Tag Archives: Hope

“Ordinary Courage”

Last week at the White House James McCloughan was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Trump – the highest honor bestowed by the United States military – for “conspicuous gallantry” and “distinguished action” in saving the lives of 10 American soldiers and their Vietnamese interpreter during the battle of Tam Ky in Vietnam in May of 1969.

courage

Wounded himself three times, at one point Pfc. McCloughan was ordered by his captain onto one of the evacuation helicopters and he refused to go because he was the last medic who was still alive at that point and he knew “that they were going to need him.” So, he stitched up his own wounds and ran back into the battle to take care of more of his fallen comrades.  When I say the word “courage” it’s people like James McLoughan who first come to mind; people who run towards trouble when most of us are trying to run away from it.  Who isn’t impressed by, and grateful for people like him?  James McCloughan deserves all of the recognition that he is only now getting for his heroism as a young man.  It’s a shame that it took so long.

We all need heroes. We all need role models.  We all need good examples to follow.  And James McCloughan certainly deserves to be one of them.  But when our understanding of courage is so closely tied to extraordinary acts of bravery like James McCloughan’s that transpire in a moment of time, I fear that we are at risk of missing the more ordinary displays of courage that people are living all the time, moment by moment, day after day, all around us. Without disrespecting the courage of extraordinary people like James McCloughan, I must say that the most courageous people I have personally known in my lifetime have been some rather ordinary men and women who, burdened with unimaginable difficulties, challenges, and sorrows in their lives, nevertheless got up every morning, washed their faces, put on their clothes, and headed out the door to face the new day with faith, and hope, and love.  There will be no award ceremonies for them.  Their courage goes largely unnoticed.  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, or that it isn’t impressive.

This week I conducted the memorial service of one of these courageous people whom I have known. Three and a half years ago I conducted the memorial service for her husband.  On the day of his service a picture was taken of her.  She had just been widowed.  She wore a head scarf because she was in treatment for the reoccurrence of cancer, something that she had lived with, and fought for 20 years.  And yet, there she sat in her recliner that day, surrounded by her grandchildren, smiling.  It’s a picture of courage, not the extraordinary kind of courage that emerges in the moment of a crisis when a single heroic decision must be made in an instant like James McCloughan did on that battlefield in Southeast Asia nearly 50 years ago, but the ordinary kind of courage that only becomes visible gradually over a long period of time because of some carefully considered decision made long before the actual circumstances of one’s life begin to unfold.

nietzscheIt was Friedrich Nietzsche who described life as “a long obedience in the same direction,” and it seems to me that you can’t undertake this journey without courage, without that sort of ordinary courage that empowers you to constantly put one foot down in front of another and to just keep moving forward, not through the world of your dreams, but through the world of your actual circumstances.

The first verses of the fifth chapter of Romans describe the initial decision of faith that Christians make. This is where our journey begins as believers.

 …since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

 Justification by faith” is one of the ways that the New Testament talks about that carefully considered decision made beforehand that sets the direction for everything else that follows in the life of a Christian.  Romans 5:1-2 is about that initial decision of faith whereby Jesus Christ becomes one’s personal Lord and Savior. And it’s that decision that determines how we will react to whatever it is that comes next in our lives.  It’s “foundational,” which is why Paul said that it’s the source of our peace, and the basis of the grace in which we stand and by which we live, and the ground of our hope.  In fact, the next three verses of Romans chapter 5 builds the staircase to hope that sooner or later we’ve all got to climb.

steps …we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…

Do you see the stair steps there – the step up from suffering to endurance, and then the step up from endurance to character, and then finally the step up from character to hope? It takes real courage to make this climb.

In many translations of the Bible that word “suffering” gets rendered “tribulation.” In the ancient mills the “tribulum” was the threshing sled that got pulled over the grain scattered on a hard surface to crack it open so that the husk could be separated from the kernel.   Tribulation is the crushing weight of life’s circumstances that break our hearts.  It was C.S. Lewis who said that there’s nothing about this kind of suffering that in and of itself guarantees the outcome of hope that Paul wrote about in Romans chapter 5.  Tribulation doesn’t inevitably and invariably produce hope. In fact, it can just as often result in bitterness, you know – “Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw the mud, the other saw stars.”

