Monday, December 1, 2008

Patient Hope

Patient Hope
By Brenda Black

I imagine the velvety feel of her black ears as I stare into penetrating warm, brown eyes in a picture of our black lab. I hear her seldom, one syllable bark reserved only for a stranger, or cat that gets too close to her feed pan. I see her heavy tail thumping rapidly and two front feet prancing when I call her “My pretty girl.” It's all a memory since I haven't seen her for a week now.

She disappeared last Sunday roaming unknown territory. We've searched and called and canvassed the area to no avail. The Scriptures say “Hope deferred makes the heart sick...” (Proverbs 13:12a). I truly believe it. Every day that I fix binoculars on the miles of open pasture, prairie and wooded acres in hopes of spying our pet, my heart weighs heavier and my hope wanes.

Then, I have to wonder, is it hope I've lost or patience I lack. And if I still hope for things not yet seen, but don't have the patience to wait for its appearing, I'm sure to miss many miraculously ordained events.

“Patience is the best remedy for every trouble,” says Roman comic dramatist Titus Maccius Plautus. Saint Augustine adds, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.”

These philosophers tell you of Patience' virtues, but I think Helen Keller better conveys how we come to learn and adopt a patient personality. “We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.”

In the trial and in the sadness, we have no choice but to wait for better days. When answers come slowly to questions that gnaw through our brains, we can only wait.
Hope and patience. Patient hope. Hopeful patience. Is one possible without the other. The book of Lamentations ties them closely together.

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

“I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

“It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust – there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.

“To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land, to deny a man his rights before the Most High, to deprive a man of justice – would not the Lord see such things? Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” (Lamentations 3:19-38)

Sometimes life is sad and often it is hard. But, as Helen Keller taught, the absence of joy at times can be our closest encounter with the fruit of the Spirit. The Apostle Paul told the Romans:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of child birth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:22-25)

From missing pets to a mansion in paradise, patient hope profits me best.

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