Hope In Seasons of Suffering

I’ve been sitting at this computer for about an hour now and every time I try to type a full sentence I delete it.

How do I say all that I want and need to say when it feels like I only have the strength and energy to get out, “Enough. Enough. Let it be enough already.” How do I get up in the morning and open my Bible when in the back of my mind I almost think it would have been easier to not wake up at all? How do I pray to a God, who feels so far away, that I question whether or not He’s out there – anywhere – at all?

Maybe I don’t even have the answers to these questions right now. Maybe I do. But what I do undoubtedly have is a witness that the hopelessness we feel during a season – or even a life – of suffering doesn’t have to mean the death of us spiritually, emotionally, or even physically. It just really doesn’t.

But before I realized this – not very long ago, I might add – I found myself stuck in a place where each little block I relied on to support the life I long to experience began to crack under the pressure of deep financial problems, deep health problems, deep emotional problems, and, inevitably, deep spiritual problems. So when I walked into my room one night after trying to deal with a surprise extra thousand dollars due in college tuition and a mysteriously broken car; the recurrence of an illness supposedly dealt with and family relationships teetering on the edge of utter toxicity, I had what I like to call a “moment.” I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that it wasn’t the most Christ-like thirty minutes of my life.

And after I cried until my stomach hurt and spoke a few honest words to God about what I thought of His apparent love for me – which, looking back, is embarrassing – all I could think to do was read the book of Job, where one of the most pain-inflicted men in Bible history utters a simple phrase about suffering that I will never in infinite years forget.

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” (Job 13:15, ESV)

Though nothing is going how I wish it were, I will hope in Him. Though the people around me harden their hearts instead of softening, I will hope in Him. Though the dollars don’t add up yet, I will hope in Him. Though beloved friends turn from me, I will hope in Him. Though I experience a hundred disappointments in a day, I will hope in Him. Though I feel like giving up in every sense of the phrase, I will hope in Him. I will hope in Him because it’s all I can do and because it’s what I must do.

As hard as it may be to reveal, I have rough points in the journey like many other people where it seems as if every good thing in my life is threatened, tainted, or trampled outright, all at once, and I can’t do anything but lash out at the Person I know is behind it somehow. My lamentations have mirrored Job’s when he cried out to God, saying, “I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit. . . Am I the sea, or a sea monster, that you set a guard over me . . .? Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you?” (Job 7:11-12, 20)

(Ouch. A sea monster? Have you ever compared your worth in the eyes of God to that of a sea monster? I still can’t decide whether or not this should make me laugh or burst into tears. I’ve been there, Job. I am there.)

My point, really, is that we don’t have to let these tidal waves of despair dictate the stability of our trust in the God we’ve decided to serve, whose goodness we have experienced much more often than some sort of injustice we attribute to Him when life doesn’t go as planned.

But that’s just it. If it were all up to us, we would choose the easy way. We would choose the comfortable way. We would be blinded by our own self-interest, no matter our good intentions, and ignore the master plan and purpose. And instead of consulting our feelings and temporary circumstances about the value of this plan, let’s look to the Word of God, where the Master Himself says, “I know the plans I have for you. . . Plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11)

It’s as simple as that. It just is. And look – there’s that word again. Hope.

We rest on the hope that the promises of a good and loving God will be made manifest to us, even if not how we expected. We rely on the hope that all things work together for good for those who love God (Rom. 8:28). We relinquish our control in the hope that the Creator of oceans and galaxies and mountain ranges has a better idea of how our individual lives should play out than we ever could (Job 38-39).

Persevere, dear friends – this too shall pass. “And if not, He is still good.”

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (Job 23:8-10)