What makes the difference, it seems to me, is navigating the second step of that stair case that Paul constructed in Romans 5 – that step up from tribulation to endurance. So, what is it the enables some people to do this, to be able to step up out of their tribulations into endurance while other people just get stuck in their struggles and sorrows?  And I think the answer’s courage.

heartBrené Brown likes to point out that the root word for “courage” – “cor, cordis”– is the Latin word for “heart.” “Courage is a heart word” she says, and Paul in those verses from Romans chapter 5 said that the hope we find on the top step of that staircase “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”

The thing that we discover at the very beginning of the Christian life when we are first justified by faith is that God loves us, and that we had nothing to do with God’s decision to do so. We didn’t somehow make God love us.  We certainly can’t make God stop loving us.  God just loves us, all of us, it was settled once and for all on Calvary’s cross.  And I believe that the courage of endurance that moves us from tribulation to hope is made possible for us because we know this; because we know that God loves us, and that nothing – not tribulation, not distress, not persecution, not famine, not nakedness, not peril, not sword, not life, and not even death – has the power to separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

anchorFor good reason the Christian symbol for hope is the anchor.   An anchor is what holds a boat safely in place when the winds howl, and the waves beat, and the storms surge.  And I’m thinking of that picture of my friend taken three and a half years ago.  The winds were howling that day.  The waves were beating. The storm was surging.   She was a brand new widow with cancer, and there she sat, surrounded by her grandchildren, smiling.  It’s a picture of courage, the courage of a faith that had been settled long before that day ever arrived, the courage of someone who knew that she was loved by God no matter what may come.  I believe that she was smiling in that picture because she could sense even then that her anchor holding, and she knew that it always would. DBS +

 

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“I’ve Sent my Heart on Ahead”

Intro

A Reflection on Loss and Love, Hope and Reunion
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Loretta Lynn’s son, Jack, drowned while fording a river on his horse back in the late 1980’s. As you would expect, this was a devastating loss for her, and she wrote about the experience of her deep grief in an article for the Guideposts magazine published in August of 1990.  Now, I’m not really a Guideposts sort of Christian, and I certainly don’t look to country music artists for very much of my theology.   And yet, I have never forgotten this article that Loretta Lynn wrote for Guideposts back in 1990.   After telling her story, Loretta Lynn finished that article with these words –

lorettalynnIt’s been around five years now since Jack died. And I’ll tell you something: The bond I have with him is still as strong as the bond I have with my living children. Anyone who knows me will tell you that Jack’s death has changed my life, and the biggest way is this: My dreams are not here on earth anymore. Why spend precious time running around chasing after money or fame when we’re not going to be here that long? A blink of an eye and we’re gone. There are wonderful things here, all right. There’s… our family, and there’s music and flowers, lots of things that I love… But my biggest dream is living with God and what happens when we get there. The time we’re gonna have! …Momma and Daddy and Patsy Cline and Jack…the parts of me that have been missing won’t be missing anymore… The Bible tells us to store up our treasure in heaven, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” When the time comes for me to cross that ol’ river myself, don’t fret too much for me. It’ll be an easy trip—’cause you see, I’ve sent my heart on ahead.

In her own “down-home” folksy way, what Loretta Lynn said here is something that the church has long taught and believed.  Our identities survive death and our relationships find their final fulfillment in heaven.  This is how the Venerable Bede, an English monk from the eighth century, someone the church has officially named as an indispensable teacher of the Christian faith, wrote about it –

 A great multitude of our dear ones are there expecting us; a vast and mighty crowd of parents, brothers, and children, secure now in their own safety, anxious yet for our salvation, and longing for the day when we will come to them and embrace them. What joy there will be on that day when we are together again. (Paraphrased)

