Life in the Spirit – Waiting in Hope

Life in the Spirit is always filled with joy, but it is also always filled with lament.

It is both because we live in the in-between times. We live in the space of the “already but not yet.” We rejoice because we already know God’s salvation, and, at the same time, we groan over the sufferings of this present world. We are always groaning and rejoicing because we live in this moment when, though new creation has already begun, it has not yet been fully realized.

This means we must wait. Waiting is precarious. It doesn’t always feel safe. Indeed, it is perilous at times and often uncertain. Waiting is painful; it opens the door to fear. Waiting tests faith. Waiting demands endurance. Though we already experience God’s salvation through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we nevertheless wait with endurance for the full realization of our hope (Romans 8:26).

While we wait, we often suffer. But this suffering, as strange as it may sound, is something in which we boast. Paul tells that we boast not only “in our hope of sharing the glory of God,” but “we also boast in our sufferings” (Romans 5:2-3).

It makes sense to boast in hope. Standing in the grace of God, we have peace with God because we have been declared right with God through Jesus the Messiah. Therefore, we have hope. But this hope has not yet been fully realized, and, consequently, we wait. As we wait, we suffer. And we boast in our sufferings.

Still, does it make sense to boast in suffering? Wherein does the boast lie? Is suffering meaningful? What is gained through suffering?

Paul boasts in suffering because he knows what it produces. We boast in suffering, Paul says, because we know it produces endurance. The word Paul uses refers to something that stands up under pressure. It is squeezed, pressed, and molded into something; it becomes something. Suffering is a crucible, a kind of pressure-cooker. What it produces is something that has withstood the pressure and been formed by it.

We boast in suffering, Paul says, because we know endurance produces character. This is what the pressure produces. The word Paul uses refers to a tested character, or as one older translation puts it, “approvedness.” Endurance produces an approved character, one that has been tested and refined by the process. Through suffering, we grow into something; we gain something. Suffering produces a tested and formed faith.

We boast in suffering, Paul says, because we know that character produces hope. At some point, we confess that the process of suffering has produced something worth the struggle. And that value is hope. It is out of the suffering that we learn to hope, and it is because we stand in the grace of God that we are able to hope. Suffering does not subvert our hope. It produces hope, and this hope does not disappoint us.

Hope is not some kind of self-actualization as if we produce hope through our own efforts or right-thinking. On the contrary, hope is something produced through suffering because of the presence of the Holy Spirit who has poured the love of God into our hearts.

Suffering produces hope because we know the love of God through faith, and we experience the hope of the Holy Spirit in the process of endurance that forms our character. We hope because of what God does in the power and pouring out of the Spirit into our hearts, and we experience that hope through the suffering we endure. In this way, we wait in hope.

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