A few weeks ago a friend sent me this bible verse:
3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 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.
I’ve read this verse many times throughout my life but recently it has taken on a new meaning. It is no secret the last 18 months of my life have been tough; I’ve been through a divorce, moved twice-essentially starting from scratch, took on a new role at work, continued my intense graduate school program while simultaneously continuing a research fellowship in Boston, and lost my dear grandmother. As I think about Romans 5:3-5, I realize these sufferings are catalysts that produce perseverance, character and hope for my future.
Hope is not something I naturally embrace. I embrace planning. In fact, I am known for not only having a plan but also at least one back-up plan. I like things to be planned out in a fashion where I have control of the outcome. I tie my “hopes” into my planning. If I do not have direct control over the plan, I really don’t “hope” for it because the risk for potential disappointment.
Several weeks ago someone asked me what I planned to do after I finished school and in fact, I get asked this fairly often since I have been in a four-year doctorate program since 2011. My response is usually something to the tune of, “travel, take time for myself, relax, and advance my career”. This ‘plan’ works for me because it is in my control—I control if I travel, take time for myself, relax, and/or advance my career. And although all of these plans sound great, they really aren’t what I want to do after I graduate.
Although I will always be focused on my career because it is truly something I love, what I really want is to settle down and build a family of my own. I say ‘build’ because I’ve learned relationships, marriage and family are much like building. They take hard work, maintenance and then more maintenance. I want to serve a loving husband that adores me and more importantly, I want to be worthy of that adoration. I want to be an engaged, loving mom. I want the opportunity to demonstrate love toward my husband and children that is biblical-based.
So if these are the true desires of my heart, why are they never part of my response to the question, “What do you want to do after school?” Because these desires are 100% out of my control. These desires are dependent upon God’s plan. My path has to cross the right man to be my husband…that’s a God thing. I have to actually be able to have children (and so many of my friends have struggled with this)…that’s a God thing. My husband and I have to be committed to all the maintenance that comes along with building a family…that’s definitely a God thing. All of these ‘hopes’ are 100% in God’s control.
Regardless of the risk of disappointment, I have prayed for God to align my desires to His desires. In doing so, I have become much more comfortable being honest with God and myself (and now the world via blog…yikes!) about the hopes I have for my future. Hopes that are 100% left to God’s plan. I’m willing to sacrifice my plan (and my backup plan), share my hopes with Him and live out His plan. And although His plan doesn’t need a back-up plan, it does require faith.
What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.
And Hebrews 6:19 reminds us...
"This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God's inner sanctuary." (For the background to this confidence and hope, start at Hebrews 6, verse 13)
Oh me of little faith. I have persevered through struggles, pain, loss, etc. and as I reflect back on the last 18 months, I see God working on my perseverance to make me a stronger person, conditioning my character to hopefully one day, allow me to be a wife to the man He has planned for me and instilling comfort to actually hope for the desires of my heart.
So the next time I am asked, “what do you want to do after school?” I will respond with my hopes in Him, the desires of my heart, instead of my seemingly 'safe' plan that I fool myself into thinking I actually exhibit control over!
Perseverance, character and hope,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.