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Is there hope in suffering?

Is there hope in suffering? Hope With Ruth Podcast

This episode is also available as a blog post:

I saw an Instagram post from a Christian I follow who has entered remission from a cancer that she had. Like me, she has a young child and has not had an easy time. However, she recently returned to work as a nurse and was very understandably happy to be back to it. In her most recent post, she shared that at her two month check up with the doctors, there was abnormal cell activity which means more blood tests, a bone marrow biopsy and in her mind, the possibility that the cancer may have returned. Her post was raw and honest, filled with thoughts and questions of what she was facing. My heart ached for her. One of the questions that she asked was ‘will I be around to see my son grow up…?’ How many times I have thought a similar question and desperately tried to not dwell on it too much. Her post played on my mind and my thoughts turned inwards to my own life and worries.

The end of her post said ‘Praying for good results. But feeling pretty scared.’ That sums up this journey with cancer, especially at the start of a diagnosis. I shared a small comment of encouragement and said that I was praying. But it got me once again thinking about where my hope is. Is it in the fact that I am now in remission? Am I placing all my hope in my health? Am I placing my hope in being around for as long as possible as a wife and mother? Is my hope in seeing other people doing well who had the same cancer? The reality is all of this is not a firm foundation of hope. Circumstances change. People change. Bodies change.

Is hope misplaced or misunderstood?

It’s easy to feel hopeless isn’t it? We might not know what to say to someone who is suffering. Afraid of saying the wrong thing, we say nothing at all. Maybe we are just thankful that we are not going through tough times. Spoiler alert: they will come eventually. We can go through life looking at others thinking that they are suffering much worse than we are. We can look inwards and believe that nothing can be as hard as what we are enduring. Or maybe we try to be super bouncy and think we’ve got this, when deep down the uncertainty of it all is overwhelming. We can seek out others who are going through similar difficulties for encouragement and support. Or we might find ourselves walking a very lonely road where no one seems to be able to comprehend the war that is going on in our heart and mind as we go through what we’re facing.

What can we say or do to comfort others? I think there are many words of encouragement and acts of kindness and compassion we can show, regardless of whether we have faith or not. But for me, I want to offer what I cannot give but has been given to me. Hope. Real, certain, trustworthy, never-failing, never-ending hope. I want to share with them the hope that I have received: a ‘living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and… an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven…’ (1 Peter 1:3-4 BSB). As I recently heard in a talk, ‘Hope has a name and that name is Jesus.’ I do not have all the answers and I do not understand the ‘why’ behind every instance of every moment of suffering. Even when I don’t understand or have any answers, I know my God can be trusted. How do I know? Because of Jesus.

Everywhere we look, whether inward towards ourselves or outward towards others, I have found that it is always best to look upward, seeking God in it all.

A real hope in times of suffering

As Christians, we have a hope greater than the suffering we face in this life. When every single thing in our lives is shaken, the foundation we have is Jesus who we look to. This isn’t wishful thinking or a lovely sentiment in trying times. It’s an active, real love that holds fast and true time and time again. It is hope beyond the here and now, looking to eternity where we will be in the presence of God forever with no more pain, suffering and death (Revelation 21:4). Yet it is hope for the here and now, giving us the strength, grace and patience to endure all that we experience in this life.

We know we are not alone in our suffering because He promised to be with us always. He knows what it is like to be completely alone in suffering, demonstrated when He took our sin upon Himself at the cross. We are never alone because Jesus said He would send His Holy Spirit to be in us and with us, who will be with us forever (John 14:16). He will teach us all things about Himself, causing us to remember His promises (John 14:26).

For the believer there is hope beyond the grave, because Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven for us by His death and resurrection.

Billy Graham

I can sit alongside someone in their grief and pray for them knowing that I am praying to Hope that came down. I hope in Jesus because He entered this world to lift me out of the most hopeless and helpless situation that I could find myself in – the clutches of my own sin towards holy God. Sin is the sickness on this earth that leads to our death. Sin is separation from a holy God. Yet, this holy God came as a man in the Person of Jesus, to come alongside us, and He knows what it is like to suffer and die in the flesh. Sin is so abhorrent to God that it results in death. Yet Jesus gives us life because He died in our place. He was the only one who could deal with sin because He is sinless and perfect. There is NOTHING we could ever do to make it right with God. No amount of good deeds will cut it. It’s a heart issue. We need a heart transplant where God takes our human heart bent toward sin, and gives us a new heart to love Him and others with His power.

Where is your hope?

All the suffering we witness in the world is a result of the very first sin committed against God by Satan. He wanted to effectively be in a higher position than God and brought sin into the Garden of Eden where he tempted Adam and Eve to do the same. They did not listen to the one and only thing God had asked of them not to do. Like us today, we so often choose a life apart from God’s best for us, whether willingly or ignorantly. God graciously warned them of the consequences of sinning beforehand, but they listened instead to the temptation and lies of Satan. Death was the result. Once again, God in His grace did not smite them from the face of the earth for rebelling. There were eternal consequences for their sin. Yet, He provided the redemption needed through the cross. He covered their nakedness and shame with animal skin in Eden. This pointed toward a time when He would come in the flesh as the Son of God into our sick, suffering world and, by His blood, cover our sin and shame.

The cross and resurrection of Jesus was Satan’s defeat, as the power of sin and death that held humanity in bondage and kept them separated from God was forever broken. The hope we have is built on the unshakeable truth that Jesus Christ died, and He rose again. The grave could not contain Him. Death could not bind Him.

We live in between the time of Jesus’s resurrection and ascension to heaven, to the time where He promises to return and deal with Satan for good. Why is He not coming back now? We do not know when He will return, but Christians are told to be ready. Have you turned to Jesus? We do not know what life will bring, but regardless, when you trust in Christ He will always be with you and will help you in each moment. Turn to Him and trust in His saving work on the cross today.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT

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