So you know how I said a few posts ago that God gives me lessons in bits and pieces so I can digest them? Yeah...he gave me another one today. Did I also mention his lessons are sometimes hard to swallow? I did? Ok. Par for the course then.
This scripture passage was part of my pastor's sermon today. His message wasn't really about this particularly...he was using it as a lead in to some other things. But this bit stayed with me. I've heard this Scripture about a million times, and I've always liked it. But this time, I got something new out of it because of the perspective I have right now. Without further ado..
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. 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 5:1-5
I've been really struggling this week with the idea of hope. Really struggling. I don't know if I'm just drained from the emotional difficulties of our situation, or if I'm lacking faith, or if other people's doubts are starting to wear on me. Whatever it is, I've really been inspecting my heart, and what it's hoping for, this week. I've begun to wonder if I really am crazy, if I'm living in denial of reality, if I'm trying to manipulate God to do what I want. Or maybe God has truly given me a peace because he is going to give me what I want. I don't know. This scripture came at a perfect time, as usual. God is cool like that.
I realized today that hope is a wonderful thing, but it has to be in the right place. In this passage, it starts out letting us know where our faith comes from-through grace, through our justification through Christ. Done. No question. Then it goes on to say "we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Arrow. through. heart. That shows where our hope should lie...in the glory of God-our secure future through him. All our hope should be wrapped up in wanting to see God glorified in our lives. Not in what he can do for me. Not in what I want him to do for me. But in his glory.
The next verse is one that a lot of people have probably heard. "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Ok, so it's obvious we're "suffering" right now through this situation with Caroline. Living through this is definitely teaching me perseverance and character. And yes, hope. But I think over the last week or so my priorities have been slightly skewed. My hope has been slightly misplaced. I've been struggling with how to hope for healing for Caroline and still not be "disappointed" if he chooses not to perform that particular miracle.
I think I figured out my problem, thanks to God's revealing it to me. "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." My hope shouldn't disappoint me. This verse says so. Wanna know why? Because my hope should be in the glory of God, nothing else. And if my hope is in the right place, then I won't be disappointed. He already loves me, and proves it by giving me the Holy Spirit. So if I focus my hope on God being glorified, not on a miracle, not on an action, not on a desire, and if I rely on the Holy Spirit to show me God's love because of the hope I have for my future with him, I won't be disappointed. And I'll have peace.
God is asking a lot of me to place my hope in his glory, instead of anywhere else. It's hard not to hope in a miracle. I don't think it's wrong of me to continue asking. And I will keep asking. And I will keep praying that God's will would be done, even when that is extremely difficult and I have to confess to God that sometimes I don't entirely mean it. All of the lessons God is teaching me these days pretty much point to one thing; God will be, and must be, glorified. He must be all important. He must be my first priority. He must be loved the most of everyone I love. And for me to be as close to him as I can be as a human being, and for me to truly rely on him as my Lord, and for me to truly understand and feel his grace and peace, I have to voluntarily put him there. He's not going to force me.
I'm not strong enough to do this. At all.
When I really came to these conclusions today, my heart hurt. I knew what God was asking of me, and I didn't want to do it. I still don't want to do it, even after several hours of meditating on this idea. Even though I know God may not give Caroline a healing miracle so we can keep her with us here on earth, that belief that he can, and COULD, do it, is part of what has kept me going. Not because he is all powerful, and I'm giving him the glory for it, but because I want to keep my baby. In some ways, I've been placing my hope in the miracle, not the miracle worker. And I didn't even realize it was happening. I absolutely still believe and have faith that he can, that he has the ability, to heal Caroline. And I still hope that he will. But today has brought a new depth to my understanding of hope. My hope must be firmly rooted in God's glory. Not a specific action, not a specific idea, not in a limited scope of what I think should happen, or could happen. Rather, it has to be in the one who already knows what will happen, who can never disappoint me. The glory he must receive.
Like I said, this is not something I am strong enough to do. It's going to take a lot of supernatural help, and a lot of time on my knees. It's going to take a lot of tearful submission. But I know in the end, this is the best thing I can do. I can't be disappointed in this situation if my focus is on God getting glory, no matter the outcome of our situation. He WILL be glorified, even if we lose Caroline here on earth. He'll be glorified if he heals her. He'll get the glory if there is some other outcome I haven't even imagined yet. His plan will give him glory.
I needed this reminder.
God loves me, and his Holy Spirit is given to me to prove it. He doesn't want me to be disappointed. He wants me to be able to rejoice in the hope of his glory. It is so reassuring that I can indeed have his peace in the midst of the uncertainty we're facing with Caroline.
I won't stop asking and hoping that God would perform a miracle for us; a specific miracle that I particularly want. I can't stop asking for that. But I know now that I don't have to fear disappointment if his answer isn't the one I want, if I ask for his help to maintain the correct focus. I know I'm human. I know this is going to be one of the most challenging things I have ever done. I know I will fail miserably over and over again. But I know God's grace will cover me. I know God's love will sustain me. I know he'll help me, if I just ask him. So that's what I'm going to try to do. I will do my best to honor him this way. And hopefully he can use my imperfect efforts for his glory.
I will rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. With lots and lots of help from him.