LL

Separated by more than a thousand years, one from the “hollers” of Appalachia and the other from the moors of Northumbria, one a Doctor of the Church and the other one a Country Music Superstar, two people possessing vastly different capacities for theological refection and expression, and yet, Loretta Lynn and the Venerable Bede, are two people who have shared a common faith, and who have looked to the future with a common hope. As Christians, they both believed that they would be with their loved ones again after death.  So, where did they get such an idea?  And the quick answer is Scripture.

bookNow, there is no single verse from the Bible that I know about that explicitly says the people we have known and loved here in this life will continue to be known and loved in the life to come. This cherished belief and consistent teaching of Christianity that our identities and relationships continue after we die is more a matter of the “preponderance of the evidence” than the citation of any single specific “chapter and verse.”

 To make the case for this idea that sustained both Loretta Lynn and the Venerable Bede in their seasons of sadness and loss, I would first point to the way that in the Bible’s earliest books and first stories the way that death routinely gets described is as a matter of being “gathered to one’s people” (Abraham – Genesis 15:15; 25:8; Isaac – Genesis 35:29; Jacob – Genesis 49:29; 33). Some say that this is just a reference to them being buried in a “family plot,” but others view it as a reference to the continuity of one’s community. The people with whom we are most intimately connected here are the same people with whom we will be most intimately connected there.

Second, to make the case for the church’s teaching that Christians will be with their loved ones after death, I would point to the way that Old Testament figures like Jacob, David and Job all talked about their own personal expectations that after they died that they would be reunited with somebody they loved and had lost in this life. For Jacob (Genesis 37:35) and David (2 Samuel 12:23) it was the death of a child that prompted them to both say, “I will go to him one day,” clearly voicing their belief that their most meaningful relationships in this world were going to continue in the next one. And in what is widely regarded as one of the most important affirmations of faith in life after death in the entire Old Testament, Job spoke of his own rock-bottom conviction that he himself would survive death as himself –

 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!  I will see him for myself.  Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.  I am overwhelmed at the thought! (19:25-27)

Redeemer

Third, to make the case for the cherished Christian belief that our relationships find their final fulfillment in eternity, I would point to the way that Old Testament characters like Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration showed up as themselves again in the New Testament long after their deaths, and that they were recognized as being the same people then as they had been before. In fact, all of the stories of Jesus’ own resurrection include this same element. Despite some significant changes – resurrection is not resuscitation, it involves more than just the reanimation of an old form but an actual transformation into a new one – Jesus was always eventually recognized by His friends to be the same person after His death that He had been before His death, and His relationships with those people He had known and loved and who had known and loved Him before He died continued after He had been raised from the dead.

orbAll of these strands of the Biblical witness combine to convince me that both we and our relationships as Christians will transcend death. We will be with our loved ones, our faithful departed, again. And for me, the exclamation point for this conclusion of faith is that story about the good thief in Luke’s account of Christ’s crucifixion that read as we began. “Remember me,” he begged Jesus in their dying throes, “when you come into your kingdom.”  And Jesus answered, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” “You” and “me” – this tells me that our individuality will continue. “You with me” – this tells me that our relationships will be preserved.

I’m old enough now to have crossed that mysterious line when I have just as many family members and dear friends on the other side of death as I have here on this side. Some of my most important people are over there now. I love them deeply. I miss them terribly. And from the depths of those feelings I suppose that it would be easy for me to project a belief in the continuity of personality and relationship after death because I so want it to be true. But, without denying these feelings and desires, I can honestly say that my confident hope in a heavenly reunion is at least as much a matter of what I find in the Bible as it is a matter of what I find in my heart.

