Image shows a blue background with geometric equations
Devotions, Disability & Accessibility, Diversity, Ministry, Pastoral Life, Preaching, Sermons & Sermon Notes, Women in Ministry

Devotion: The Math of Hope (His Encouragement #26)

This post is part of the weekly series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.” 

Image: A woman holds a cup of tea and reads her Bible. Black text on a green background reads, “Weekly Devotion: His Encouragement- Words from Scripture to Strengthen Your Soul.”

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.

-Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

 

Beckie and Josey stand in a restaurant and smile

What does Euclidean Geometry have to do with faith?

This is one of my best friends. (She is the one in the left). Her name is Josey, and she is incredibly gifted when it comes to math. We attended college together and I was always impressed by the way she could do complicated equations in her head. While I struggled and prayed my way through my required math courses, Josey delighted in playing with “imaginary numbers.” She even signed up for a class called “Euclidean Geometry,” just for the fun of it!

To this day, I’m still not sure how a number can be imaginary. Also, despite Josey’s best efforts to teach me otherwise, I’m still rather foggy about who Euclid was (Wikipedia tells me that he was a Greek mathematician and the father of Geometry.).

Although I’m still unclear about Euclid and his contributions to the world of mathematics,  I am familiar with the writings of Paul. In fact, this week, I am taking great comfort in words that Paul writes to the church in Rome. Paul was another person with a sharp and logical mind. 

 

Image shows a blue background with geometric equations
Image: A blue background with geometric equations. It’s all Greek to me!

The Math of Hope

Paul’s skill at rhetoric and logical reasoning is clearly evident in his writings.  This line in particular sticks out at me, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5.3-4).” 

I am not particularly good at math (I was an English major in college), but to me, this scripture verse sounds like an equation. I can just imagine Josey mapping out the logic of this phrase on a chalkboard.

She would write,

“Suffering -> Perseverance

Perseverance -> Character

Character -> Hope

Therefore

Suffering = Hope

As I said, I’m no mathematician, but I would be willing to assert that my logic is sound when it comes to this line of reasoning. That is because St. Paul was a  brilliant theologian. Interestingly enough, as a well educated person in Rome, there is a good chance that Paul would have been familiar with the writings of Euclid.He was well versed in both philosophy and the art of Greek rhetoric. When Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome, he knew exactly what he was writing. 

As a highly educated man, a Pharisee, and a Roman citizen, Paul used all of his gifts and graces in order to promulgate the Gospel. In many ways, Paul’s message of hope defied all logic. How could the death of one man save the entire world? How could the stone that the builders rejected become the corner stone? How could a humble carpenter have conquered death itself?

Nevertheless, Paul tackles these issues head on. God’s complicated calculus might not make sense to our human minds, but with God, all things are possible.

 

Hope in the Midst of Suffering

I am particularly comforted by Paul’s message of hope. In my own life, I have my own share of suffering. I truly believe that we all suffer. When I think of suffering, I think of the chronic pain that I deal with on a daily basis. The pain in my eyes is acute that it often disrupts the rhythms of my entire life. I find myself building my entire schedule around my eye pain.

Often, the pain is so great that it is literally blinding. I have had to learn firsthand many lessons in endurance and pain management techniques. Despite my assiduous application of yoga, meditation, healthy diet, and physical exercise, there are still some days when the pain is just too great and I need to “let go and let God.” This in and of itself is a humbling lesson. I am not the one in control. God is.

Some days, I have more hope than others. Paul himself struggled with a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12). Some theologians and scholars think that Paul might have even had cataracts or another eye condition. The exact nature of Paul’s physical ailment is unimportant. Instead, what is important is the knowledge that even in the midst of our suffering, God offers us hope.

Paul knew about suffering. He was humiliated, beaten, and imprisoned for the gospel. He was beaten with rods, pelted with stones, whipped, and shipwrecked for the sake of Christ. He endured long sleepless nights and days without food or water. He suffered from the cold and  bodily degradation. (2 Corinthians 11:16-33). At last, he gave up his very life for the sake of the Gospel.

I do not believe that God causes us to suffer; however, I firmly believe that God’s strength helps us survive the pain and the darkness in our own lives. I take comfort in Paul’s message. Furthermore, it means all the more to me because I know that Paul would be able to sympathize with my own personal sufferings. The message of hope contained in Paul’s letter was not just to the church in Rome, but also to all churches and all believers.

This is Paul’s beautifully logical message of illogical hope that he offers to each and everyone of us this day: If we have faith in Christ, in the midst of our suffering, there is hope. 

Until Next Time,

-Rev. Rebecca


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This post is part of the series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”

Now, it’s your turn! What Scripture verse is inspiring you this week? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursdays are always a really long day of the week for me. As a pastor, Sunday feels like the natural beginning of my week. By the time I get to Thursday, I am tired and drained. That’s why I’m excited to join with a group of blogging friends in order to offer you a weekly devotional which will be posted every Thursday.

Please be sure to check out the other great bloggers involved in the His Encouragement weekly series! 

Trisha @ Joy of Reading
Jacquelyn @ A Heavenly Home

Have you heard about Audible? Audible is one of my favorite apps. I use it all the time to read books. Try audible today and get two free audiobooks! I recommend Laving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor or Can You Drink This Cup? by Henri Nouwen. Try audible for completely free, and if you cancel, you still get to keep the books!

2 thoughts on “Devotion: The Math of Hope (His Encouragement #26)”

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