My youngest son leaves for college at the end of August–or at least that’s the plan. College in the age of COVID-19 involves a certain amount of uncertainty. To date, four of his seven classes have been declared “remote,” but no one has even come close to answering his questions about how one majors in trumpet performance in a world of mandatory social distancing where the saliva that drips out of a brass instrument is regarded on the same level as kryptonite or toxic waste.
Uncertainty, waiting, wondering about the future, when it goes on for six months and completely re-landscapes your life, can begin to feel a lot like suffering–especially here in North America where we know so little of it. Paul, the apostle, was highly qualified to write on the topic of suffering, and whenever I encounter his words, I find my thinking clarified and rearranged:
…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”Romans 5:3-4
In all the waiting and uncertainty (my son’s light and momentary suffering), I am instructed to rejoice because of what the suffering produces:
- Endurance, literally a word that carries the meaning of holding up under a weight. Don’t you find that the weight of the wait is one of the heaviest loads we can carry? And isn’t it often true that we feel the weight of our children’s burdens often more than we feel our own? Even in this, God’s word to us is “Trust me.”
- Character–As parents, we are so often tempted to come swooping in to rescue our children from their suffering, thereby denying them of the character-producing benefits of delayed gratification. I try to remember this when God, my perfect parent and the Great Physician, prescribes a season of waiting for the good of my own character.
- Hope, anchored in the love of God, is not attached to a perfect semester of college for my son. If it were, I’d be pretty disappointed right now, and, come to think of it, most of my disappointments in life can be traced with ease to misplaced hopes. By contrast, hope in God’s love and goodness does not disappoint or “put us to shame,” because it is founded on eternal and unchanging truth–not attached to the flimsy here and now.
Following the Path toward Hope
Maybe, like me, you would prefer to leap from tribulations (your present day suffering) directly to hope with a solid answer in your hand and a glorious testimony of God’s faithfulness on your lips. I’m practically an expert (Ask my kids!) at following the path of doom down a mental slope to the worst case scenario. I have elevated catastrophizing to an art form, but am not nearly so adept at moving from suffering to perseverance, from perseverance to character, and from character to hope in measured steps that put the glory of God on display in my everyday life.
When I am waiting for suffering to do its perfect work in my heart, when all I have in my hand is uncertainty, this is the gift I am to offer back to God. What he intends to do with it is really none of my business. Faithfulness in the moment is our highest, and sometimes our most difficult, calling. Our assignment in times of waiting, wondering, and every form of suffering is to follow the path toward hope.
What has God placed in your hand today?
Do you find your own suffering leading you along the path toward endurance, character, and hope in God?
How can I pray for you along this path? Please be sure to share in the comments and to allow me and other readers to pray for and with you.
May you find peace in the waiting,
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