We have been made right with God because of our faith. Now we have peace with him because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through faith in Jesus we have received God’s grace. In that grace we stand. We are full of joy because we expect to share in God’s glory.
And that’s not all. We are full of joy even when we suffer. We know that our suffering gives us the strength to go on.
The strength to go on produces character. Character produces hope.
As we are eating our last bits of leftovers and are full, I am reminded of times when I was less full and probably less grateful. In fact, I’d say this year has probably been one of those times where I felt less full and likely not as grateful as I know I could be. For most of us, we are probably tired of hearing the word “unprecedented.” Just for once this year could something be “precedented.”
At the beginning of the year, my husband and I visited Puerto Rico for his company’s yearly conference. In the early morning hours as we were saying goodbye to our three-year-old son, we got news that the island had been struck by a major earthquake. We had only minutes to decide if we were still going, wondering what we might encounter when we landed. For me, that was the moment that 2020 took a turn. I see that clearly now looking back.
As I’m reading Romans Chapter 5, I am wondering if they could have foreseen almost a year of restricted living, a pandemic, peaceful protests made violent, a never-ending election cycle, nearly a year without family and loved ones. What relationship does suffering have with joy? It’s been a burdensome year filled with heartache and much suffering, where is the joy?
The joy is in the families that are gathering around the dinner table every night because there aren’t sports or afterschool activities. The joy is the dusty board games being pulled from the shelves of forgotten closets and being opened and played for the first time in years. The joy is in the boom of babies being conceived and born in a time where we need new life. The joy is in coming together every Sunday morning for online church service. The joy is in knowing no matter how far apart we are physically, we can come together digitally. The joy is in being forced to have those conversations we might have walked out on a year ago and living through the tension to break it.
Yes, as Paul puts it “the strength to go on produces character. Character produces hope.” It’s true. My husband and I joke that our second year of marriage has really been like ten years. With our second anniversary having passed, I looked at him and said “it’s been a good fifty years.” He replied that I looked better than ever for my age! We had a good laugh. The truth is that it has been a very long year. We’ve had to adjust to having a toddler has a permanent fixture in our work lives, we’ve had to learn to provide some sort of education for him, we had to learn a new baby, we had to learn how to juggle the stresses of a new baby, a toddler, remote working, keeping a home together, and keeping our marriage on a solid foundation. Each day that we go on, our character builds, and the more we overcome the more hopeful we are that we will continue to overcome life’s obstacles.
We started this year as all of the others, putting our faith in God, believing that the year would yield us the successes we didn’t achieve in the last year. Our faith in God puts us at his table of grace. It’s through his grace that we are able to see the invisible joy that has come from the ruins of 2020. Before we end this year, let’s use the grace God has given us to reframe 2020, let’s admire the character we have built, and let’s move with hope and joy. We move with hope that we can overcome anything through our faith and joy in knowing that joy will always coexist with suffering, we just have to see the joy ahead of the pain.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace that gives us perspective. We pray that our character continues to grow so that in that growth we can find the hope we so desperately need. Thank you for showing us the joy that is hidden amidst the suffering. Faith is an ebb and flow of situational tides, as the undercurrent pulls us under, we pray your grace will continue to keep us buoyant. We’ve spent most of this year missing our families, our friends, our cherished moments, and yet you have not left us. Thank you for calling us to your table so that once we are done staying home we can gather together forever. In Jesus’s name, we pray, Amen.