“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 BSB)
Nate and Samantha (not their real names) lost all of their household belongings in hurricane Katrina. Nine months later, on their way back from a family vacation, their teenage daughter was killed and Samantha’s mother was severely injured in an automobile accident. That same day their family cat died. The next day, Samantha’s cousin died and the family dog was hit and killed by a car. That’s a lot of trauma in a short span of time. Wouldn’t you agree?
Two things struck me as I got to know this couple over the year and a half they attended my church. The first was how strong their faith was in spite of everything they had been though. The second was their quiet joy in the midst of their pain. They experienced grief and sorrow to be sure. But in spite of their grief and sorrow they also exuded hope because of their unshakable faith in God.
This remarkable couple exemplified the meaning of Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Here are some “take home” points I learned from this remarkable couple.
First, find purpose in your pain. God never promised we wouldn’t have problems. Rather, He promised He’d give meaning to our problems (Rm. 5:1-5; 8:28-29; Jms. 1:2-4). Nate and Samantha held onto the belief that God would one day make sense of everything they had gone through, even if that day was the day they’d see Him in heaven. That belief gave them the strength to bear up under adversity and to experience joy in the midst of grief.
Second, lean into the family of God. We weren’t meant to go through life alone. God has given us a family of faith to walk with us through the bad times as well as the good. Nate and Samantha rarely missed a Sunday at church. But, they also sought out professional Christian counseling and found a Christian grief recovery support group. There, people who were a little further along in their recovery supported them, and they, in turn, helped others that weren’t quite as far along as they were.
Third, practice gratitude. This is probably the most significant thing I learned from Nate and Samantha. They practiced a lifestyle of thanksgiving. They purposely and conscientiously thanked God in their circumstances, and sometimes, in spite of their circumstances. This practice of thanksgiving enabled them to focus on what they had, instead of what they had lost.
This is not to say that they were never struck by waves of grief. Of course they were. But, their practice of giving thanks kept them anchored in the God of hope who enabled them to overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit!
Like Nate and Samantha, we too can anchor ourselves into the God of hope by finding purpose, leaning into the family of God, and giving thanks in every circumstance. Then, even when we’re grieving, we will overflow with hope by the power of His Holy Spirit. And, despite times of sorrow, we will be filled with all joy and peace by believing in Him.
© Paul R Downing