Today I was looking through some older drafts of posts I never finished or posted. Imagine that? I am sure most of you never leave things hanging out in the strange place that unfinished things wait for completion. I found this post and I have no idea why I never posted it. Better late than never, right?
As I think back on our time in Okinawa, it could be easy to look at that list and think that living there was like one very long vacation. Not so. Real life happened there as well as anywhere. Mixed in with the good things are the ups and downs of daily life, the challenges and heart-breaks that find their way into our lives regardless of our address.
One such challenge came about six months after moving to Okinawa. In January of 2008, my husband deployed to Kuwait for six months. At this point all of my children were still moving through the difficulty of letting go of one place and getting settled into a new place. Daily, one of them would sigh and say, “I wish we hadn’t moved here.” My heart would sink again, and I would strive for yet another encouraging thing to say.
I wondered why God would move us, just to have my husband deploy. Like all military families do, we marched on and persevered.
In February, I got a phone call from my sister. She tearfully let me know that my mom had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Inoperable and not looking good. Again, I wondered about God’s sense of timing. Why did we move a 24 hour travel distance around the world when my family was going to need my help?
I am not sure about God’s plan on that, but I can see how He used my absence in ways that brought about good things in the midst of great difficulty. As the months passed, the news of Mom’s health bounced up and down creating an emotional roller coaster ride.
That summer, we were able to travel back to the states to spend time with my mom. I am grateful for that time as she passed away a few months later. For many reasons, our first year here was a challenge. These challenges worked together to bring about growth and strength I would have never experienced otherwise. Though I would never choose this situation, I experienced the love and faithfulness of God in so many ways.
I would like to share with you some insights from Romans 5:2-5 that God taught me during my quiet time in those hard days.
…through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Hope that never disappoints comes from two places:
1. Exalting in the assurance of the glory of God
2. Understanding that God has a purpose in our trials–knowing that working through difficulty produces perseverance. Perseverance develops character that is shaped and tested through challenge. This proven character brings a hope that does not disappoint for it is the gift of God poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The presence and power of God within us is the bottom line of hope–the assurance of expecting God.
As I reflected on this passage, God showed me that I needed to focus on faith-filled perseverance and not the trial. Perseverance is like a conduit, a passageway, between tribulation and character that has stood some testing. It is the pathway from one to the other. It is easy for me to want to take a by-pass or a detour on the path of perseverance. Hope is emphasized at the end of the process, as God’s love is poured out through the Holy Spirit. The more tribulation brings us to the end of ourselves, the more God’s Spirit is poured out within us.
Tribulation without hope is desolate. God’s true hope does not disappoint, for the presence of the Holy Spirit never disappoints. Isn’t it easy to mistake the need for perseverance with the false assumption that things are hopeless? Sometimes I can struggle on this one, but it is good to know that…
Hopeless is not in God’s vocabulary.