Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).
We are all standing in the need of prayer, but some seem to take that need to heart more than others. An amazing young woman, Katie Almy, whose journey of faith and life is lovingly chronicled in her writings [see www.karisalmy.com and click 'latest on Karis' tab] has pinpointed the verse above as a focus for 2011. I am piggybacking on her pinpoint.
One might say that a mere eleven word sentence is hardly worthy of a year's meditation and application, but, since few have mastered it, maybe it is worth the effort. Initially, I infer from 'to rejoice in hope' that one is in a situation where hope is sorely needed, and that can be a bleak place. For that which is seen does not need hope, because it is present already; however, 'hope consists of the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.'
Put another way more clearly:
Now faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists (Hebrews 11:1 International Standard Version 2008).
Living by faith rather than by sight through life's trials and challenges - that is, not seeing any visible progression toward what we hope for - is a place of anxiety and tribulation. We cannot conjure up a solution. We cannot create a cure. We cannot bring about healing of bodies and minds when a disease process takes over. Each of us may one day feel utterly helpless for the first time in our confident, American, magnolia blossom lives. That is when we begin to know the need - the desperate need - for something bigger than ourselves.
We need patience. Frantic activity and ceaseless fits and starts are the marks of desperation. Desperate people do desperate things which are not necessarily fruitful. How do we cultivate patience? Where do we find this elusive fruit of the Spirit when we are living in a heightened state of alert and see no help in sight? How do we practice patience even in the midst of our most heart-wrenching struggles? If it were so easy, everybody would be doing it.
But we can know the power of patience. I say power, because there is great tensile strength in the life of one who lives tethered in prayer and walks in the Presence of God. I am no physicist, but see an analogy here.
- Tensile strength is the measure of force required to pull something to its breaking point. People talk of being pulled in too many directions. We can identify.
- Compression strength is the measure of the ability of something to withstand pressure exerted perpendicularly - such as a hammer on concrete. Both of these measure to a breaking point. Have you felt that hammer? Many of you know the relentless action of pounding from illness, grief, financial instability or a host of causes. People can know the feel of being pulled and pounded. But wait, there's more.
- Shear stress is the stress state in which the shape of a material tends to change without changing volume. Force is applied at an angle causing the squeeze and a resulting altered image. A rectangle becomes a parallelogram, for example, but it is unbroken. We, too, are shaped by the experiences we live when we are caught in the squeeze.
- We can expect pressure to come at us from all angles. It's called life. Be prepared.
Those who are schooled in defending themselves from tribulation only by their own personal skill level and financial wherewithal will find one day that such an arsenal is insufficient to combat the foe. We will one day be overwhelmed....caught in some tsunami....and need a hand larger than our own.
Let practicing the presence of God be a discipline during quiet days when there is not much happening. On such days we tend to coast. We pull out the big guns of prayer and pleading for crises.
What if we reverse that pattern? What if we weave our ordinary days with prayer and practice trusting God with what we do not see, so that when what the writer calls tribulation comes and force is applied to our live from all directions, we can more fully trust God? God's grace and love come to us from an endless supply that is never exhausted. God's resources are never depleted; mercies are new every morning.
The way of wisdom reminds me that to 'be constant in prayer' as referenced above means constantly - as in all the time - not merely in times of major stress points. Some of you have been caught in the squeeze of unimaginable stresses. I know Katie Almy has, and we covenant to pray for you and your family. Thank you for lifting this little verse out for us to see today. May God strengthen you with patience in tribulation and persistence in prayer, even as you trust in His great love and provision for Karis.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed... (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).