Part of me didn’t want to run into anyone at church yesterday because I didn’t want to answer the question. I knew they’d ask, and I truly didn’t want to be THAT person. But when you’ve gone to the same church your entire life, it’s unavoidable. “How was your Christmas?” So much of me wanted to lie, because I don’t like being the Debbie Downer. I just couldn’t lie though either. I guess 2016 just needed to give us one more kick before walking out the door. Honestly, a week removed now, I can only laugh.
Christmas morning was really great. For the first time in probably my entire life, we weren’t rushed, and it was just us five. I sipped coffee and took in the joy of my children’s faces… the way my daughter’s jaw dropped and eyes lit up when she saw her dollhouse… my oldest son getting excited about the Lego sets he wanted… my youngest son tearing every spec of wrapping paper off each gift. He’s two and a half now, and this was the first Christmas he really got it. We spent the rest of the morning at my parents’ house with my immediate family. It was a sweet time together; it really was. Then we came home…
We weren’t in the door three minutes and my daughter got sick (like stomach bug sick)… which turned into six hours of getting sick. I decided to do the one thing I really didn’t want to on Christmas Day: split up. After naps, I took the boys back to my parents’ for Christmas dinner, and my husband stayed with my daughter. Just after dinner, my youngest started, and it didn’t stop there. My mom, both sisters, my brother, sister-in-law, nephew and eventually both my husband and me. No. Joke.
All my plans of sweet family time the week after Christmas were gone. We wouldn’t go see Rogue One (no spoilers!!!), go shopping or take the kids on a special outing we had planned. Four days of our Christmas break… robbed… by the great Christmas plague of 2016. It definitely wasn’t what we had planned, and I’ll admit: I almost completely lost my positivity this week.
I started 2016 with high hopes. I was going to be starting a new job in ministry, and I was on such a mountaintop with what God had been doing in my heart in 2015. I had no idea what 2016 would hold. It was a gut-wrenching year for my family, for my city and for my country. This year, this verse became real:
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 3:3-5
I keep coming back to it: this process of Suffering which leads to Endurance which leads to Character which leads to Hope.
Suffering -> Endurance -> Character -> Hope
I keep coming back to the word deeper, that God is deepening Kris and I through this journey. God is refining our character through the process of suffering and endurance. But every time I read this verse, I got to the end and thought, “What is hope? And what does it net me?” What’s the point of this process and why is hope so great?
God began to take me on a journey in His Word, but first to discover what Hope is, He showed me two misconceptions about Hope… what Hope is NOT if you will.
1. Hope is not a fruit of the Spirit.
When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and we get the Holy Spirit, He brings a welcome basket of fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Notice what’s not on the list? Hope. All these fruits abide in us because the Holy Spirit abides in us, but hope is not one them. Hope is developed, which leads to misconception number two…
2. Hope is not instantaneous.
Hope is a process. “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25) It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes patience. The Greek word used here for “patience” is different than the one used in Galatians as a fruit of the Spirit. This word means “assiduously and patiently waiting for.” I had to look up assiduous in the dictionary (I was always better at math than English in school). Assiduous means “constant in application or effort; working diligently at a task; persevering; industrious; attentive; it means they’re careful, methodical and very persistent.” This kind of patience takes work – diligent, eager, persistent work. Hope is something we have to choose to go after. Hope comes at the end of the hard stuff of life. Hope comes through suffering and endurance and character building. We have to choose it.
While these two misconceptions showed me what Hope is not, I was still left with the question: what is hope? Why does it not disappoint us? What does Hope net us?
Then I looked up Hope in the dictionary, and God began to answer my questions with the four parts of the Hope Cycle. (Stay tuned for Part 2!)