Saturday, July 27, 2013

OnFire #305 Of Spiders and Gardeners

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #305 Of Spiders and Gardeners

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

From where I write at home, I can look out a window where several spiders are normally working. Some build webs, spinning and weaving their traps designed to catch flying insects. Others wait at the edge, hoping for lunch to land. The other day I watched a spider wrap its prey, rolling it over and over in silk until it looked like a tidy little take-out bundle. Yummy, if you’re a spider.

My neighbour has a garden. I notice his beans are coming along and may soon be ready. There is a saying that no one plants a garden without hope. Each little seed represents fresh produce later in the season, tasty treats on the kitchen table.

Spiders and gardeners are examples of being joyful in hope. They toil faithfully without guarantee that their efforts will be successful. Flies may not be caught. Rain, insects or birds may carry the seeds away. But they do it anyway because they believe it will be worth it in the end.

These three phrases from Romans 12 are all about the same thing. Patience in affliction is the same thing as being joyful in hope. It reflects an attitude of expectation that someday the struggle will end, and so we don’t need to take out our frustration on the people around us. Faithfulness in prayer is about hope and trust in God. When we don’t trust someone, we keep away from them. Its no different with God. There are times when we blame God for our circumstance, or we lose hope that perhaps even God could do something about the situation, so we give up praying. We don’t want to face God.

Funny how we can wallow in that. We don’t always want to be convinced that someday things might be different. It doesn’t matter that the choices are limited. We can give up hope and remain frustrated and miserable, or we can take hope and experience joy. I don’t see any other options, and put like that it seems silly to remain frustrated. And yet I know from my own experience that sometimes I would rather swim in my own self-pity.

I feel this challenge. This is a real temptation in my mind, to think that because things have been difficult in the past that things won’t always be so hard. I argue with myself all the time over this.

There are some people, however, a good number of them I might add, who are not this way, and I really admire them. I think about all those visits I have made in the hospital with people who face tremendous affliction. Chronic pain. Persistent maladies. Cancer. Terminal illness. I want to be like the people I have met who experience these tough things, but yet they remain hopeful because of their trust in the Lord. Many times I have left a patient’s bedside having been far more encouraged than encouraging. I have often said that if I am stricken someday with that kind of burden, I hope I will be able to be like them.

The thought hits me, why wait till then? Are there not other burdens we bear? Difficulties and setbacks? We don’t escape life without them, and indeed, if we let the Lord shape us, they actually strengthen and improve our character and our trust in the Lord. We only learn how strong the Lord is when we come to the end of our own strength.

Hope is a choice. Not an easy one. But it is a choice we make, a thought we cling to. Soon all this will be over, and it will be worth it in the end because God is good.

I hope this helps. Be on fire. Keep up hope!


OnFire is a biweekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published July 27, 2013. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

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