Philipp Nicolai was a German Lutheran pastor in the 16th century who had to bury 1300 members of his congregation – men, women, and children – who died in the days of the plague. This pastoral circumstance forced Pastor Nicolai to think deep, and long, and hard about what becomes of us and our relationships when we die. And what he finally concluded, based on his own thoughtful and prayerful search of the Scriptures, was that what awaits us as Christians is in fact a heavenly reunion. He wrote –

…Parents and children, husbands and wives, bridegrooms and bides, brothers and sisters, neighbors, relatives and friends… will be reunited in heaven and they will love each other with an ardent cordial love that is a thousand times stronger, and with an embrace that is far more friendly than any that might be imagined here in this world… (paraphrased)

Is this right? My heart tells me “yes,” and I believe, so does my Bible. DBS +

 

 

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The Hard Work of Hope Begins…

obama

A colleague and friend responded to my blog last week about “Patriotic Grace” by asking, Should we just sit back and accept things, as is, to continue on the road our world is traveling on or should we speak up for our Lord and Savior and His teachings? Political Grace, how do they intermingle?” These are the right questions, Debbie.

What I wrote in “We’re All in This Thing Together” was a thought piece, the elucidation of what I believe is a Biblical principle.  I’m a pastor/preacher, a practical theologian, this is what I do. I live in a world of big thoughts that I find in Scripture about God, and humanity, and how it is that we connect with and relate to each other. What you want is for me to put some wheels on the concept so that it can get some traction on the road of real life.  What you’ve asked reminds me of something I heard my friend Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger say earlier this year at one of our Faiths in Conversation programs.

coffinHe told a story about William Sloane Coffin, one of the previous ministers of New York City’s historic Riverside Church. After another one of his many appearances before a congressional panel in Washington D.C. on some pressing social issue where he had prophetically tried to speak truth to power, he was chided by one of the congressmen for always speaking in abstractions at the level of what someone has called “big hairy truths.”  “Talking about peace, and justice, and equality, and compassion is fine,” that congressman said, “but specifically… practically… concretely… at the point of policy and law, just exactly what was it that you want us to do?”  And Dr. Coffin reportedly said that figuring that out wasn’t his job.  That was their job. “Amos thundered ‘let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream’ (5:24),” he said, “but Amos didn’t draw up any plans for the construction of reservoirs and irrigation systems.”

mineIn my July 1 blog – “Is the Fourth of July a Religious Holiday?” – I referenced the thinking of the Dutch theologian/statesman Abraham Kuyper who said that “there’s not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ does not cry, Mine,” but who also believed that God does different things in and through the church than God does in and through culture. I explained, “Just as you wouldn’t go to a bank to get a loaf of bread, or take your dog to an auto mechanic to treat him for fleas, so while God is at work in and through both church and culture, God is not doing the same thing in both places.

This is a gross oversimplification of what Kuyper taught, but we could say that the assignment that God has given to the church concerns the eternal needs of our souls as human beings, while the assignment that God has given to the culture concerns the temporal needs of our bodies. The Great Commission sets the agenda for the life and work of the church. To teach what Christ commanded and to make disciples is the church’s job.  And it’s something called the “Cultural Mandate” that sets the agenda for the work that God expects culture to do. The “Cultural Mandate” is what the Creation stories of Genesis are talking about when they call all human beings everywhere and always to the tasks of “filling and subduing” (Genesis 1:28) and “tilling and keeping” (Genesis 2:15). These are God’s assignment for culture. Creating and then maintaining the conditions that are most conducive to human thriving in this world, that’s the assignment that God has given to culture.

So, within this framework, back to your good questions Debbie.

What is it that we as Christians are supposed to do? Within the “sphere” of the church’s assignment, what should we be doing, especially right now and right here in this moment of violence, anger and fear?  Well, last Sunday morning I preached on the Sixth Commandment – “No Killing” (Exodus 20:13). This sermon series on the Ten Commandments was planned three months ago.  The intersection of this specific text with the events that played out in downtown Dallas, and in Minneapolis, and in Baton Rouge last week, are what I can only describe as a “Godcidence” (as opposed to a coincidence).

The decision that I preached for last Sunday morning was this –

Jesus said that while the prohibition of the Sixth Commandment still stands, that we must understand that killing is never just an outward act. “Murder comes from the heart” Jesus said (Matthew 15:19).  Long before it’s an external act, murder is an inward attitude rooted in envy, anger and hatred.  When another person has been judged to be worthless by us, then their life is of no longer of any concern to us.  And when this happens, then we’ve already committed the hidden murder of the heart.  And so, this is where Jesus Christ dug in His holy heels and intervened with His “transforming initiative of grace.”  Long before another person has been denigrated and dismissed, Jesus told us to interrupt this slide of them becoming dead to us by choosing to deliberately relate to them as a human being instead.

