Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)
Here in southern Ontario, Canada, we have had a very severe winter. It started somewhat late, but when it came, it came with a vengeance. We had temperatures of -25 to -30 degrees Celsius many nights in a row. February was the coldest month on record in this area since 1934. We had lots of snow, too. All over our yard, there was a cover of at least three feet (one metre). Our flowerbeds were hidden, well protected from the extreme cold. By the end of March, most of the snow was gone and the bulbs were starting to show just a little bit.
When the residents at the Long Term Care Centre were wondering how long the cold weather would last and I was leading a worship service there, they would almost always ask me if we could sing "Hymn of Promise". They like it for the words as well as the message.
- In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there's a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
– Natalie Sleeth (1930-1992)
This hymn speaks to so much of life. So many residents feel at loose ends at times. Some are struggling in a physical way, others mentally. Some are frustrated with the situation that they find themselves in, and they have different ways of coping. There are some who come to every activity going on every day, while others stay in their rooms and do not take part in anything. They feel that there is no hope in their situation. Those who come to the worship services and the Bible discussions talk to me (and to the staff, as well as to the volunteers who take them to the various activities) about what a joy it is for them to be able to come and listen to God's Word and sing praises to His name.
Over the years, as long as I have been going there for the Bible-related activities, I have received such encouragement from a great number of people. One lady told me that if it weren't for the fact that she talks to God every day, she would not be able to cope. Someone else told me that she asked Jesus to walk with her every day. It gave her strength to carry on. Some are less poetic. One fellow tells me every time when I am there, "I love coming to the Bible discussions." I have also been told by various people that they were down in the dumps in the morning, but after the worship service or Bible discussion, they felt better. To be honest, I myself have had that same experience at times.
Through their words, actions, and presence, they reaffirm the words of some of the Bible passages that we have looked at in the past:
Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (NKJV)
Psalm 39:7 – And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. (NKJV)
Psalm 71:14 – But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. (NKJV)
There are times when we despair, when we feel that there is no hope of things improving. And then, when we gather for worship or Bible study, when we read our daily devotional or read the Bible, then we see that God is with us, and there is peace in our hearts. We see that our hope is in the Lord.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we admit that there are times when we are discouraged, and we ask that when we are, You will speak to our hearts. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.