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“There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:18)
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)
There is a trail I bushwalk every so often, and at the very beginning of it was a beautiful tree growing in the middle of the path which I liked very much. One day, I came to its place and was really saddened to find that the Parks Service had cut it down (probably because they considered it an obstruction in the trail). In the following months, every time I passed by the stump I mourned that such a beautiful, healthy, thriving tree was gone forever.
One day, after some time had gone by, I walked past that spot again, but this time something caught my eye. A small, green seedling was growing out of a crack in the center of the stump. That really spoke to me, so I decided to do a drawing of it.
Sometimes we experience incredibly painful, saddening and disappointing things in life that make us feel completely dead and hopeless inside, maybe even to the point of almost abandoning our faith altogether. We may feel just like that beautiful tree that had been leveled to the ground. Inwardly we may feel so decimated that we don’t know how we’ll ever recover or grow again.
However, the working of the Holy Spirit is mysterious. His resurrection life power within us somehow always causes faith and hope to sprout and grow once again, even when we are sinking in hopelessness and despair. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:10-11)
Furthermore, “…though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again” (Proverbs 24:16). This rising up is not of ourselves (done in our own strength), but it is Christ’s resurrection life (his strength) manifesting itself in us (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).
As a believer, our hope is actually undying for it has been planted there by God himself, and he is the one who cultivates and grows it until it is perfected. According to the Scriptures, it is actually repeated suffering that grows hope!
“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Likewise, our faith as a believer can never perish but can only be refined in the fire.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:3-7)
Truly, we Christians are, “…dying, and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing…” (2 Corinthians 6:9-10).
In fact, the Lord’s purpose in these decimating trials is often to demonstrate to the world, “…that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). He is glorified through our undying faith and hope which he keeps sprouting and growing in us regardless of how horrendous our circumstances may be.
When we know that our faith and hope cannot ultimately perish but will only grow stronger by virtue of Christ’s powerful resurrection life at work within us, we can actually get excited about our future. No longer do we look ahead with apprehension and dread of future painful experiences that may befall us and the deathly effect they might have on us. Instead, we can be confident that whenever we are given over to “death” for Jesus’ sake, we can be assured that his resurrection life will always manifest itself in us (2 Corinthians 4:8-11, Galatians 2:20).
True living hope and faith are refined and increased in the flames of suffering. And by God’s grace we can genuinely rejoice in our sufferings, for we know that they will ultimately result in God being glorified.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)