by Graham Mol
Would you agree that right now we all could do with the following things?
When we first went into lockdown in South Africa, during the early stages of the pandemic, I’m sure not many of us expected things to still be as they are right now, nearly a whole year later. There have been many challenges that we have faced and continue to face. Many have experienced loss, whether it be loss of income and work or even loss of loved ones. We have weathered so much of the storm and yet it continues to rage. Under the circumstances there is much that can weary us, dishearten us and cause despair.
It is a blessing then to heed the Apostle Paul’s words to the Church in Rome:
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:1-6 NIV)
During times of struggle and trial, Paul identifies three sources of endurance, encouragement and hope.
The first source is from each other. “Those who are strong” are to bear with those who are weak. Bearing in this case is not a case of tolerating, it means to uplift, carry, sustain, support. As believers we are to be thinking of and caring for each other, and this gives us the opportunity for those who are “strong” at that time, to help those who are struggling, knowing that at another time those who were “weak” could be the “strong” ones. What a difference a kind word, a sympathetic ear or a helping hand can make, to help us endure, to lift our spirits and grant a measure of hope.
Another source that Paul identifies is Scripture. The stories of God’s people, of how the Lord called, blessed, taught and sustained them, of how He delivered them from trouble and gave them strength when they needed it, are all a source of encouragement for us. The faith of people like Joseph, Moses, David, motivates us to trust in the Lord, to persevere, to endure. For us today, we have the accounts of Christ’s life, His coming to this earth, His teachings, His love displayed on the Cross and the victory in His resurrection to give us hope. As we regularly spend time in God’s word we increase the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to bring it to life and apply it to our situation.
Lastly, Paul notes that God Himself gives us endurance and encouragement. Jesus is our living hope. Time spent in prayer, communicating with the Lord, both in speaking to Him and listening to what He speaks into our lives, draws us nearer to Him. His presence in our lives is always a source of endurance, encouragement and hope that overshadows and overcomes the struggles and trials of our circumstances.
It is my prayer that, especially if you are experiencing weariness, disheartenment or despair, you would find a source of endurance, encouragement and hope in the love and care of others, in Scripture and in the Lord Himself.