"Lord, I need some hope." Into my mind came the thought of Romans 5:5. I had no clue what that verse said. Hmmm...didn't I have an impression a few days ago to read Romans 5? And didn't I ignore it thinking it was probably just my own thoughts? Maybe that was really God?
I picked up the Bible next to me and read verse 5. "Such hope does not disappoint us for God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit...." I had asked for hope and there it was right in that verse! But wait a minute. I scanned back to verse 3 to see what the context of that verse was. I was in for another lesson.
Verses 3 - 5 said that we should rejoice in our troubles! I certainly was not feeling joyful about my troubles. So I read on: The pressure and affliction of our sufferings produces endurance. And endurance develops character (that made sense). And character produces hope.
Character produces hope? How does that work? I wondered. So I asked God. "How does character produce hope?"
No answer. I sat there puzzled for quite some time until my son walked into the room.
"What are you reading?" I asked. He showed me his latest treasure and launched into a fascinating discussion on British WWII prisoners of war in a Japanese POW camp in Thailand.
He described the deplorable conditions in one camp and how initially the POWs thought only of their own survival. It was a dog-eat-dog mentality. If one of their fellow sailors became ill no one lifted a hand to help. Scores of prisoners died.
Then one day two men decided to visit their British officer, Ernest Gordon, in the Death Hut - where sick prisoners were left to die without any rations. Malaria, diptheria and dysentery had left the officer unrecognizable. Shocked at his condition the two men resolved to tend to his needs until he passed away. They began collecting food to feed him. They bathed him and massaged his paralyzed legs. Gordon recovered!
The sacrificial kindness of the two POWs toward Gordon sparked hope in the other prisoners. Each man paired up with another to look out for each other's welfare.
Scientists among the prisoners began to study the flora to gather those plants which might be beneficial to treat vitamin deficiencies and other ailments. They pooled together books they had secreted into the camp and created a lending library and a "university without walls". They taught history, math, philosophy and nine different languages, to name a few. They even put on plays. Over time they developed their own loving, thriving community within their hovel of a prison.
A little light of revelation switched on in my mind. These POWs found joy in their suffering! They endured horrific conditions. Out of that came godly character and yes - HOPE!
The key was to focus not on one's troubles but on others!
Though not a new concept, it was one I needed to hear this afternoon. The oppression that dogged me this afternoon completely lifted by the time my son finished recounting what he had read. I popped off the couch excited to share this with you!
If you are struggling with sadness or hope deferred, here are some things to remember:
- Our afflictions are momentary. They will not last forever (2 Cor. 4:17).
- We may feel like we have been struck down, but we are not destroyed (2 Cor. 4:9).
- We need to ask God, "Who can I bless?" It will take our thoughts off our temporary affliction and cause us to focus someone else's needs. In so doing, we will in turn be blessed.
*(soap bubbles, that is!)