COVID-19 is everywhere. Whether it’s in the news, on your news feed, through the Twitter-sphere, in your community or maybe even in your home, we just cannot escape COVID-19. It has even infiltrated the gathering of the Church. To be honest, I’m exhausted with it.
I praise God that I have not had to deal with it firsthand, as I know many have, but to see that there is yet “no end in sight” is rather disheartening. It has, however, created a longing in my heart that has proven to be unquenchable. I long to be with the Body of Christ like never before. Surely, I have taken for granted the freedom and ability to gather for worship and fellowship. But, I believe this longing is pointing me, and prayerfully you, to an even greater longing that will not be quenched until the Second Coming of Christ.
Romans 5:1-5 says that we not only “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God…but we rejoice in our sufferings.” Not having the freedom and ability to gather for worhsip may not be persecution but it has unquestionably led to a level of suffering that I have never encountered as I have never been restrained from the Ordinary Means of Grace.
What is the Christian’s (therefore my) response? Rejoice.
Romans 5 continues, “rejoice…knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”
Suffering is producing an endurance in me that leads me to recognize that I must go on because I am not in control of, well really, much of anything. I must accept and embrace that which God has brought to us/me while praising and trusting Him through it; even when I don’t understand.
Endurance is producing character in me that leads me to trust the Lord no matter what comes; which is growing me in faith. The Holy Spirit reveals to us in Romans 5 that our faith-filled endurance and trust, produced through trials and suffering, make us “battle-hardened soldiers of faith.” One Greek-English lexicon records “character” in this manner: “the experience of going through a test with special reference to the result, standing a test, character…as a process of enduring something amounts to a test that promotes and validates the character of the one undergoing it.” In essence, God uses our suffering to mold us and shape us into the image of our Savior (Romans 8:29). And in that, I can rejoice!
Character is producing hope in me that makes me long for the One upon whom I wait. I love how Paul Tripp defines hope in his book ‘The War of Words’: “Hope for the believer is not a dream of what could be, but a confident expectation of a guaranteed result that shapes his life.” Read those words again and think through them“Hope is…a confident expectation of a guaranteed result that shapes his life.” Ultimately, this hope that Paul writes of in Romans 5 is the believer’s justification and I, indeed, rest in that Hope. But, I think I can find some application for today too.
My “suffering”, if you’ll allow me to call it that, in longing to be reunited with the Body of Christ is teaching me about where my hope, ultimately, needs to be redirected. The Body of Christ is a sweet grace of God in which His people are fed, nourished, cherished, and grow but it pales in comparison to Who awaits those same believers; namely, Jesus Christ! I do long to gather for worship and I often wonder and pray how much longer I am willing to not do so, but something greater than the Body awaits those in Christ, our Head Himself. How much sweeter will worship be when it is face-to-face before the Lamb upon His throne? This is my ultimate Hope: The sweet, rich, glorious, unfathomable gathering of God’s elect free from the presence of sin, engulfed in the unending, never-fading, incomprehensible glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!
This Hope, the hope that does not disappoint or put us to shame (Rom. 5:5), in the Second Coming of Jesus is, for the believer, a confident expectation of a guarunteed result that shapes his life (thank you Rev. Tripp). I’ve hedged my bets, reordered my life, surrendered my passions, my desires, my thoughts, words, and actions to the promise of the forgiveness of sins & salvation by faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection & Christ’s Second Coming where He will not “deal with sin but [will] save those who are eagerly waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:28).
Eagerly, I stand with the Apostle John when he wrote, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20); fill the longing of my soul!
 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 256). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.