Friends, today I have the honor of introducing you to Courtney Balban from Sacred Stories. Her wisdom on facing our hard times and messy situations instead of trying to delay them or avoid them, are words that I keep reading over and over again. No season of life, no moment is wasted because God can work and is working out beautiful things in us through it all. Truly, Courtney has a heart of gold and I’m so glad I get to sit with you here today as Courtney shares.
By: Courtney Balban
In the past 2 years, I have successfully completed at least 8 entire series’ on Netflix. Some of them several times over. Considering work schedules and Saturday afternoon binges, this averages to 2-3 hours of TV per day. It sounds extreme but when you consider how easy it is to get sucked into the Netflix black hole, one episode quickly turns into 6 and before you know it it’s season 4 and you can’t imagine your life without those characters!
While the characters and storylines can be fascinating and endearing, the often serve a greater purpose: they help me to avoid or delay real life. When I was in grad school, it was the perfect distraction from my assignments or research. When I was fighting with my husband? A great way to avoid hard conversations. When I was grieving, it was easier to focus on the difficulties other people were having instead of my own. While some of these examples are trite, even significant sufferings consistently point me to a Netflix binge.
Don’t get me wrong, a good distraction can be good for our overall mental health. But when a temporary distraction becomes a permanent way to avoid something, then it’s time to deal with it. This type of extreme avoidance reveals something serious at a spiritual level. For you it may not be Netflix. It may be food or social media or video games. But whatever your medium of choice, our avoidance of our own difficulties forces us to answer the question: Where do you put your hope?
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Paul had his fair share of hard times. He knew suffering like an old friend. If anyone was qualified to write about suffering and it’s effects, it’s Paul. In this passage, Paul is attempting to call out the spiritual glasses we are wearing when looking at our life. He is calling out our tendency to view life through the lens of hopelessness or complaining. He is calling out our avoidance tendencies and highlighting the faulty thinking that drives those behaviors.
Paul is saying “stop looking at your suffering as something that doesn’t intersect with the Gospel! Look at it through the lens of eternity!” Change the lens and, suddenly, your suffering and difficulties look very different! Ultimately, we have peace with God no matter what it is we are facing. Our hope is in bigger things, eternal things, rather than in the immediate circumstances we find ourselves in. In the middle of our worst, God came for us. This is a game changer.
Vs. 3 “We rejoice in our suffering”
When we are suffering, it feels as though something (or everything) is being taken from us. But when we change the lens to the Gospel, we learn that something is actually being produced in us, rather than stripped away:
Vs. 3b-5a “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint”
That is something to rejoice in! Remember, suffering and difficulties force us to ask the question “what is my hope in?” This passage tells us that we can rejoice in our sufferings because, as Christians, God is at work! It is Christ who is our hope, not good circumstances or desired solutions. Not only are we at peace with God through Jesus’ work on the cross, but now He is also redeeming the difficulties we face! When your hope is in Christ and in the goodness, grace and glory of God, you cannot “be put to shame.” God is faithful. He is faithful to make us more like himself in the midst of trials and He is ultimately faithful to forgive us of our sins and allow us to live eternally with Him in glory!
If this is what God does in the middle of suffering or difficulties, don’t rob yourself of what God wants to do with them! Run through them rather than from them! God walks right with us and is moving and working to produce something bigger in us for a purpose far greater than ourselves. No moment, regardless of how hard, is wasted because God is forging endurance, character, and, ultimately, hope; Hope that this life is not all there is, we are not alone, there is eternity ahead and knowing Jesus is the ultimate goal. All, even the hard, is ultimately grace.
What’s in front of you that you have been avoiding facing? Move through it, rather than avoiding it, because God doesn’t waste moments. Even in the worst of them, God is working.
Courtney is a pastor’s wife and mental health counselor who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She’s an adoring dog mom and ice-cream enthusiast. She is passionate about telling stories that point to the Greatest Story Ever Told. Courtney believes there is always something to celebrate and strives to move through life with eyes that see the gift of each moment. Courtney blogs at www.tellingsacredstories.com.