A Not-So-Foolish Hope
- October 24, 2019
- Jessica Fields
“Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:2-5
Suffering produces endurance. And that endurance? It produces character, which produces hope within us, hope which will not put us to shame. We have no shame in our hope because it is rooted in the glory of God, and the love He poured into us through the Holy Spirit.
In James, we see something similar – that even through trials we find joy, because we find our hope in a steadfast God who, by making us in His image and sanctifying us through the work of His son, is producing a steadfast spirit in us.
This joy that is produced is the pleasure arising from a sense of satisfaction, satisfaction in the grace of the cross. Joy in the Lord is grace recognized.
I’m doing a study of James with a friend, and as we analyzed James 1, our study pointed us towards Romans 5, and Paul’s reminder that our sufferings are meant to produce hope and joy. And it feels crazy, this idea that we might find joy and hope in suffering, but as I read Paul’s words, that “hope does not put us to shame,” I very nearly cried.
There are a lot of Christian buzzwords in these verses: joy, hope, faith, and grace. If we treat them as just that, just buzzwords, then perhaps these verses feel empty. But James wrote to a church he knew well, a church facing pain and persecution and trials, and he tells them to consider it pure joy. And Paul, who faced countless threats to his life because of his hope in Christ, reminds the Christians of Rome that hope does not put us to shame.
It feels a bit trite to remind each other that our hope and joy are found in Christ, as if it’s an easy and obvious thing to believe. And in the midst of trials, hope can feel foolish, but Paul reminds us that our pain and trials put us on the path towards hope in Christ. The trials we face, whether they feel relatively big or small, produce endurance. As we continually turn to Christ amidst pain and confusion, it produces in us a character of relying on God. As these patterns are ingrained, and as our character is continually changed, we find a firm and solid hope in God, and we rejoice because we know His Spirit is moving.
Romans 5:5 made me teary because it reminds me to pray, knowing that prayer is communicating with a caring and all-powerful God. It made me teary because I have hope, a hope that feels foolish in the face of a broken world, but a hope that is also like an anchor for my soul. Romans 5 makes me teary because, rather than become jaded and callous when life is painful, the Holy Spirit is working in my heart to produce endurance and character, hope and joy.
That, I think, is one of the key parts of both James 1 and Romans 5. It is God in whom we place our trust. God is the one in whom we find our hope, and it is our faith in what Christ did for us, while we were still His enemies, that gives us the freedom to experience joy. On my own, suffering would surely not produce hope, and I challenge you to find a person who, on their own, considers it great joy to face trials. But that is the mighty and powerful work of the Holy Spirit – that our very character and inclination would be changed, so that hope would not put us to shame, but produce in us a steadfast faith that refuses to be shaken.