It was a parenting trick for the ages—though one my kids became wise to, long before any worthwhile benefit had transpired (other than a few household chores weaseled in). When parental bidding warranted it, my husband and I would shoot a knowing glance at one another and say, “We’ll have to bookend it.” It simply meant we’d have to pad the hard news—start and end with something positive and sandwich the most difficult part in between. “We’ll play outside for a little bit, clean the kitchen, then maybe have ice cream on the porch!”
I’ll admit, I can’t help but think Paul’s trying to pull a ‘bookend’ on me when I read Romans 12:12—cute and funny tactic until it’s turned around on me! Oh, to rejoice in hope sounds so delightful, and what a sweet reminder to stay in constant communion with the Father. But wait, what’s that you said in the middle? Be patient in tribulation? Cue the whining.
Patience in anything is hard. Patience in tribulation is impossible. It takes supernatural strength we can’t muster on our own. But instead of attempting some bookend tomfoolery, Paul actually points us to the means by which we’re able to fulfill the hard ask of patience in tribulation. He reminds us first that our joy is not dependent upon ideal results or outcomes in our trouble, nor the abilities or achievements of ourselves or others to pull through, but rather, when centered on hope, we can rejoice in the confident expectation of Christ’s work. And there’s only one way he provides to maintain that dependency: being constant in prayer. Continuing a posture of steadfast intimacy with the Lord invites the moment-by-moment laying down of our impossible, in exchange for His supernatural withstanding.
So as we enter a season that may not look quite like we envisioned, as we continue to endure the tribulations of a broken world, may we draw afresh from the riches of His love, remain constant in dependent prayer, and find unexpected joy in a secure hope. May patience be a fruit of the Holy Spirit we savor—a delicious and sustaining feast to nourish us for whatever lies ahead.