True Hope for Hard Seasons

It wasn’t your traditional school drop-off scenario. No little ones tumbled out of a minivan as their mom waved goodbye and dodged other vehicles in the carpool lane. Instead, it was quieter—idyllic, almost, as my fully-grown younger brother and I pulled into the shaded circle drive of his graduate school building. The peaceful rustle of business students making their way to class was disturbed only by my call out the car window: “Have fun! Make good choices.” 

Each time, my brother pretended to ignore me, closing the car door and pulling a baseball cap onto his head. We repeated that routine throughout the semester in an attempt to add a little levity to days that felt anything but light. As my brother headed toward the building, adjusting his backpack, he wasn’t just carrying the weight of graduate-level schoolwork on his shoulders. He was also battling the daily side effects of chemotherapy and the feeling of his classmates’ eyes on his bald head. When he copied deadlines from the class syllabus onto his calendar, his weekly schedule was a physical reminder that the rest of his school year would not just be filled with projects and papers but with oncology appointments and cancer treatments too. 

When you know in advance that the school year will be difficult, the metaphorical walk from the car into the new semester can feel intimidating. If you’re a mom, you may know how it feels to roll up to the curb, wanting to cram all the life advice you can into the final conversations with your kids before school starts. You may have a son facing situations that are prone to hurt his feelings, and you want to reinforce his worth and value in Christ before he faces any rejection. Or you may be a teacher sitting in your car outside the campus, fighting back tears of frustration over all the anxiety you feel about the upcoming school year. 

But you don’t have to be a mom or a teacher for the fall season to put you right back into a schoolgirl mindset. No matter how old you get or how far removed from the classroom you are today, you may feel overwhelmed knowing what’s ahead of you in the weeks and months to come. You still feel like the little girl in braids, trying to balance her oversized backpack as she stares down the path ahead and forces herself to take the next step forward. 

As you walk toward a season that you’re certain will be filled with hard circumstances, what words of encouragement do you need someone to yell out the proverbial car window? The message that will steady and strengthen your heart probably isn’t the one I called out to my brother. The better option would be to replay words spoken by Jesus Himself to a group of believers who desperately needed His voice to embolden them. 

A Small Group in Smyrna

At the beginning of the book of Revelation, seven churches received a letter from Jesus. Believers who were a part of the church in Smyrna were facing severe persecution and suffering. Scholars say that living as a Christian in Smyrna was exceptionally hard. 

As you read Revelation 2:8–11, imagine traveling through time and sitting in a small group with a woman from the church in Smyrna. Picture this sister sharing about the suffering that she knew would likely worsen in the weeks to come, and consider how she’d ask you to pray for her and the rest of the church. At the end of the night, imagine her grabbing her few possessions and preparing to walk out of the room, knowing that with each step she was staring down the line at the potential loss of her life, at capital punishment, and at martyrdom for the sake of Christ. 

What would you say to her? Most of us would struggle to find words. Who else knows what it feels like to look ahead to a future that is certain to be filled with such an intense level of suffering?

Jesus. Remember it was Jesus Himself who addressed those struggling believers in Smyrna in His letter to them in Revelation 2. The words of Jesus stretch across centuries and situations. The same Jesus who knew their fear also knows yours. The circumstances you will face this fall are not the same as the ones facing the ancient Church, but Jesus’ word of encouragement to them can reassure you as well. Listen closely. 

Timeless Truths to Cling To

Want to root your year in the truth and comfort of God’s Word? Try taking a line from Jesus’ letter to the church in Smyrna and meditating on it throughout the day. Consider why these divinely-inspired phrases matter in the face of suffering—both the hostility and persecution Smyrna faced and the challenges you face today. Linger over them when you’re in the carpool line, at night when anxiety creeps in, or when you could use someone yelling encouragement out the car window. 

  • “Thus says the First and the Last . . . ” (2:8) 

Jesus could have referred to Himself with any title, but He began here, echoing the introduction He gave in Revelation 1:17–18. You’ll find it again in Revelation 1:8: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” He alone is sovereign. He alone is eternal. His reign is outside of time and history. He has authority over all events, and He knows all things: the beginning from the end, where a person starts and where they’ll finish. Nothing is outside of His control. 

  • “The one who was dead and came to life . . . ” (2:8) 

The believers in Smyrna were facing severe persecution and the possibility of death. You’re not likely facing this type of hostility, but you may be wrestling with the death of a dream, your reputation, or your comfort. Jesus endured all of these, and He swallowed them up in victory (1 Cor. 15:54). Do you see His resurrection power as a source of strength? Your always present Savior is not only empathetic to your situation, but all-powerful over it. As He has said, “‘I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).

  • “I know your affliction and poverty . . . ” (2:9) 

Jesus knows. He knew every hair on the heads of the believers in Smyrna, and He knows how your heart has been racing today. He knows how your situation is impacting you, and He knows what it will produce and why it is worth enduring. “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). Will you trust Him through the process?

  • “But you are rich.” (2:9) 

Many of the believers in Smyrna were facing severe economic poverty. The truth of the beatitudes (Luke 6:20) applied to them: “Blessed are you who are poor, because the kingdom of God is yours.” James 2:5 says it this way: “My dear brothers and sisters: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?” You may be able to make a long list of things you’re lacking, but in what ways are you rich and experiencing God’s blessing even now? 

  • “Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” (2:10) 

“Don’t be afraid”? If anyone had reason for fear it would have been the believers in Smyrna. But if anyone had the credibility to say these words in such extreme circumstances, it was the One who experienced such anguish He sweated tears of blood (Luke 22:44) before obeying His Father to the point of death (Phil. 2:8). Jesus did not address this church with a word of rebuke; instead, he exhorted them to be bold, knowing that their lives were eternally in His hands—so is yours. 

  • “Be faithful to the point of death . . . ” (2:10) 

Have courage, Jesus told the believers, and be faithful. “Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

  • “I will give you the crown of life.” (v. 10) 

The believers in Smyrna likely did not receive much of a reward during their time on earth—but not a second of their efforts to endure was in vain. You too are called to remain loyal to an eternal King, knowing your faithfulness will be met with an “imperishable crown” (1 Cor. 9:25). One way or another, this season will end, and its ultimate conclusion will be glorious. As Jesus has said, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one takes your crown” (Rev. 3:11). 

Hold On to True Hope 

What circumstances do you have ahead of you in this season? Hard days may be imminent, but don’t forget: the First and the Last goes before you. Jesus will be present with you every step of this school year, and He is ready and able to fill you with the strength of His resurrection power. Jesus knows what you are facing. He has overcome the world. 

May Jesus’ exhortation to the church in Smyrna be the voice you hear calling after you: Have courage. Be faithful. And may the sweet promise of Christ Himself continue to propel you forward: “I am coming soon. Hold on.” 

If this article by Katie has been helpful to you, would you consider partnering with us to provide more resources like this to women desperately in need of finding freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ? Revive Partners are part of a team of faithful monthly contributors whose gifts make it possible for Revive Our Hearts to produce biblically rich content for women in every season. (Katie is a Revive Partner too!) Learn more by visiting

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Houston, Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Scripture, and her local church. Katie's … read more …

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