Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When the world says, "Give up," - Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."

“God wishes us not to rest upon anything but His infinite goodness; do not let us expect anything, hope anything, or desire anything but from Him, and let us put our trust and confidence in Him alone.” -Saint Charles Borromeo

(Romans 8:18-25)
Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the first fruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that sees for itself is not hope.
For who hopes for what one sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

Hope is a difficult concept. As Paul mentioned in Romans 8:24, “For who hopes for what one sees?” The idea of trusting something we cannot see is not a natural human characteristic. As humans we are accustomed to only trust those things that we can see and touch. This makes faith in Christ difficult because we cannot see him. However, if we nurture our faith in Christ it is able to grow and produce incredible fruit. The mustard seed is the smallest of seeds, but when it is planted and nurtured it can grow to become a large bush.

A lengthy waiting period can either make or break our hope. We can react by growing bitter and losing hope. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Prv 13:12). For example, a man had been sick for thirty-eight years (Jn 5:5ff). Although he daily placed himself in a position of hope by the side of the healing waters, he had lost hope and didn't expect to be healed. When Jesus came to him, he had excuses instead of expectations (Jn 5:7). He built his life around going through the motions of hope, but he was a man "without hope" (Eph 2:12).

Alternatively, we can use a long and difficult waiting period to increase in hope and get better instead of bitter. "Affliction makes for endurance, and endurance for tested virtue, and tested virtue for hope" (Rm 5:3-4). Instead of breaking our hope, the difficulty and the long period of time without seeing makes for a hope full of patient endurance (Rm 8:24-25). Simeon (Lk 2:25ff) and Anna (Lk 2:36ff) used a long period of waiting to grow better, not bitter. Instead of going through the motions of hope, they devoted their hearts to God and became full of hope.

For what have you been hoping and praying a long time? Are you going through the motions of praying for these intentions without having any real hope of the Lord answering your prayers? Like the growth of a mustard seed, sometimes in God's kingdom things take a long time. Ask God for an increase of hope. With Simeon and Anna, say: "this hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us" (Rm 5:5).

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