“All of us need hope to move through life. We become especially aware of this when faced with circumstances beyond our control. When our lives are falling apart, where do we find hope to move ahead each day?” (Excerpted from Lesson 4 of the Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life.)
Suffering and trials come in all forms, from serious health issues to extreme poverty due to war and political turmoil. I am familiar with life-threatening and life-altering health problems. Raella, however, has lived under the threat of war, poverty and starvation in her country of South Sudan. She is suffering things I know nothing about.
But I do know the way to hope is the same for both of us.
How can I say this with certainty? I didn’t think it up myself. It comes from an authority much higher than me. In fact, it comes from God himself.
Listen to what Paul, under the inspiration of God, wrote in Romans 5:1-5 (HCSB):
“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord brings us peace with God and ultimately hope, as the Scriptures here reveal.
But there’s more! God is the God of hope. I got that right out of the text too. Romans 15:13 (HCSB) says:
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Faith in Jesus Christ brings us into the place of peace with God, who fills us with joy and peace so that by the power of his Holy Spirit who comes to live in us, we overflow with hope!
Hope originates in God. It becomes our own through a restored relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Scriptures say in John 1:14 that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have discovered that this Word is Jesus, God come in flesh to bring us redemption, forgiveness of sins and peace with God. We call his coming into the world as a human, the Incarnation.
Raella has discovered this truth too. In fact, she has seen “the Word (become) flesh” through a group of women. She has seen Christ Jesus in the women who lead the She Is Safe (SIS) Transformation Group she joined.
Through this Transformation Group Raella learned skills to start her own business so that she wasn’t dependent on a job that didn’t exist. She learned good business skills and saving and lending practices along with the other women in the group, so they can help one another. She also learned other vital life skills.
In her own words Raella says: “Today I have saved enough with my new business to rent a small house. My children are in school.” (This is significant where primary and secondary education is not free as it is in our country.)
Raella is lifting up her life, and the lives of her children, above their trying circumstances.
She and her children have a safe place to live. They have food to eat. The children are getting an education. All because Raella found the SIS Transformation Group and because she has worked hard to put into practice what they have taught her. Make no mistake, Raella has very little of this world’s wealth. She works hard at her business to bring home and save enough for a roof and food and education.
But business skills are not all Raella learned in the Transformation Group. She learned about the God who loved her enough to send his own Son to die to provide for her salvation.
She knows it is true because of the women giving of themselves to teach and train her in the Transformation Group. These SIS trained leaders are “incarnating” the Word of God, putting flesh on the timeless truths of God’s Word.
Because these followers of Jesus found a way to bring new skills and the Good News of Jesus Christ to Raella, and hundreds of women like her, she now has hope. These Transformation Groups are the “hands and feet” of Jesus to the Raella’s of the hard places in the world, places like South Sudan.
Raella’s testimony doesn’t stop with being filled with joy and gratitude for the good things in her life as a result of her training. Out of her poverty she also tangibly lives out her gratitude: “My first offering is always to God because he has given me hope.”
My heart was smitten when I read her words. Am I as grateful as Raella is for the grace of God in my life, for the hope he has given me? Is my first offering–skimmed off the top of my finances–to God because he alone has given me hope?
God has given me so much in every way. Am I living out his truth the way Raella and the Transformation Group leaders are, even in their unimaginable circumstances in South Sudan? Am I putting “flesh,” my own flesh, on the truths of God, living them out sacrificially for others every day?
Jesus’ words in Luke 12:48 remind me that, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
God help me—God help us—to whom much has been entrusted, to be faithful and follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
May we be found putting his Word into practice every day so that the Raella’s around us see Jesus in us, and find hope.
In upcoming posts I hope to share with you some ways God is leading me to live out his truths here in southern California, as well as give you updates on the progress of the writing and publishing saga of the Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty.
 Not her real name.