Thursday, April 18, 2019

Hope in the Dark: Clinging to the Lord in the Midst of Trials

Guest post by Cailin Davis at Purposefully Portioned

When Trials Come

Trials are never enjoyable experiences. We all know that. 
But certain trials are worse than others.

Some trials are simply a source of irritation, such as discovering a flat tire or getting a leak in your roof. While others are a source of great pain, such as divorce, illness, or even death.

Minor trials do have a way of clouding our days and distracting us from our relationship with the Lord. But the major trials sometimes seem to block the out light completely.

It’s in the midst of the dark trials that God often seems absent at best and cruel at worst. And it’s underneath their consuming shadow that we often begin to question and doubt His love and goodness.

Maybe you’ve been there. I certainly have. I’ve questioned the Lord and doubted His love and goodness many times. I’ve labeled Him as cruel and ineffective. In painful darkness, I’ve lost hope in who God is. But through the years, the Lord in His infinite mercy has shown me how wrong I was.

We serve a God worthy of hoping in. And if you’re facing a trial that you just don’t understand today, I want to encourage you to keep hoping in the Lord.

Today, we’re going to take a look at God’s word and learn what it looks like to hope in the Lord and His purpose through the bleakest days and our darkest trials. But first, let’s talk a little bit more about trials and dig into this idea of hope.

Defining Trials

If you’ve been living on this earth for long, I’m sure the term trial is not one that is new or mysterious to you. But just for fun, I’ll go ahead and share a definition with you.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary lists several possible definitions of this term. But I’ll share the one that fits best with the topic of this discussion.
  Trial (noun)
  • Definition 4 : a test of faith, patience, or stamina through subjection to suffering or temptation
  • Or, broadly : a source of vexation of annoyance

Biblical Hope

Another term I’m sure you’re familiar with is hope. It’s not an uncommon word by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s one of those words that many of us throw around without much thought.

We say things like, “Man, I sure hope I don’t get sick,” when we find out we’ve been hanging around someone who caught the flu. Or, when the weather forecaster predicts rain, we might say, “I hope it doesn’t storm.”

But that "hope" that we have in the above scenarios isn’t really hope. It’s just a wish–a desire.
That’s not Biblical hope. In fact, it’s not even hope by definition. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this definition provided by Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.
Hope (noun)
  • Definition 2 : desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment
  • Also : expectation of fulfillment of success

Hoping Through Trials

So, hope is a desire. But it’s a desire that’s hinged on expectation.

If we say that we hope in the Lord, we are proclaiming that we believe in Him and His promises, regardless of our circumstances.

It’s in that last little phrase, “regardless of our circumstances," that many of us lose sight of the Biblical application of hope.

Because true hope doesn’t only exist when life is warm and illuminated by comfort and happiness. It's persevering even when painful trials darken the days.

Now that we've reviewed trials and discussed hope, let’s dive into at God’s word and talk about a man named Joseph.

Joseph's Life Testimony

Genesis is packed with a lot of the “classic” Bible tales about people that many of us learned about as children–Adam and Eve, Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, and Esau, etc.

But when I think about a story of “undeserved” trials in the book of Genesis, I think of Joseph.

Joseph experienced several trials that we know of during his lifetime.

In Genesis 37, we read about his brothers selling him into slavery because of petty jealousy. Then two chapters later, in Genesis 39, we learn about Joseph being falsely accused of rape and imprisoned for rightly spurning the advances of Potiphar’s wife.

And as if betrayal, abandonment, and false imprisonment weren’t enough to shatter a person’s hope, in Genesis 40, we find the story about Joseph being forgotten in prison after correctly interpreting the dream of one of his cellmates, the butler, who had promised Joseph that he would help him get out of prison by speaking well of him to Pharaoh.

Application of Hope

In all three of these stories, we can see plainly that Joseph encountered trials that would have caused immense suffering. But he never accused God of being cruel or suspected that He was absent. In fact, there’s no record of him ever complaining or questioning God at all. 

Think about that.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve questioned God over a lot less.

Joseph’s story is a powerful testimony of one who truly hoped in the darkness of life. Not only did he keep patiently believing in the Lord, but he also remained faithful to him in his heart.

At the end of what we know about his story, we find this beautiful statement of Joseph’s faith. It’s a simple sentence that he said to his brothers–the same brothers who had sold into slavery as a boy. He said, “...You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day...”

When Joseph looked back on his life, he didn’t list all the ways he’d been wronged or think bitterly about his days of suffering. Instead, he found how God had worked through his life to bless and help others. He saw the Lord’s purpose for his trials.

Promised Trouble

Joseph understood that God is good, even when people and life weren’t. And for many (myself included) that’s a difficult concept to grasp.

Strangely, many who claim belief or faith in God seem to have this subconscious thought that less-than-pleasant circumstances mean that God isn’t worth serving or that if we just trust and believe in God, all our troubles will melt away and we will be free of struggle forever more.

I have to confess that I’ve thought that way myself. But, my friends, this is just not true.

Jesus does not promise a life without trials. In fact, in John 16:33, He promises the opposite when He says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The Lord does promise perfect peace to those whose minds are stayed on Him, as we find in Isaiah 26:3. But that peace is not a result of an absence of trials. Rather, the verse tells us, that peace is the result of trusting–or hoping–in the Lord.

Joseph understood this. He knew that trials would come. But he also had a hope that God was greater than anything that came His way.

Through his life, we can see the truth of Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

He recognized the faithfulness of his good God. And he dedicated his life to serving Him. When he faced injustices and trials, He didn’t question God or wallow in self-pity. Instead, he kept hope and trusted in God’s plan.
What an example for us to follow.
Psalm 42:5
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.

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