if you're like me, you've no doubt experienced situations where you weren't entirely sure what was expected of you. or moments when you were handed a task, but the instructions given were vague. a time that found you figuring things out, feeling your way, hoping like anything you were at least headed in the right direction.
and then perhaps there have been other times that you were well informed, adequately equipped and entirely aware of expectations, rules, instructions...
throughout life we navigate our way in and around obstacles of all kinds. often, the Word of God is clear and concise, giving us obvious answers to even the most difficult questions. yet other times we have to dig deep down into what seems like buried treasure to find what we're looking for... answers to questions as simple as what? why? where? who? when? ok.... those aren't such simple questions.
the verse i've decided to memorize and meditate on for the month of november, my STANDard for this month, is Romans 12:12. i've chosen it because it is cut and dry. and right now i need something clear. i need obvious direction, straightforward solutions. here is what it says:
"be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer"
these 3 guidelines for living can be applied to any and every life circumstance any one of us might encounter. they are obvious truths...and yet as i consider how on Earth i'm going to apply them to my own life and current state of affairs, i realize that they are weighty and critical.
first, be joyful in hope. when dreams die, when plans don't pan out, when relationships break, or life shifts in tectonic plate proportions, hope is hard to come by. having hoped, and having those hopes dashed against the rocks of disappointment again and again, it's hard to hope at all... let alone joyfully. i think that is when we can know that we've misplaced our hopes. perhaps our devastation or discouragement can serve as a mirror to show us that we've put our trust, our faith, our hope in something... or someone... other than Jesus.
Psalm 147:11 "the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their HOPE in His unfailing love"
Psalm 42:5 "why are you so downcast...put your HOPE in God"
Isaiah 40:31 "...those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength..."
when our hope is anchored in Him, we won't drown.
secondly, be patient in affliction. i just totally admit that my go-to/typical response in the midst of affliction is complaining. or crying. it's more of a grit-my-teeth and suffer through it reaction rather than one of patience. i really just want whatever the difficult situation is to be over, like, quickly. i want to close my eyes, hold my breath, skip it all together. and yet, having survived an affliction or two, i'm well aware of the immense amount of growth and training that take place in our hearts during those times. they, the hard times, are for our good. it's to our benefit to relax into them, keep our eyes open and our minds set on Jesus so we can be aware of the lessons He wants to teach us through our trials.
James 1:2 "consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete..."
third and finally, be faithful in prayer. do you have as hard a time as i do with consistency? i might get into the swing of a new routine for a couple weeks, only to fall prey to procrastination on week 3. i have good intentions when it comes to phone conversations with friends, but busy-ness often gets in the way and i end up going weeks without speaking to someone i love dearly. i fall short in the regularity of my prayer life too. i'm easily distracted, and i often put everyday mundane tasks ahead of spending time on my knees. yet Jesus commands us to pray. all throughout the gospels Jesus draws us to himself, inviting us into relationship with the Father. He himself teaches us how to pray in Matthew 6:9 "... this is how you should pray...our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil...". from one end of the new testament to the other we are told to pray... Matthew 6:5; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:1..... praying is communication with our Creator. a direct line to the heart of God. we gain essential strength as we spend time with him. HE invites us, commands us. responding consistently and faithfully benefits us and accomplishes much.
in closing i just want to point out the context of this verse. i find it intriguing that it sits right smack-dab-in-the-middle of a chapter on hospitality and the body of Christ. this is interesting to me because my first response is..."how does this apply to ME and MY circumstances" but i can only assume that our reactions to situations involving others are important to God. he cares deeply about relationships. he wants to cultivate in us a heart like his. as we are joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer we are displaying the character of Christ. we are transformed more into his image, and as we become more like him, we are able to act more like him.
the STANDard cards will soon be available on the website for purchase, but for now you can continue to order them from me directly by sending 10$ via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org. include your address and how many sets you'd like. these make excellent stocking stuffers and Christmas gifts!!!