Making Sense of Struggle

I’ve always struggled with a passage in the Bible claiming that if I can manage to persevere through my various trials, I’ll find hope.  I’d love to have more hope, we all know it changes everything, but the following’s always been tough for me:

“…we also rejoice in our struggles, because we know that struggling produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope…” (St. Paul in his letter to the Roman Christians 5:3-4).

I know many people who have courageously persevered through trials and difficult times and yet aren’t people who you would classify as “filled with hope.”  I’ve also had a few occasions where I managed to hold fast and did what was right (although not as many as I would like).  While my times of “successful” struggling have paid certain dividends, hope is usually not one of them.  I typically find myself relieved but looking over my shoulder for the next hard thing.

I think it all came together for me as I watched a scene from “The King’s Speech” a few days ago.  The scene has King George VI addressing his country with the news that Hitler has decided to conquer the world and that England’s in the way.  In addition, the King has struggled with a debilitating stammer – he can’t speak clearly, especially under pressure.  The movie portrays him as a good man, a great leader, but scared to death.   In this portrayal of his now famous speech he faces a fear that’s hounded him for the majority of his life, while fulfilling a duty that no leader desires, with Hell bearing down on him and Beethoven’s Symphony #7 in the background.  I dare you to watch it and not come close to tears.

At first I couldn’t figure out why this was so moving but a few days later it hit me.  This man’s decision to struggle through such a nightmare might not bring hope to him, but it brings hope to me.  It helps me to feel like the world isn’t such an impossible and overwhelming place, that I too can stand fast and make it through.  My understanding of St. Paul’s words (above) is now something like the following: “Perseverance in times of trial might not bring hope to me, but it almost always will bring hope to others.”

Oddly enough, this gives me hope that my life is about more than just making it through the next struggle.

I’m pretty sure I’ve missed Paul’s meaning here, but I’m now convinced that my struggles are not just about me and the consequences or dividends that might result from how I respond.   They are, at least in part, an opportunity to effect the lives of people around me – to usher in a measure of hope that otherwise wouldn’t be here.

Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92: II. Allegretto (Instrumental)