Today I want to throw a shout-out in Paul’s direction, the guy wrote Romans 1-16, which includes Romans 12:1-21, which includes Romans 12:12, which includes the following words:
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. [Romans 12:12]
I read these words, in the little chunk of verses entitled “Marks of the True Christian,” and immediately decided that I probably wasn’t a true Christian. Yeah, this probably surprises no one, based on all of my other blog entries (KIDDING!!!!). But really, it is a rarity that I am hopeful, patient, or praying constantly. I decided to start decoding this verse by looking up what each of these words meant. I only managed to look up “rejoice” and “hope” before I got bored, but here are the definitions:
rejoice |riˈjois|verb: to feel or show great joy or delight.
hope |hōp| noun: the general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled.
Interesting, right? We are called to express great joy at the possibility of fulfillment. What? I don’t think I am ever joyful that I have to hope something will happen. Hoping for things usually just brings me worry and anxiety, not hope. I hope that no one will break into my house at night. Does that bring me joy? Um, no…that brings me to drawing out an escape route in my head and sleeping with a weapon next to my bed. I hope that one day I fall head-over-heels in love with someone and we have a perfect wedding and a perfect honeymoon and a perfect marriage. Once again, that just brings a crap ton of anxiety. I hope that one day I am content living alone. But at the same time, I fear that I will never be content and I get impatient because God hasn’t thrown a bunch of really cool friends into my lap since I’ve moved here.
What is this “hope” and how do I get some? I think I get confused as to what it means to have hope. As a human, I like to hope for things when I am pretty positive of the outcome. That way, my hope isn’t shattered. I like to hope for attainable things. So when it comes to hoping that a sucky situation will get better, I’m usually pretty hopeless. But I think that’s not how hope is supposed to work. I think that God wants us to hope for things when we have no idea what the outcome is going to be. I think, and I may be wrong, that God is asking us to be rejoice in hope in the midst of our crappy crap that we’re going through, not because God is going to make it better, but because He has promised us something better. Which is why the next part of this verse makes sense:
…be patient in tribulation,
If I am called to be overjoyed with hope, I probably need to be content with my current circumstance. If I was indeed the perfect Christian I would be able to constantly remind myself of this particular verse:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us [Romans 8:18]
Patience would come naturally. What, my life sucks? Oh, it will blow over one day, and I’ll be face to face with GLORY. It’s cool, no worries. I could sit back and relax a little when everything starts crumbling, because I know what God is promising me and I’ll have that one day. Who cares about the world?
If you’re anything like me and you have trouble waiting for the shower to heat up in the morning, then it’s a safe bet that in the face of actual suffering, having patience would be an impossible task. I am big on begging God to fix my problems and getting mad when He doesn’t (in case that hasn’t been an obvious pattern in all of my blog entries). But today, I got to reflect a little and see how God has made me a much more patient person in the past few months. My plans for being on a church plant team didn’t work out, I was jobless, living at home, waiting tables at a seafood restaurant, and was incredibly anxious about my future. Every day was full of impatience waiting to hear back from potential employers. Honestly, I started becoming more patient because I just got tired of the anxiety that impatience brings. How do I become patient when my natural response is to panic?
…be constant in prayer.
When I graduated college and moved home, I eventually reached a point where I felt like I had no one. I was completely alone; the only thing I did have was God. When God brought me to this point, I finally started to rely on Him, talk to Him, and read His Word. Working at the seafood restaurant for eight hours straight and only six customers gave me a lot of opportunities to pray. God became my best friend this summer. That constant communication gave me a peaceful heart, and a patient heart. It wasn’t until I was content in my suffering that God provided me a way out. When I became patient with His timing, He gave me a “big girl job.” I had a joyful hope about my future because I knew that no matter where I was or what I did, I would have my God with me. I can rejoice in the hope that eventually, my tribulation will be over and I will be in eternity with Him.
This verse will make anyone a perfect Christian. Too bad we can’t be that. It doesn’t hurt to try, though.