Last week I sent you a blog post one morning about suffering. That evening I got a shocking call that my aunt had gone into the hospital with stomach pain and would be coming out with a grim diagnosis of stage IV cancer. The next morning I had a short text from my close friend who had been caring for her mom: “Mom is with Jesus.”
So many painful circumstances surround me on all sides, but I want to tell you something wonderful from my own experience: God likes to encourage us. We often say there are two things for sure in life: Death and taxes. But I say to you that the two things for sure in life are hard times and encouragement.
A few days ago, as I felt weighted down by all of the sadness and struggle around me, I had been quietly acknowledging that this world is very broken and asking God how I could live victoriously in the middle of it. He heard me (and can there be anything more encouraging than being heard?) Into my path, he brought this verse to answer my question:
Be joyful in hope,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12 (NIV)
Paul fully expects the believers to be under pressure. That’s what the word “affliction” means. He’s not shocked or horrified that they would have hard times. As Americans we are instilled with a “life should be all good” mentality, but I’ve been trying to get over that. The New Testament repeatedly says, “Life is going to be hard. Count on it.”
But joyful in hope means we have an expectation of good in our lives because God is good. This command greatly bolstered my soul. Even with the words “disease” and “cancer” entering into our family, I must live in hope. God is going to show himself in this hard season, and there is going to be beauty and love and glory in our lives this year.
Paul says we are to be patient in hard times. That means we stay. We don’t run away from pain. Instead, we remain calm and walk through the pain, leaning on Christ.
And we pray.
Because God is our help, we go to him with every heartache, every anxiety, every need –joyfully waiting for him to step in and show his power, love, and ability to provide and care for us. We hold tight to our faith that God is good.
We pray and say thank you, because when we hunt for the good we find it. We see God’s hand right in the middle of pain, and we give thanks with joyful hearts.
We pray words of worship: “Lord, you are great. You are a provider. You love us. You know how suffering feels. You are kind and good to your people, pursuing us all the time with goodness and mercy. You are healer. You are trustworthy.”
I went to the memorial service for my friend’s mom yesterday, and her daughter spoke to us in a gentle, soothing voice. She said, “Mom wants you all to know that you shouldn’t be afraid of cancer.” (Did she have any idea how many in our church family were staggering under the news of cancer that day?) She went on to tell us of all the beautiful, good things they witnessed in their mom’s life after the diagnosis. After the diagnosis! Oh how encouraged I was, and joyful hope rose up in me for my aunt and for our family as we walk through this year. God is going to shine his light. He is going to be good to us, just like he was on the days before the terrible news.
We can count on hard times coming, but we can also rely on well-timed, perfectly designed encouragement while we’re in the thick of it. Ask the Lord to encourage your weary, hurting soul, and he will do it.