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For a people group who claim to have so much hope, followers of Jesus often struggle to live with hope in troubled times.

We know the hope of the resurrection of Christ Jesus. We believe in this hope. But often we do not know how to appropriate our hope in and through difficult times, like the pandemic we have just been through.

Quite often, what we lack is the endurance in our hope.

Hope and endurance are two closely connected and yet distinct gospel values. We sometimes need to grow in our endurance in order to grow in our hope.

Ultimate Hope Impacts Immediate Troubles

The very nature of Christian hope demands endurance.

Christian hope is not only for the immediate. This hope first needs to grasp the ultimate before it can impact the immediate.

The gospel does not say we are never going to have any trouble here and now. The real gospel tells us that because we believe in Jesus, one day we will inherit an eternal world. In it, we will be with Christ forever and there will be no more death, or sickness, or trouble (Rev. 21:1-4).

It is this hope of the ultimate that gives us strength to navigate the grief and trouble of the immediate. And, it is in this gap between the immediate and the ultimate that endurance needs to accompany our hope.

How is endurance birthed in us?

The Twin Realities of Hope and Grief

Peter, who lived and preached the gospel through persecution, understood endurance well. He says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Pet. 1:6).

Peter is encouraging us to embrace the twin and contrasting realities of hope and grief.

We have been born again into a living hope. Yet we have to face grief in the many trials of life. We have a great hope in Christ Jesus. But we are also experiencing great grief.

Christian hope is not only for the immediate. This hope first needs to grasp the ultimate before it can impact the immediate.

This twin but contrasting reality is challenging because most of us are binary beings. In any given moment, our binary mindset can only deal with either hope or grief. It is either this or that. We struggle to navigate both grief and hope together.

Hope Without Grief is Shallow

Those of us biased towards hope are optimists. We are quick to hope, and slow to grieve—sometimes not even grieving. It may seem like a good thing, but in reality, it is quite unhealthy.

Such optimistic people tend to suppress emotions, even denying them, causing a lack of empathy. They are unable to mourn with those who are mourning.

Even though such people may be quick to hope, their “hope” is weak. Their hope is not strong because it has not endured grief. Their hope has only ignored grief.

Hope is not real hope until it has endured grief and come through it stronger.

Grief Without Hope is Unbearable

If one side of our binary nature hopes but does not grieve, the other side grieves without hope. Such people are quick to grieve, but slow to hope.

They brood and focus on the pain, the hurt, and the brokenness of the world, easily losing sight of hope. If their emotions hit a downward slide, they tend to keep sinking.

Those biased towards grief tend to indulge their emotions—acknowledging and valuing their emotions more than they value truth. They can easily accuse you of not showing enough empathy if you point them away from their pain and turn them to our hope in Christ.

They will be empathetic when you are enduring grief. But they may also pamper you while you grieve. Grief may seem a bigger reality to them than hope.

The Gospel is Wholesome

Most of us are binary people. But the gospel is not binary. The gospel is wholesome.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Before he was arrested, in his final instructions to his disciples, Jesus prepared them to embrace the twin reality of grief and hope through the gospel value of endurance: Take heart!

As we have witnessed through the pandemic, sometimes death challenges us to grow out of our binary nature and grow into gospel wholeness.

Most of us are binary people. But the Gospel is not binary. The Gospel is wholesome.

My wife’s mother passed away in 2021. She was suffering from cancer and my wife had been caring for her physically, emotionally, and spiritually for months.

As her death confronted us, we could not remain in our binary mindsets.

To only be hopeful would be shallow, unhealthy, and immature. This may be a sign of a superficial or make-believe faith. But to only be grieving would be unfaithful to the truth. We would be forgetting the hope of eternal life in Christ.

We had to grieve well, even as our hearts were filled with hope.

We grieved her cancer. We grieved her death. We grieved death itself. We grieved the sin that caused all death. But we also hoped in the eternal life she received freely by her faith in Christ Jesus.

Jesus, Hope, and Grief

Jesus himself grieved when he faced the death of his friends. He wept with Mary and Martha as they mourned the death of Lazarus.

He wept with them despite knowing he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. When Mary wept, Jesus could have said, “Mary, I’m going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Don’t cry. It’s okay!” How often and how easily we say such things.

True gospel endurance is birthed only at the intersection of hope and grief.

Though he knew it was going to be okay, Jesus did not ask Mary to stop crying. He let Mary weep and he wept with her. He mourned with her and after he grieved with them, he raised Lazarus from the dead.

The gospel is wholesome. It is not binary. Jesus grieved with Mary and then he introduced her to the powerful hope of resurrection.

The good news of Christ’s resurrection equips us to overcome our binary limitations and gives us a hope that can look grief straight in the eyes and endure it.

The gospel does not call us to suppress grief in order to experience hope. It invites us to express our grief without losing sight of our hope.

Looking to Jesus

So, how is endurance developed in us?

True gospel endurance is birthed only at the intersection of hope and grief.

If we only feel grief, we are not enjoying our hope. We lack endurance. But if we only experience hope and feel no grief at all, we are most likely faking it. There is no endurance here too.

True gospel endurance is birthed in us only as we become familiar with both hope and grief, and the wholesome power of the gospel begins to make us whole.

As the writer of Hebrews so beautifully puts it, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-3).

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