Read Part I here. Part II won't make much sense without it.
∴ Yoohoo! The actual passage is: “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:2-5). Yeah, I kind of left out a massive element of the whole process. And what is so compelling about Angie’s life is that she is living this out. Her hope is deep and alive, and it sustains her through her earthly troubles. Without hope as its outcome, suffering feels tragically wasteful and disappointing. With hope, suffering is not only bearable, but it is even strangely beautiful.
∴ True hope for eternity sustains us through our earthly troubles far better than any earthly solution to them or protection from them. God’s protection is so much more effective and real. While I may feel safer on my own, I’m every bit as helpless. Drawing nearer to God means actually becoming safer, because while I’m still out of control, I can be confident that my heart is safe with Him. I fear suffering that turns to despair, but He will not allow me to be tempted by hopelessness beyond what I can bear, and He will always give me a way out. His mighty hand is my refuge.
∴ I was really helped by my friend Karen’s observation that the analogies we use to describe God’s behavior and heart will always be slightly insufficient. His ways are mysterious and incomprehensible most of the time, so the Spirit gives us insight through His Word, but God is so much more than a physical flame or chisel. His love and discipline do refine me, but He is not casting me enthusiastically into a furnace to be burned. His touch is compassionate and tender, though it is always changing me.
∴ Emily rocked my world with this question: How much do you value your faith? In other words, is my walk with God just an avenue for me to get what I want (a life free from pain and suffering) or is FAITH in Christ the ultimate goal, regardless of circumstances? Which brings me right back to Angie’s words: “I am choosing to bear the crown, because I cannot live without the love.” Will I allow God to lead me in His love? Will I value my faith in Him above all, knowing that it gives everything else meaning? (Ari, you hit this one on the head in your comment.)
∴ What a comfort it is to pray. The girls and I were all a bit bewildered, but in the end, we could only ask God to deliver us from evil and give us our daily bread. Abba, penetrate our hearts with your truth; let us trust you and not be afraid of you. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on this subject.