Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Romans 5: 1-5
By Ann Perrott
My husband and I were visiting Dresden in 1995 where so much destruction had torn through the city during WWII, utterly destroying the Lutheran church, Dresden Frauenkirche that had served as a cathedral. I remember looking at the church as we went by, still in rubble with a sign that stood at what was once the main entrance. It was a request for donations to help rebuild the church. I thought to myself, “There is no way after all of these years that this church would ever be rebuilt.
After the reunification of Germany it was restored starting in 1994, the year before I visited Dresden. The exterior was completed in 2004 and the interior in 2005. Little did I know after I left what would take place in a city so wounded by its past. I had little to no hope of this beautiful Baroque landmark ever being rebuilt, but the people in Dresden had a lot of hope. The restoration of this project took on a global effort with a cost of 180 million euros ($218 million). Britain and the US, who conducted the raids were among the contributors along with other countries.
Hope is what makes the impossible possible. It is what drives people to rebuild their churches, their homes, and their lives after devastation. Hope is often connected with suffering as with the Dresden Frauenkirche. It is what kept the apostle Paul committed to his communities even while suffering in some grim prisons. He wrote letters of love and hope from the worst places imaginable. He knew that he wasn’t alone in any of it, that Christ was with him. Paul remained assured during turbulent times because of his deep faith in God, because as Paul said, “”On him we have set our hope” (2 Corinthians 1:8). He credited his immense courage to Jesus who was at the very center of his life.
I realize through many of Paul’s teachings that if I do not have hope in God then I am not free to love others, and that is central to my life as a Christian. And so this posture is how I will enter into this season of Advent—fully aware of how difficult it is to have hope at times, but always turning back to God and Paul’s letters to understand how fully God equips us with love, joy and hope.