 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

 It’s not unimportant that people of Biblical faith take principled moral stands against killing in any of its familiar forms in our current culture of death. The Sixth Commandment is supposed to be one of the points on our moral compasses as Christians, and in our American context, I believe this means that it needs to be taken into serious consideration as we make our choices about who it is that we want making the life and death policy decisions of our nation.  But if that’s where you stop, then it seems to me that what you’ve got is an Exodus chapter 20 kind of faith, but not a Matthew chapter 5 kind of faith.  What you’ve got is the law, but not the Gospel.

 So, what does the Gospel look like in this specific situation? Well, I think that it looks an awful lot like that picture from Tuesday’s memorial service at the Meyerson.  Blacks and whites, men and women, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, police officers and Black activists, Jews and Muslims, Christians and secularists, all standing side by side and hand in hand.  This is a powerful picture of the kind of “Patriotic Grace” of which I wrote last week, and I believe that it’s a picture of the kind of work that the church is called to do, and about which I preached last Sunday morning.

My “Disciple” conscience and conviction, shaped as it is by the open Lord’s Table with the emblems of God’s saving grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ to which everyone is invited by faith on it, creates a passion in me to work to want to help people who are pulling apart to find the common ground where they can come within “hearing distance” of Christ and one another, and find their peace.

And so, while I believe that it’s important to oppose killing in our society as a person of Biblical faith, I believe that it is just as important as people of Biblical faith that we consciously and consistently choose to concretely love those people who, for whatever reason, we are most tempted to treat with contempt and disdain.  It’s because anger and hate are the roots of the kind of killing that the Sixth Commandment prohibits that Jesus told us as His disciples that it’s right there in those difficult relationships that the Gospel’s transforming work of grace must begin.

 Debbie, this is what we do. This is how we live “Patriotic Grace.” This is the work that I believe we are called to be doing right now as Christians.  This is how, and this is where the hard work of hope begins.  DBS +

 

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A Friend Died Today…

A church member died today; more accurately, a dear friend died today.  Just because a minister has a professional relationship with his or her parishioners, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t personal attachments as well, especially when you’ve been privileged to be somebody’s minister for a stretch of time as long as I have been with her.  I buried her husband, and I have buried lots and lots of her friends, my friends — our friends.  She attended most of the funerals that I have conducted over the past 16 years, and she always would always give me a great big hug when they were done and tell me it was “perfect,” my best one yet, and that she was so glad that one day I would be conducting her service.  Well, that day has now come.

As these past few days unfolded, and it became increasingly clear that my friend was losing her battle with cancer, in addition to being prayerfully present and pastorally attentive, I have been thinking about the journey that she has been on.  Sedated and put on life support in order to give her body a chance to rally, I watched all of those wonderful doctors and nurses at the hospital interact with my friend and her family.  They were so competent, so confident, so scientific.  They explained with an impressive precision just exactly what was happening in my friend’s body, and what they were doing in response.  They spoke with authority, and it was comforting.  You felt like they knew what they were doing, that they had things under control, at least as far as things could be controlled, and that everything that could possibly be done was being done.  They inspired such confidence, and listening to them and watching them, I remembered something that the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in the journal that he kept during his days as minister at a church in Detroit.

