Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When Hope Survives

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect,
that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus,
with eternal glory.
2 Timothy 2:10

I wonder, if we had one taste, one glimpse, one second of that eternal glory, how would we live differently? I wondered, too, when I read that verse this morning if Paul ever endured the heart-wrenching pain of grief for the sake of the gospel. It's easy to lump grief into the "everything" category of that one sentence; living it is harder.

To "endure everything for the sake of the elect." Trying desperately to grasp the depth of that statement, and find hope in it, I realized that suffering becomes sweeter when I remember that now John has an eternal glory to look forward to because God opened his eyes and has allowed him to lead his family towards Christ; how Anne and Traci's kids have mothers who have become mightier prayer warriors on behalf of their children's souls; how Sue, and Gwen and countless other mothers have found comfort and a refreshing of God's promises through our brokenness.

It's ironic, I guess, as even hope has been so hard to come by lately that I would be working on a devotional book called "When Hope Survives." God seems to be stripping me bare, so only hope in Him survives, then and only then, will I truly have something to say. There is so much of "me" left that needs to be removed. But I hold God at arms length- tired of the hurt, the tears, the pain of revealing.

Martin Luther's commentary on Romans 8:26 cut deep. "The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

"These are prayers which no man can describe by words, and which no one can understand except God alone. The groanings are so great that only God can rightly regard and appreciate them: as we read in Psalm 38:9: "All my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee." It is not an evil sign, but indeed the very best, if upon our petitions the very opposite happens to us. Conversely, it is not a good sign if everything is granted to us for which we pray.

The reason for this is the following: God's counsel and will tower high above our own counsel and will, as we read in Isaiah 55:8-9, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Hence, when we ask anything of God and He begins to hear us, He so often goes counter to our petitions that we imagine He is more angry with us now than before we prayed, and that He intends not to grant us our requests at all. All this God does, because it is His way to first destroy and annihilate what is in us - (our own wisdom and will) - before He gives us His gifts; for so we read in 1 Samuel 2:6: "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up." Through this most gracious counsel He makes us fit for His gifts and works. Only then are we qualified for His works and counsels when our own plans have been demolished and our own works are destroyed and we have become purely passive in our relation to Him.

The proud (unbelievers) desire to be like God. They want to place their thoughts not under God, but next to His, just as though they were perfect (as God is). But that is much less possible than for the clay to tell the potter into what shape he should form it. So we read in Isaiah 64:8: "O Lord,Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand." But those who have the Holy Spirit do not despair but have faith when they see that the very opposite of what they asked for happens to them. The work of God must remain hidden in any other form than that which contradicts our thinking and understanding. Thus God permitted St. Augustine to fall deeper and deeper into error, despite the prayers of his mother, in order to grant her much more in the end than she had asked. This He does with all His saints." (Commentary on Romans, Martin Luther, translated by J. Theodore Mueller, Pg. 126-127)

I sit here and cry my river of tears another morning. But finally, this morning, they come from a deeper place. A place where they are not the overflow from the high barricade that I have built around my wounded soul, but where they pour out from the demolishing of falsehood which means that God has broken through. The tears are the beginning of true hope, true endurance, and true trust in God.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13