“We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
Of all the things that suffering does, one thing stands out a bit: suffering causes despair. It sucks hope dry. With hope, people press on, they live, they adapt to change, they look to a brighter tomorrow. Without it, they curl up and die. Suffering tends to destroy our hope, whether that be the death of a spouse destroying your hope of a long happy marriage, being laid off destroying your hope of a good career, physical sickness destroying your hope of health and happiness, mental illness destroying your hope of peace and joy. Suffering by itself, in our humanity, destroys hope.
What a glorious thing, then, to realize that when we persevere in suffering and develop character, our stronger, purer, godly character will bring back the hope that suffering has taken from us.
But there’s something here that is very important to see … the hope that we gain is not like the hope that we lost. We lose earthly hopes. Hopes that moth and rust and sin can destroy … things like hopes for wealth or health or human relationships. We gain a hope that the verse says, “does not disappoint.” We gain a heavenly hope. We gain something that nothing in this world can ever take away … it cannot be lost through suffering, through death, through grief, through destruction … it is a hope that does not disappoint.
Why? Because it’s a hope founded on the person of God: “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.” If I know that God loves me – and one of the ways I learn that is by persevering in trial, keeping my focus on him, and developing godly character – then nothing will shake my eternal hope for the future because I can trust the One who holds the future ... and me ... in his hand.