
God is developing us and preparing us for His purpose.
I have learned this past year that we don’t get to choose our trials. We need to persevere, not giving up, even when we are weary and tired of this world. He is building character in us so that we will be equipped to do the job He has for us to do.
I am learning that hope is something that we have to grow in, and it is related to the future and the ultimate plan God has for our lives. As my children and I approach the one-year anniversary of the death of my beloved spouse, I reflect on the past and look to the future with hope, knowing this formula given in the Bible will bring us to the ultimate goal God has for us.