I received a very kind email from a friend who I had updated on my condition. Although my pain is minimal, I told her, I still can’t sit without increasing my pain. She replied saying that while in the Valley of Wait I can remember that “This too will pass.”
I had an interesting reaction, although I didn’t convey it to her for fear it would come across as rejecting her intention to be encouraging. When I then turned to the next use of the word “hope” in the Bible, I was floored to find that my reaction is one that Job had. In Job 17, he basically replies to his friends, “Don’t offer me hope of a better tomorrow because there is no guarantee things will be different.”
That was how I felt in response to my friend’s comment. My reaction isn’t because I’m depressed and have no hope of a better tomorrow but it’s because I want my hope to be in the Lord Himself and not holding onto things getting better. There is a possibility it’s the Lord’s will for me to continue to suffer. Many Christians I know live in chronic pain. My good friend, Judy, lived for 20 years bedridden because of multiple sclerosis before she died. How often we prayed for her healing yet it was God’s will for her to suffer. We have no guarantee of recovery. That’s not supposed to be our hope. It is the Lord Himself and seeking Him as He enables us to go through all that He designs.
That’s why, I believe, Job said,
“They make night into day, saying,
‘The light is near,’ in the presence of darkness.
“If I look for Sheol as my home,
I make my bed in the darkness;
If I call to the pit, ‘You are my father’;
To the worm, ‘my mother and my sister’;
Where now is my hope?
And who regards my hope?
“Will it go down with me to Sheol?
Shall we together go down into the dust?” (Job 17:12-16 NASB)
Matthew Henry comments on this verse, “It is our wisdom to comfort ourselves, and others, in distress, with that which will not fail; the promise of God, his love and grace, and a well-grounded hope of eternal life.”
What are those promises? If we are in the darkness of trials, we can claim Philippians 4;13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” especially during trials. And Romans 8:28 which promises that even when bad things happen, God has a purpose and will bring good from it. Promises like those strengthen us to persevere even in the midst of pain, any kind of pain.
Let me assure you, I still pray frequently for complete healing. But my hope is not because I’m gritting my teeth until this is over. And it’s a lot easier to think this positively on this good side of the trial—when my pain isn’t overwhelming. But from the many things I’ve learned, one of the strongest is to trust in God’s will for my life, even when it’s not what I’d prefer. That’s true hope.