Hope is the fuel for joy in the midst of hardships

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:3–11 ESV)

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself; Jesus is our model.  When it comes to suffering, hardships and difficulties, we need to reflect on Jesus and all that He endured on our behalf – and not only the physical difficulties that He endured.  Jesus was the center of worship and He made Himself nothing, Jesus was the sovereign Ruler of the cosmos and He became dependent upon humans as an infant, Jesus was the Maker of all things and He became like created man, Jesus had never experienced limitations and He put on flesh and was bound by it, Jesus had never experienced pain and He lived life in a broken world, Jesus had never known the rejection of His father and He became separated from Him as our sacrifice, Jesus never knew sin or wrath and He took on the sins of the elect and the due wrath of God.  Regardless of how difficult things are or become, our struggles have not yet resulted in martyrdom, so persevere with Jesus as your inspiration.  Our focus is to remain on Jesus, who endured the hostility of his creatures; He is our pursuit and inspiration.  God has called us to nothing that He was not willing to undergo Himself – and much more!

Remember that you have not only been forgiven, but adopted as sons and daughters of God.  We are more than servants – we are now sons!  We are children, and children receive their father’s discipline.  However, this discipline is not punitive, it is corrective.  We should be encouraged by our difficulties because God is using them to cause growth in holiness and to authenticate our sonship.  God loves us so much that mere surface happiness that is devoid of soul level holiness is not an option.  We all have been disciplined by our earthly fathers and it was painful for a season, but we ultimately learned that it was for our good.  What father would let his kids play in the street because they wanted to?  How much more, the discipline of our Father in heaven – who is conditioning our souls for holiness that “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11 ESV).

The readers of this epistle had endured much suffering and persecution (10:32-36) as a result of their faith.  And yet, they were compassionate and “joyfully accepted the plunder of their property” (Hebrews 10:34 ESV).  What was the fuel for that joy?  Hope.  Hope that a better, eternal, perfect inheritance was in store for those who believe.  Hope is the fuel for joy.  Hope helps us to see that this world is fleeting and short, like a mist (James 4:13).  In light of this, endure, persevere, stay faithful, make your salvation sure, stick with it, do not lose hope – because “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).  The righteous live by faith and do not shrink back:  “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:39 ESV), “but we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:39 ESV).

In light of a good, sovereign heavenly Father who disciplines His kids, we are called to endure suffering and hardships and to view them as discipline.  Viewing them as discipline forces us to understand and recognize that the difficult circumstances in our lives – whether brought on by our own doing or not – were specifically designed by God for our good and for His glory.  If we can grasp this truth, we are better able to walk freely and joyfully in the midst of great difficulties.  It is easy to think that difficulties are only for a season – and sometimes they are – but, more often than not, they do not quickly go away.  Sometimes our suffering & hardships last our entire lives.  These take on all sorts of flavors:  a persistently difficult marriage, a wayward child, a hard hearted parent, a difficult or unsatisfying job, difficulty in finding close friendships (feeling alone), persecution for your faith or countless others.  Viewing these as God’s loving discipline reveals to us at least four things:
1)  The world is broken and no part of it is unaffected by sin,
2)  The things that we are really trusting in to make live work, provide significance or create or identity.  It reveals our idols – those things that hold the ultimate affections of our heart,
3)  It forces us to spend more time dwelling on ultimate, eternal realities instead of temporal, trivial things,
4)  It causes us to long for a better kingdom where life is not broken and we are uninhibited in our love for and obedience to Jesus.

Regardless of the difficulties that you are walking in (and many are walking through horrifically hard things), find rest in God’s sovereign goodness.  He is using them for your good and His glory – even though you may never understand it this side of glory.  View them as God’s good discipline and allow them produce holiness in you and fuel an increased fervor and passion for Jesus and His kingdom.