I visited Miss Z. at the hospital.  I like to go now since she told me that it helps her to have me pray with her… Sometimes when I compare myself with these efficient doctors and nurses hustling about I feel like an ancient medicine man dumped into the twentieth century.  I think they have the same feeling toward me that I have about myself. (Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic – 42)

I know all about this inferiority complex.   Sitting in a conference room with my friend’s family earlier this week, I listened to her Doctor clinically assess the situation.  He gave them the hard data of tests and the readings from monitors, numbers they could see and count, important information that they could then use to make their looming decision.   When he finished, I spoke up, and told the family of my friend that from my field of expertise that there were some things that needed to be factored in to their decision as well.  I reminded them of what God has promised to us in His word and what the church teaches and believes.    Simplistically it might be said that the doctor dealt with “facts” while I was only dealing with “faith.”   That he “knew” while I only “believed.”   That his truth was the fruit of reason: careful observation, controlled experimentation and disciplined reflection; while mine was only the fruit of revelation: Divine self-disclosure, inner impressions and a leap of faith.  But I would disagree.  I would argue that what I offered the family of my friend was no less rooted in truth than what the Doctor offered.  We have different epistemologies – different ways of knowing; and we have different sources of information, different fields of exploration; but there is one God with just one truth however we arrive at it.   And so I can speak with confidence too.

At the bed of my friend this afternoon, soon after she had taken her leave of us, I gathered her family around and talked with them about what had just happened.  I shared the beautiful image of the author Henry Van Dyke, a Presbyterian minister – 

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.  She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “There she goes!” “Gone where?” Gone from my sight … that is all.  She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination.  Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There she goes!” there are other eyes watching her coming and their voices ready to take up the glad shouts “Here she comes!” This is how I see and understand death.  (Henry van Dyke ~1852 – 1933)

I anchored this comforting image in Scripture for my friend’s family this afternoon.  I talked with them about how death is described as being “gathered to your people” in the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis 25:8, 49:33); and how the Christian Scriptures assure us of a continuing conscious existence after we die because of our faith in Christ (“…even though we die, yet shall we live…” – John 11:25; “I go to prepare a place for you… and I will come again and take you to myself so that where I am there you may be also…” – John 14:2-3).  And so I assured them that their mother, my friend, passed from this world surrounded by loving family into the next world where loving family gathered to welcome her home.  “Today you will be with me in Paradise” Jesus promised the good thief as they both hung dying on crosses (Luke 23:43), and so just as I had been assuring them that He had companioned her through the valley of the shadow of death, so now I told them that I believed that she was home in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:4; 6).  And my confidence in making such assertions is my certainty that God has spoken and acted to make Himself known to us, and that we have a reliable record of that Divine speaking and acting in Scripture, and the indwelling presence of God to lead us into all truth (John 16:13-15; I Corinthians 2:10-16). And so, I am not left to hunches and guesses when I am turned to for a word of wisdom and comfort from God.  It is not wishful thinking that I deal in as a minister.  That Doctor this week has his bases for the things that he said to guide the family of my friend in their decisions, and I have mine.  He wasn’t just making things up, and neither do I. 

Ben Haden, the longtime pastor of Chattanooga’s historic First Presbyterian Church, said: “The world has a gurgle in its throat when talking about death, but the Christian can speak with total confidence.”  And the basis for that confidence with which we can speak as Christians is God’s own self-disclosure. Hebrews 1:1-3 is foundational to how I operate as a minister: “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways.   But in these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed the heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.  He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature….”  In Jesus Christ I have a sure reference point about who God is and what God does, and it is from that sure reference point, that “hard data,” that I operate confidently as a minister.   Just as Paul comforted the Thessalonians in their grief by anchoring their experience of personal loss in the things that had been clearly revealed in Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), so it is my job to lead people to the things that the Bible teaches, especially in times of suffering and sorrow, so that they will not be left to grieve as those who have no hope.  “Hopeful grieving,” that’s what anchoring our lives and losses in God’s promises that are found in Scripture can do for us.  In the pain and confusion of our circumstances, we find the still point in the storm where we can find shelter and strength.

At the very beginning of his letter to the Romans (the book the Bible Study my friend attended is in the middle of right now), Paul declared that he was not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).  As Christians we have a truth about which we can be confident.  My friend was, and that’s how I account for her extraordinary endurance, character and hope (Romans 5:3-4).  And now that her faith has become sight, she knows what we must still trust, that “This hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us” (Romans 5:5).  DBS+

 

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