“In this world you will encounter difficulty” (John 16:33b).
Thousands of us who pass this redwood every day have watched it recover from the fires. At first it was so charred, I thought it might not make it. But before long, it will heal completely. It will always have a blackened ring inside it as part of its history, but it will thrive for many years to come. I love it as a personal reminder of hope.
You can’t avoid pain in this life. But hope can keep it from controlling how you live. Hope isn’t a transient wish for better circumstances. Hope is your confident awareness of God’s unending grace and resources to deal with them. Hope isn’t a fantasy reserved for those who haven’t gone through the darkness you have. Hope is your trust in the light of his goodness, growing with every step you take through this valley of shadow. Hope is your constant companion, speaking life to your spirit when the world is trying to kill your soul. Hope disempowers sorrow, rejection, and failure, turning them into instructors, rather than identities. Hope is sourced in God’s love so deeply, nothing can frustrate who he wants to be in your life, or who you’re becoming in him.
In the core of your being, know that since faith, hope, and love are always with you (1 Cor. 13), no matter what difficulty is behind, or in front of you, you never have to let it define you. Fear, bitterness, and hopelessness don’t get to take over your identity. They’re just liars throwing stones from the dark, afraid of the unrelenting light that faith, hope, and love are emanating through you.
Take a few moments to make hope a shield over your thoughts and feelings again. Thank God for every good thing in your life, until love, joy, peace, faith, and hope are an infinitely stronger reality than anything else you’re facing. You can’t hide from pain. But living in hope can transform every place it’s touched into healing, empowering encounters with grace.
“But take heart! I’ve already overcome this world” (John 16:33c).