- The Explore the Bible lesson for March 29 focuses on Romans 5:1-11.
Not long ago, I happened to listen in as a parent who recently had lost a child spoke of dealing with the unspeakable grief of the death of a child. Parents are not supposed to bury their children. It’s supposed to be the other way around—except when it isn’t.
This heartbroken parent said: “You never get over it. You can only go through it.”
Too often, we are counseled by well-intentional people to “get closure” on this tragedy or that. This parent said there is no such thing as closure, only endurance.
That’s a perspective of life that can only comes with much maturity. In our early years, our parents or others would come to our rescue if things went awry. They would swoop in to remove an obstacle in our path or they would devise a solution for us.
In time, we come to discover that, in moments of great difficulty, not one, not even God, is going to swoop into our lives and make things “all better.” We only discover that, however, when we must do so. Like when the unspeakable horror of a child’s death visits us. We don’t come prepackaged with that maturity. There is so very much life we must live in order to attain that perspective.
Hope for eternity, hope for now
The text for today’s lesson is a remarkable and beautiful example about the blending of eternal hope with the affairs of our daily lives. Hope is not otherworldly. Hope is faith in the presence of eternal God in the everyday moments of daily life.
In the first part of this passage, the Apostle Paul is attempting to shore up our hope of life beyond this one. He certainly does that. However, there is more to this text than first meets the eye. It appears Paul also is attempting to describe how eternal hope is also “now” hope. It is a both/and kind of hope.
The way we experience that hope now is found in how we surrender ourselves to the greater purposes of God in Christ. To let go of our ever-present belief that if we try hard enough, we can fix anything. To give up the idea that if we believe hard enough, life will make sense and eventually produce whatever we believe we deserve or desire.
The Bible nowhere makes such a promise. We are not promised anything with regard to how “things” turn out. We are promised the peace, specifically, peace with God. The One who started all of this will also bring all that is to its divinely ordained conclusion. We can have hope to keep moving on through life, through the worst life can offer, trusting God’s greater purpose. It is that hope that issues in peace here and now, no matter what.
A high school buddy died a couple of years ago after a years-long battle with malignant melanoma. His death bothered me deeply. I didn’t even know he was sick until shortly before his death. I communicated with a mutual friend about how I felt. In response, he said, “We’ll see him again.” Having that hope pours whole oceans of hope all over the hot coals of distress and anxiety and fear.
That means hope is not knowing everything is going to be OK. Hope is knowing that you are going to be OK even if everything isn’t OK.
Eyes on Jesus
We have no better role model for this truth than Jesus himself. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful man, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Jesus scorned the humiliation of the cross. That means he hated the cross. How could he not? However, Jesus was able to endure the cross, go through it not around it, because the horror of the cross was worth what awaited him on the other side of it.
When Dad was teaching me how to drive, he took me out to a lone country two-lane paved road. As I began driving, I had a hard time keeping the car straight and not veering right and left. Dad told me to stop looking at the end of the hood and stare further down the road. By setting my sight on the bigger picture, driving in a straight line came almost naturally.
We can have peace now if we won’t focus as much on the pain we now know and fix our eyes on Jesus, on the bigger picture. No pain or ill can come into our lives without being swallowed up in the purpose of God for eternal-future lives and our eternal-present lives.
As we learn that essential faith discipline, we will learn what it means to be at peace with God, right here and right now. Living under the false assumption that we can conquer anything if we want to badly enough only leads to despair and cynicism and futility.
Living for what God has in mind for us, no matter what we suffer along the way, we will discover the joy of being at peace right here and right now.
Glen Schmucker is a writer and blogger in Fort Worth. He has served as a Texas Baptist pastor and as a hospice chaplain.