Unexpected but Perfect Pairings

by Karen Ehman September 29, 2023
“Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” Romans 12:12 (CSB)

“Oh, come on. Try it!” Looking at the exuberant barista, I declared, “OK. Why not?” I sampled my first-ever sweet and creamy latte topped with a trendy twist — cracked sea salt. Even though I wasn’t sure I’d be a fan, it turns out I find the pairing delicious!

I’m always pleasantly surprised when two unlikely things that don’t normally belong together end up being a delight.

At first glance, Romans 12:12 seems to pair some words and concepts that don’t naturally belong together: “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” Let’s dig into these unexpected pairings together.

Rejoicing + Hope. When I think about hope, thoughts of uncertainty also show up. Hoping something will turn out to be true often means there are no guarantees that it will. In fact, I often don’t believe it will. And so when Scripture tells me to simultaneously rejoice and hope? That seems foreign. We’re not always jubilant over things we can’t control — on the contrary, having to wonder sometimes siphons the joy right out of our lives.

Patience + Affliction. The concept of patience invokes images of dire durations. And affliction is not something I want to book a long and leisurely visit with. I don’t know about you, but when I am afflicted, patience has left the building. I’m strategizing how I might escape from the pain, and I want to concoct a plan pronto! My mind tends to obsess over my troubles.

Persistence + Prayer. If something is a serious matter of prayer, I often prefer for God's answer to come sooner than later. Persistence sounds long term and downright draining — like I’m going to need to keep showing up and hanging in there. Just thinking about summoning some stick-to-it persistence makes my brain tired.

But over the years, with each of these pairings, God has slowly shown me that I’ve been looking at them all wrong. When it comes to joy-filled hope, patience in affliction and persistence in prayer, it's not about what those actions get for me — it’s about what they do in me.

  • Having joy while dwelling in uncertainty can showcase to others our trustworthy God.
  • Patience during affliction develops our faith and empathy, positioning us to offer encouragement to others who are also afflicted.
  • And finally, persistence in prayer teaches us how to trust God fully. It takes our relationship with Him to a much deeper level than rattling off a long prayer list of “give me” and “bless them.”

Can we welcome the situation of uncertainty that teaches us to choose joy? Can we embrace the unwanted afflictions that require us to be patient? And will the prayers of our hearts motivate us to persist, transforming us to be more like Christ?

In hope: joyful.
In affliction: patient.
In prayer: persistent.

May our aim be to welcome and cultivate these unexpected pairings in our lives.

Heavenly Father, help me to embrace all You are trying to teach me about placing my hope and trust in You — with prayerful patience and joyful expectation of what You will do in and through me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


To the woman constantly pouring out, we created a day where all you have to do is show up and be filled. Join us for Reset: A Saturday To Tend to Your Soul at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC, on October 7, 2023. Gain a perspective change that will revive your soul so you can continue to fall more in love with God and experience His love for you daily. Grab your spot now!



If you’re experiencing storms in life and need spiritual perspective and comforting encouragement, you’ll find it in Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk’s devotional Trusting God in All the Things: 90 Devotions for Finding Peace in Your Every Day.



Today Karen is giving away an “Unexpected Pairings” gift basket of Bible study resources and sweet-and-salty goodies. Head to her Instagram to enter to win!


Romans 5:3-5, “And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (CSB).

What part does the Holy Spirit play in developing these three things in you: joy in hope, patience in affliction and persistence in prayer? How can this lead to developing Christlike character in you?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

© 2023 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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