Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
These three beautiful phrases provide a safe nest for a hurting heart. This verse invites rather than commands, as though Paul is letting us know in the kindest way that God is for us. This is His wise encouragement on how best to get through the tough times.
How can I even begin to express to people what Hope has done for me? Three years ago, I led a grief seminar where a woman said to me, “You use the word hope a lot, what do you mean by it?”This was an open seminar and even though the host was Christian she advised me that most of the attendees were not. Each of the group members had significant recent loss. I was thrown off a bit with the question and recognized that hope is a term we believers toss around thinking others have a similar definition for it. I explained that for me hope had a spiritual component to it, hope was what allowed me to believe that there was still an expectation of having something to look forward to. And for myself, I knew that who or what we put our hope in is what really matters. Hope in God gives me confidence that whatever I go through, I will not go through it alone. That is worth rejoicing over. That is what gives me an inner smile; because I do not grieve as those who have no hope. Life is very tough when you have lost hope. Hope grows in the shadows, and shadows are dispensed by the son-light.
Hope is a gift to be shared. Recently on a return visit to Alberta and the condo I lived in for five years, I met Elysse. We had lived in the same building for five years. I knew her as the owner of the trendy consignment store I loved to shop. She knew me as a client and a friendly neighbour. I said hello to her as she sat in the lobby waiting for someone at the door. She made some reference to not having seen me ... a bit more chit chat followed ... then she said: “since my daughter died” ... at which point I stood up and asked “Can I give you a hug? I know what it is like to lose a daughter.” Conversation and support followed. She asked questions of me, I spoke from the heart, I held her hand, I told her I knew how hard it was ... she spilled out more and more. Several people walked by us in the lobby, some in curious stare, others ignoring us. I sat close to her, frequently rubbed her shoulder. This was a holy moment, God and I knew it. My heart breaks when I hear a mother open up with her loss of a young adult child/any age child, and I want that mother to know that she is not alone in this struggle. She has others who have gone through this. The outcome is not mine to know, she just needs the message of love, encouragement and caring support for her hurting heart.
Patience in tribulation. Tribulation means different things, but it always is a painful and difficult time. Chaim Potok says: One learns of the pain of others by suffering one's own pain, my father would say, by turning inside oneself, by finding one's own soul. And it is important to know of pain. I cannot claim to have patience in tribulation, I just know that the pain of grief is like a shadow that hangs around even on a sunny day.
Although I know I will never feel as if I am constant enough in prayer, I do believe that prayer is the key we have been given to unlock heaven's door for inner sanity and peace.
With the help of the spirit, these three phrases invite me to experience the strength to live with hope in the everyday ordinary aspects of a life filled with reasons to rejoice. May my words, written or spoken reflect this.