We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 1:3
Paul begins his letter to the Thessalonians with a benediction, a word of blessing and encouragement. When he speaks of their “endurance”, he uses a word that carries a sense of patience and perseverance. What is unique about this word is that it is often used to describe one that bears up in the face of extreme circumstances. Another word is used for the kind of patience we need in relationship with one another. But the word Paul uses is one that conveys faithful patience — longsuffering, even — no matter the circumstances.
This is more than semantics. Paul strategically employs this word because of its connection to another word: hope. What animates us to bear up under trials? What allows us to hold on when pain and sorrow and fear are at our doorstep?
In a word, hope.
In many cases, circumstance is the enemy of hope. A loved one loses her job. A friend receives a terminal diagnosis. A relationship ends before we’re ready. When we live through these dark seasons, it can be easy to lose sight of hope. Our circumstance can become all-consuming, blinding us to the power of a reality beyond our current situation.
I wonder why we’re so prone to this. Maybe hope has been mischaracterized as naive positivity, synonymous with youthful idealism rooted in nothing but ignorance. That’s not hope. That’s simply not knowing any better. Hope is something much deeper, something visceral, rebellious, defiant, and resolute. It’s a soul-level commitment of unswerving belief in the future. In distinctly Christian language, it is the anticipation of God’s Kingdom come in its fullness.
Hope has a subversive edge. It says, “All the world may run, but here I stand.” As the tide rises and the sky falls, hope remains steadfast. Have you ever considered the transformative power of hope to elevate our perspective beyond our current situation? This isn’t the flimsy kind of “stick your head in the sand” hope that we’re frequently offered. Hope is the absolute refusal to let circumstance dictate the terms and limits of faith.
“Come what may,” she says, “here I stand.”