Bible Verse: Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
Scripture Reading: Romans 8:18-25
I’ll begin by saying this is not a political statement or endorsement. But I’d like to take us back to the Obama presidential campaign of 2008.
The first decade of the new century/millennium had been brutal for America. 9/11, the Afghanistan War, the Iraq War—these were days of fear, marked by constant vigilance as terror took root. By the time the 2008 election arrived, the economy was also melting down in the worst crisis since the Great Depression.
These were dark days. And as Barack Obama stepped into his presidential campaign, his message was: Hope.
“Yes we can!” Do you remember that chant? Parents of a certain age know that Bob the Builder came up with it first, but in scary times, Obama came with a message of hope—together, we can make things better.
The message worked—Obama won in a landslide. For better or for worse, Americans responded to the strategy.
Again, I’m not endorsing Obama or trying to start a political debate, and history will continue to judge whether his presidency lived up to this promise or not.
I only bring the campaign up because it proves something that I trust is without controversy: when things are dark, people are looking for hope.
Life’s challenges are difficult enough that we don’t typically look for people to pile on more stress and heaviness when we are struggling. We are looking for someone to lighten the load, give us something to look forward to, tell us that there is a way forward, and show that we won’t be stuck in these days forever.
And while all human politicians and messaging will ultimately fall short, the hope that God promises is completely different. Our verse today tells us that part of the reason for our struggles is that God is building our character, which builds our hope, for in our struggles, God pours His Spirit of hope into us.
When Jesus came, Israel had been struggling under oppression, violence, and poverty for centuries, waiting and praying that God would help them. Through the struggle, God was preparing them so that when the Messiah came, they would be ready for Him.
Likewise, in our struggles, God is training us and preparing us for more, whatever that may look like. Our waiting and perseverance develop God’s hope in us as we look to Him for His answers.
This Christmas, as we wait for the day to come when we celebrate the Nativity, be encouraged in your struggles and trials. God has not forgotten you and is working out His will for you, in hope.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that even in my struggles, You are working. Even when I can’t see it, You are working. Thank You that You are working out what is good for me and that You have come near to save me. Amen.
Reflection: Can you point to an example or two in your life where you were shaped by adversity? What did God teach you in that season? What lasting impact has it had on you?
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