Hope, Advent reflections
Suffering is something most of us don’t like to think about and try to avoid, almost at all costs. Much of our medical care is designed to help us avoid suffering. We get replacement joints, have surgeries and do all kinds of preventive care to help keep suffering at bay.
But what happens when you finally have to face something that beyond a shadow of a doubt will cause you pain and suffering? What happens when the doctor gives you a diagnosis that strikes fear in your heart? What happens when the inevitable occurs and you are truly in the depths of despair and suffering?
Where do you go? Do you try to run away? Is there fear? Is there anger? Is there questioning: "Lord why did this have to happen to me?” Do you ever get to the stage of acceptance? If you do get to acceptance is it something more than numbness?
St. Paul’s explanation in Romans provides a different look at suffering. "Suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint.”
According to St. Paul’s words, hope ultimately emerges from suffering. This hope emerges through the action of the Holy Spirit in conveying God’s love to you in the midst of your despair.
It is not actually your suffering that generates the hope; rather, it is God’s action toward you when you are suffering that creates the hope. The God of the cross is a God who can be found in the midst of human despair. A God whose Son has been crucified is a God who comes into situations of suffering, and who brings hope into the most desperate places.
Suffering leads to hope because God cares about you enough to come down to you and bring you the hope of the resurrection. God will ultimately heal in the ways that God knows best. Hope does not disappoint!
Lord God, be present with us when the diagnosis is grim, when the suffering is beyond comprehension, and when the future seems filled with despair. God, bring the hope of the resurrection into our lives when hope seems so distant. Amen.
Originally posted Dec 2, 2010, at The Pastor’s Musing. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Pat Harris’ blog The Pastor’s Musing at Lutheran Blogs.