“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 NIV
“Honk, honk.” The kind gentleman in the vehicle behind me encouraged me to remove my foot from the brake and proceed through the green light. Unfortunately, I missed the start of the Formula 1 race in our small Southern town.
Either way, he was anxious to get where he was going.
At his urging, I proceeded through the light. He moved to follow closely behind. I accelerated to the speed limit. This fine sir made sure to let me know how inefficiently I was going by, quickly passing me in a no-passing lane. So it is often in those moments; I want to believe a medical emergency he was racing off to resolve. I am not sure that was this scenario.
Life feels a lot like that stoplight. We are taking a beat, and it rushes upon us. We are going at a sustainable pace (or at least attempting to), and quickly behind comes the Buick of bills, the Chevy of competition, or the Kia of soul-crushing circumstances. In those moments, we are faced with a choice. Stay in our lane and at our pace or allow the pressing pressure of the Mercedes of momentum to cause us to change our speed. Okay, I think I am done with car references for now.
The tension remains wrapped in this question: how do you respond when life presses on you?
In truth, more times than I care to admit, the pressing weight of life caused responses in me that were not healthy. Seasons of full-scale striving, moments of deep insecurity, and dark days fighting off discouragement all have chased me down. What I am attempting to live out is this simple verse found in Romans – “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
Joy is a choice, not an emotion. Happiness is based on what happens to us, and I think the Lord wants us happy. But what I think he wants to give us is JOY. Joy is not based on the moment but found in who he is. Galatians tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is JOY. Joy is found in a who, not a what. Hope is the expectation of a good thing. It is kind of like the wrapping paper of a present. You’re not entirely sure what is inside, but you are full of expectations that it is good. Be joyful in hope.
Be patient in affliction. Getting honked at and passed on the road is not an affliction, so let’s not mistake it. Yet, we do face trials. Jesus assured us they would come. So when they do, we have to hold steady and wait. This is my favorite (sarcasm implied). We so often want to rush to fix it or resolve it that we miss the lesson in the trial. Patience in the affliction slows down the rush to reason it out. It allows time to be a teacher, shaping and building our character.
This may be the most critical. Keep on praying. We have to be faithful in prayer. Pray without ceasing. Here are a couple of thoughts: one schedule time for intentional prayer time. Yes, like your grandparents would have when they kneeled next to the bed at night, and you could hear them from the room next to them. We need that level of prayer. Journal your prayers.
Written prayers can allow you to reflect on how God answered or saw you through a season. Pray with someone else. Okay, this may be intimidating, but it is valuable. There is something powerful about praying in the community.
Have joy. Be patient. Pray. Then repeat the process.
Jeff Pitts is a church planter in Cleveland, TN. He loves his family, coffee, and NEEDTOBREATHE.