Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 11, 2018


Groaning is not our only option


“You will never amount to anything!” That is what a friend of mine told me his dad said to him repeatedly when he was growing up. My friend overcame his dad’s influence but it was not easy. His dad’s angry words haunted him for years.

The people we live around, especially our parents, can severely damage or greatly bless our lives. Evangelist Bill Glass spent a lot of time speaking in prisons. Once he asked an audience of several hundred inmates this question: “How many of you had parents who told you that you would end up in prison one day?” Almost every hand went up.

         While negative people can influence us greatly, so can positive people. I am most thankful that though my dad did not “spare the rod” when I was growing up, he never crushed my spirit by telling me that I was a worthless human being. Looking back upon my childhood, I realize how blessed I was to have been raised by hopeful parents. Even when they were angry with my behavior, neither of them ever tried to humiliate me.  

         When he was a young boy, the gifted painter Benjamin West decided to paint a picture of his sister while his mother was not at home. He got out bottles of ink and started painting, but soon had made an awful mess. His mother returned and saw the mess. But instead of scolding him, she picked up the portrait and declared, “What a beautiful picture of your sister!” Then she kissed him. Later in life Benjamin West said, “With that kiss I became a painter.” Oh, the power of a mother’s affirmation! What power there is in a loving word of hope!

In 1849 Nathaniel Hawthorne was dismissed from his government job in the customs house. He went home in despair, a broken man. After patiently listening to his tale of woe, his wife Sophia set pen and ink on the table, stoked the fire, put her arms around his shoulders and said, “Now you will be able to write your novel.” Hawthorne did just that and soon the world was blessed by his new book, The Scarlet LetterHis despair was cured by the hope offered him by a loving wife. When I read that story, I laughed out loud and said to myself, “You lucky dog; you are married to a woman like Sophia!”

We cannot choose our parents but once we grow up, we can choose our friends. If we are wise, we will choose to run with people of hope. Simply put, our future will be brighter if we associate with positive people. Think about it. Would you rather be around a person who will smile and say “Well done!” or a person who constantly says, “You could have done better if you had tried harder!”?

         We are blessed with the privilege of choices. We cannot choose the size of our nose, but we can choose hope instead of despair. We can choose to run with people of hope. We can choose to run from people who are negative. We can decide to not spend much time in the presence of people who put us down.  We can choose to live as people of hope. We can choose to discover new persons of hope and become friends with them. We can choose to be people of hope.

            God has many names. In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul calls our Creator “the God of hope.” And because he is, God can fix us so we can “overflow with hope.” An amazing idea – that the God who made us can cause us to overflow with hope! That is especially significant when you consider that, ignoring God we can be bloated with despair! Here is how Paul put it: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Think about it. The God of hope can fill us so full of joy and peace that we will overflow with hope! How does he make that happen? “By the power of the Holy Spirit.” We cannot do it to ourselves but we can surrender to God and he will do it.

            Saint Paul acknowledges that all of us do our share of groaning. The truth is, we are good at groaning and moaning. Paul says that is the nature of human life; we groan because we are tired of suffering. All creation, Paul says, is “waiting on the tiptoe of expectation” for God to rescue us from death and decay. But, praise God, while we are waiting, we can do more than groan and complain. We can hope! We can even overflow with hope. And we can trust God to use our suffering to mold and shape us into the image of Christ. C. S. Lewis reminded us that suffering is necessary for us to be made into the image of Christ.

         To live as people who overflow with hope, we must give up anger, guilt, resentment, despair, worry and complaining. Hope cannot remain alive in a person filled with such destructive attitudes. To live in anger, hatred and despair is to go against the grain of the universe. To live in hope is to align our lives with the grain of the universe. God has designed the world so that despair works against us and hope works for us.

         Groan we shall for we are human beings. But, praise God, even while we are groaning we can live with hope and, wild though it may seem, even at times overflow with hope. Our world is in desperate need of such people! + + +