Hope Through Perseverance – The Journey with Others in the Face of Hardship
As we have journeyed through 2020 with the theme of Hope through Perseverance, we are acutely aware of the truth that faith is not an indemnity against difficulty. The ragged edges of reality cut into the flesh of our lives when we encounter a crisis. What we are guaranteed is God’s presence, His people and His provision along the pathway. Each of these shape within us stories of faithful endurance and in turn we become the storytellers of God’s goodness and faithfulness as we learn to stay the path when trials hit.
In this edition, we are reminded that God designed us to journey through life in community and relationship with others. Collectively we walk the journey, holding one another up, spurring each other on and demonstrating that our faith can endure in the face of the fire. In the end, together we become a signpost of hope to each other and also to a world that begs for something beyond wishful thinking that is underpinned by a positive mental attitude.
Think about what inspires you and means the most when you are facing and enduring your own trials. Apart from the faithful presence of God, is it not the faithful testimonies of others who have stood the test of time, stayed the path and although they have been shredded by some of life’s worst tragedies, they raise their heads and bellow in their loudest voice that God is still God in the midst of all things. These heroes of the faith all testify to the irreplaceable love and support of those who walk the miles of tragedy with them through the ditches of disaster.
It seems that longevity of faith is connected with faithful companions who God bonds us with who become His living embodiment of love and encouragement when life gets tough. The love of our friends in the midst of crisis is irreplaceable. It is a lovely act of God to create community and to immerse us into a body of people who are orientated around Jesus and united in purposed.
The Apostle Paul is a Biblical hero of the faith who encountered unimaginable hardship and suffering. In 2 Corinthians 6, we read his account of affliction with one thing after another raining down on him, peppering him with adversity. Yet, Paul also speaks about the irreplaceable value of his friends and colleagues (Romans 16), who journeyed with him.
In the pages of history, we read of many other heroes who have stood the test of time in the pilgrimage of faith. William Wilberforce was one such hero. He was called to champion the abolition of slavery, facing crisis after crisis in his attempt to take down the mountain of cruelty that permitted the slave trade. His call was clear, but what sustained him was his connection to the community known as the Clapham Sects, who became a community of faith and a force that not only carried Wilberforce through his darkest hours, but also became a collective community of change that lead to the abolition of slavery. Wilberforce articulated, that no matter how noble the philanthropic vision for abolishing slavery may have been, it was foolish to think he could accomplish this without the support of the community of faith, friends, colleagues, and his family. He walked a road if immense sacrifice being constantly vilified on his 18-year campaign of social reform, pursuing the revocation of a lucrative trade business that horrendously assaulted black human lives. The realisation of his vision came on his death bed after his long battle with a debilitating illness that at times crippled him. The community that God raised up for him, were the group that held this champion of faith up in his worst hours.
I wonder as we ponder this, who your hero(s) may be? Who comes to your mind as the person or people that are your mainstay; people who have done the hard yards with you in your times of trial? These people are your champions and the ones who keep you buoyant when you think you’re about to drown. What a gift God has given us in friendship and community.
As we head towards the end of this year, may we endure and be storytellers of God’s goodness and champions together in the community of God. For the victorious journey of faith in times of trial, is inextricably linked to the people God has planted in our lives who will cheer us on and walk alongside us on the rocky road, until we cross the line and shout “God is God in the midst of all things”.