Faith triumphs..

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance,
endurance produces proven character, 
and proven character produces hope.  
This hope will not disappoint (us), because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:1-5 (HCSB)
This morning, I really needed to hear this.  Whenever your life is going as perfect as you think it possibly can, you don’t search the Bible for passages like this—at least I didn’t while in my little perfect world of 4 Howells. 
I’ve been a Christian since a life-changing revival in my little United Methodist church in Kentucky at the age of 11.  I’ve always tried to treat others the way I want to be treated, and was reared in a home with loving parents; they took me to church most everytime there was a service, and that’s back when there were routinely Sunday and Wednesday evening services. 
I didn’t date a whole lot, instead biding my time, praying that God would send someone special just for me.  Mark moving to Kentucky from Kansas, by way of Nebraska, was the answer to that prayer.  Thus began a 25 year love affair that I still miss on a daily basis. 
Since last fall, in my not-so-perfect life, as I struggled with what is the biggest change in direction imaginable, I have searched the scriptures more diligently.  Coincidence?  I think not.  It’s easy to be a Christian whenever everything is coming up roses.  The real test of a Christian is whenever the path becomes rocky.  It will either make you or  break you.
I’d like to think it is “making” me.  I am more empathetic.  I am slower to anger.  I don’t get my undies in a twist over the simple stuff (sorry, that’s a Mark analogy, couldn’t resist).  I take time each day to reflect on my life, and what I can do to make the world a better place.  I relish simple things, like snuggling two little boys at bedtime, or playing catch with them in my yard.
But I am still a work in progress.  That is readily apparent today.  As I take time for my devotion and prayer this morning, I am conflicted.  Two friends are having health issues.  They couldn’t be more different—one is only 22 years old, the other, well, I won’t venture to guess, but let’s just say he’s 60-ish (sorry in advance if I’ve offended you, Nick). 
The first has dealt with health issues since the tender age of 9.  Randall, his mom, and his brothers have become very special to us, over the course of the past 10 years.  Right now, he’s in the hospital, getting over an infection, but dealing with the same health issue from his youth, which has reared its ugly head once again. 
The latter is really first and foremost, a friend of Mark’s.  Being Mark’s wife had its perks.  It opened many doors for me, and many of his friends became mine.  Nick is one such friend.  Mark respected him and valued his friendship; in my new career of writing, he has been a patient and helpful mentor.  He makes me a better writer, offering criticism and suggestions.  So I am saddened to hear that he, too, is in the hospital, facing surgery and an uncertain future. 
Why are my two friends suffering?  I don’t know.  If I introduced them, they would probably become fast friends.  The 22 year old is a sports nut, especially when it comes to baseball.  He and my 10 year old can talk about starting rotations, RBIs, and World Series championships.  My older friend, well, he’s made a living out of loving sports and writing about it. 
The suffering part is difficult to understand.  In my own experience, I have seen that there is brokenness, heartache, health issues, and sadness in every family.  It’s called life.  And God didn’t promise us a rose garden.  As a friend shared with me, “the good guys always win in the end”…and he wasn’t talking about a movie.
In the meantime, I hope my friends know that they are loved and that there are scores of people lifting them up in prayer.  More than anything else, I wish them peace, the kind God gives us.  “Rejoicing in our afflictions” is easier to talk than to walk.  At some point down the line, though, you can look back on your path and see that you endured.  Endurance produces character, and character produces hope.  A hope that will not disappoint, no matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in. 
And when both of these men get through their respective bumps in the road, I “hope” I get to introduce them.  It could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

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