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 of hope.

What Does Suffering Have to Do With Hope?

Sunday Scripture

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:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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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Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash

50 thoughts on “What Does Suffering Have to Do With Hope?”

  1. Michele, amen! This quote really spoke to me, “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.” Many blessings to you!

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  2. This is what I will be thinking on this morning > “Our assignment in times of waiting, wondering, and every form of suffering is to follow the path toward hope.” Amen!

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  3. My son is also a trumpet major and has been at school with a mixture of online and in person classes for the last two weeks. (They cancelled almost all of the ensembles.) It’s been hard to wonder how it will all turn out but your post gave me some inspiration to hope and trust. Thanks for the reminder and good luck to your son. I will pray for him and please pray for my son Evan.

    https://www.kathrineeldridge.com

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  4. Michel, whenever something is weighing on me and I struggle to find the words I want to say to someone else, I often find them in your posts. Thank you!

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  5. Oh yes: the weight of wait, especially when it’s our children’s burdens. You brought to mind the wait our son experienced while applying to graduate schools–for three years–before being accepted into a program. We hurt right along with him during that difficult time. That wait most certainly required endurance and perseverance, which in turn impacted his character. Had it not been that school at that time, however, he would not have met his wonderful wife. Thank you for the pertinent reminder, Michele, that suffering ALWAYS has purpose: to put the glory of God on display!

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  6. Excellent reminders in these troubling times. Hold on to hope and follow that path is a good assignment for us all! My daughter is a music major (voice and guitar) and is experiencing the same frustration and bewilderment at how she is supposed to accomplish these and other music classes remotely. The same is true of some of her friends who have in-person lectures for science but must do lab work on their own but virtually. What? Thankful God leads and guides and hope will see us through all the weirdness!

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  7. I can “amen” so much of this. My youngest has already completed college, but he’s waiting to see if his contract job will turn into a permanent one so he can move out on his own. It’s so easy to grouse with him about the decision that originally should have been made months ago (put off by the company due to COVID) instead looking for God’s hand in it. Or just praying for the preferred answer to come instead of learning in the waiting.

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  8. Michele,
    This post is timely in that God is speaking in our suffering to cling to hope. We have had a year long fight with a debilitating in our 13 year old granddaughter. She has been diagnosed with PANDAS, a neurological disorder associated with strep. It has been a nightmare for her and her parents to endure, but God has walked with them every step. Please join us in praying that God would heal her completely. We need and miracle, and we know that He loves to perform them for His Glory.
    Thank you for sharing this rich truth to which we can cling—an anchor in the storm as we wait for it to pass.
    Blessings,
    Debi

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      1. Thank you, Michele. Your prayers mean more than you know. It has been what has carried us when we couldn’t walk. I’m grateful for your kindness and friendship.
        Blessings,
        Debi 🍂🌻🍃

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for these words. I’d greatly appreciate your prayers for my son as he takes the final portion of the CPA exam this morning. Even more that God reveals his great love for him and enriches his life in a way to settle his anxiety. For me, as I watch him grow into a future that is not mine to orchestrate. I will pray for your son as well. Thank you.

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  10. I am in the same position as your son and college in the time of COVID seems like something else that is bound to go wrong. Suffering causes me to reevaluate my faith, to look back on God’s promises and ask myself what I really believe. Prayers for this new school year and all it may bring are welcome! Thank you!

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  11. Oh my yes trumpet gatherings would be difficult in these times of Covid. Who wants suffering, none of us but it finds us. I was just reading today that without darkness there is no light. So always two sides of a coin and we can’t just choose one.

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  12. Faithfulness is our highest calling and at times my greatest failing. I’m interested to hear more about your son’s first college semester majoring in trumpet. My niece also plays trumpet and goes to a school in Wisconsin for music education. However, she was part of multiple ensembles. Life looks different but God remains the same.

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    1. I’m interested to hear more about it too! I told him the other day that I’ll be glad when he’s six weeks into this semester so we’ll have a better idea of how things are going to unfold. Right now… all is mystery!

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  13. The weight of the wait, the heavy burdens for the ones that we love, resonated with me, and I’m sure it did with many!. Thank you for the reminder to rejoice for the hope that we have and to persevere allowing God to work his purposes within us!

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  14. …quite simply much of life needs to be put on hold until Covid-19 can to controlled and not merely ignored. My daughter, a grade school teacher of 20 years puts it in simple terms, how do you control Covid-19 when schools can even control head lice? Problems need intelligent and thoughtful leadership, something that isn’t found at the moment.

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  15. “The weight of the wait!” Those words resonate so strongly, Michele, thank you. I also prefer hopping from suffering right to hope, but praise God he can do more with our pain than we even think to ask!

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  16. This is a great reminder, Michele. This is my step-daughter’s senior year of high school. At first, I was glad she wasn’t a senior last year, but then I realized that instead of having a mostly normal year with a couple of months at the end, she won’t have any normalcy for the entire year she’s patiently waited on for twelve years. Every time I let myself think on that, I get really concerned. But I just have to rest in the fact that this timing for her is not a surprise to God. There is some reason that He chose this for her.

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  17. Beautiful words and just what I needed to read this morning, Michele. Thank you. I think many of us have been suffering more than usual this year. We are all on the path toward hope but at different distances between the start (suffering) and end (hope).

    Good luck to your college-bound son. It can’t be easy to be a freshman this fall, especially in his major of choice.

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