How many of us rejoiced when the Great Windstorm of 2015 caused our lights to flicker and then go out? Did we give thanks the next morning when we woke up to find out that there was still no electric power? Did our mood brighten as the dark cold days and nights went on and on? I’m sure it’s quite the opposite for most of us. It sure was for me. The longer we spent without the comforts that we take for granted the more I grew frustrated and even angry.
That very next evening, Wednesday, we sat at our kitchen table playing games and eating cold sandwiches by candlelight. I noticed that the homes behind us were lit up, and it seemed more brightly than I had ever seen before! I was happy for my neighbors, for a moment or two. Later that night I woke up stewing. It wasn’t fair that not more than 30 feet behind ours there were homes that had bedside clocks that actually displayed the time, working lights that illuminated the path to the bathroom and stoves that could produce something warm to eat or drink. It made me angry…kept me awake. The next evening I was driving home from a Board meeting at the Riverview Retirement Community. They had power so I had spent the day there trying to get something done. As I neared our neighborhood it became painfully obvious to me that everyone around us had seen their power restored, with the exception of our little subdivision. We were a black hole in the midst of a sea of lights. It felt like we were getting colder and darker with each passing minute. Just before midnight I was awakened by the chirping of my cellphone alerting me that it was about to pass away. It would be dead within the hour. Once again my response was annoyance; anger. Why had we been left in the dark when all those around us had been rescued? In my case suffering revealed my character, and I am none too proud of it. My rejoicing only came when I learned late Friday that our power had been turned back on. It seems that I have a lot to learn about rejoicing in my sufferings!
The Apostle Paul was a guy who knew a lot about suffering. Even before he started in his service to Jesus, God let him know just how much he would have to suffer for the sake of the name of the Lord. (Acts 9:16) He endured rejection, imprisonment, beatings, death threats and attempted murder, starvation, shipwrecks…you name it; he went through it. Looking back on all of that though he could see how God was using adversity to shape him, build his character and strengthen his faith, trust and hope in the only One in this world who us truly faithful. Now I’m sure that there we’re times that, like me, Paul became frustrated and angry in his immediate circumstances. After all, Paul was a human being. But in the bigger picture he learned to see that it is in adversity that we are stretched and grow, it’s in the difficult days of this life, when we finally realize that we have no strength of our own to rely on, that we cry out to the Lord and see him rescue us…in his time not ours.
The hope that lies at the end of this road, which begins in the town of suffering is the sure hope that we have in a God who loves us, more than we can begin to imagine. He pours his love into our hearts, all over our heads and wraps it around our entire being. That love boils over inside of us through the Spirit of Jesus that lives within us, placed in our hearts and minds by God himself. The hope that we have in Christ is the assurance that our God…my God…is always with us, always lighting our path and leading us to our heavenly home. A home that will never lose power, light or warmth.