Hope When It Hurts, Suffering with hope

When All Seems Hopeless

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It’s been 8 weeks since I went in for my fifth ankle surgery, uncertain of whether it would restore my ability to walk. As I remain couchbound, waiting to see what walking ability I will be left with, I’ve been wrestling with doubts and fears over all the seemingly impossible circumstances that God continues to allow in my life. I’m a mom to four young children and currently unable to walk; we’re a family suffering with Lyme Disease in a medical world that denies its existence; we’re parents navigating a type of special needs that doctors seem to have no answers for; and the only possible relief in sight seems to lie in treatments that we cannot afford. After 11 years of praying, seeking, and sacrificing for answers and healing – or anything that might bring relief – our earthly hope has dwindled.

The longer we wait, the more impossible and heartbreaking our circumstances become.

This week, as I’ve felt nearly paralyzed by the complex and layered trials in our life, I’ve found fresh encouragement in a fellow believer who faced his own impossible circumstances, but still showed unwavering faith and confidence in the Lord.

Romans 4:18-21 reminds us of the impossible circumstances that Abraham faced after being promised he’d be a father of many nations. Here he was, fatherless, married to Sarah (who was barren), and both far beyond the physical ability to produce a child. It appeared hopeless, but he believed in hope against hope.

“In hope he (Abraham) believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

Abraham didn’t weaken in faith when he considered the reality of what seemed impossible. He didn’t pretend things were better than they were, or drum up ways that he thought God might pull through for him, and he didn’t try to reinterpret God’s promise to him.

He believed in the hope that God was fully able to do what he had promised, in light of what looked hopeless.

The Holy Spirit used Abraham’s faith to fan the flame of my own this week. It’s reminded me that it’s not unlike God to allow his children to face situations that are entirely hopeless from man’s perspective. It’s precisely through these impossible situations that God expands our view of him, exercises our trust in him, and most powerfully displays his glory.

So what can we learn from these verses when we face our own impossible circumstances?

Know what God has and hasn’t promised.

“In hope he (Abraham) believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told” (v.18).

Abraham’s faith was based on what God had promised, not what seemed possible. Though he didn’t see any fathomable way for that promise to come to pass, he believed that God would somehow be faithful.

We can’t base our faith on what we want God to do or what we think he will do, but what he has promised us in his Word. However, if we don’t know what those promises are, we will be devastated if our hope of healing falls through, when the trials worsen after praying for relief, or when all earthly options seem to run out.

In order to know God’s promises, we have to be in his Word. We need to be students of the Bible – praying, reading, meditating, and memorizing what God has given us to know him and to walk in his truth. The danger of not being students of the Word is that we’re more likely to read scripture in the way we want to hear it, basing our hope on verses that we’ve taken out of context, only to be disappointed and confused when God doesn’t act in the way we desired him to or assumed he would. We won’t follow Christ long if we expect him to act in a way that makes sense to us, so our faith must be firmly fixed in who God says he is, rather than who we want him to be.

Friend, if you are in a place where you see no hope on this side of heaven, choose to trust in the One who has proven himself faithful through Jesus Christ and promises to work all things according to what is best for you (namely, to experience a deeper joy in knowing Christ and him being glorified in you). Take time to go through the Bible and record all the promises that are ours in Christ. As you do, remember that his promises are given in light of eternity, not our own short-term understanding (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Faith means trusting that God knows the best way and time for his promises to come to pass, believing his ways are always good, faithful, and trustworthy.

Give God glory by believing he is fully able to do what he has promised.

“…he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (v. 20b-21).

Faith in the redeeming power and salvation of Jesus Christ is a theme that runs throughout all of scripture. But if we’re honest, even if we’ve put our faith in Jesus for salvation, our faith can falter when we’re faced with circumstances that seem impossible to us right here and now. We can believe he loved us enough to die for us, and in the same breath, doubt that love when he doesn’t remove our suffering.

Personally, the more my faith has grown through these trying and confusing times, the more I’ve seen God’s gracious hand behind them – refining my faith through the fire of affliction. Jesus offers us so much more than eternal salvation (as incredible as that is); he offers us fullness of life, joy, and satisfaction in walking with him and growing in his character and presence. These impossible circumstances are faith workouts – breaking down weak and unstable muscles, toning and rebuilding them in the strength of Christ. They expose faith based in our own strength and wisdom, and they exercise our faith so that we will increasingly put our hope and confidence in Christ and his promises instead.

How does this happen? By choosing to trust as Abraham did – giving glory to God, fully convinced that he is able to do what he has promised. When we choose to praise God now for his promised faithfulness, despite our inability to see it in the moment, our own faith is bolstered and Christ is glorified. Faith leads us to trust in what we can’t see and, choosing to trust what we can’t see, increases our faith all the more. This faith is a choice, not a feeling. It’s choosing to say, “I see no way out and I see no hope on this side of heaven, but I believe God is faithful and I will rest in what God has promised me, rather than what I can see and make sense of right now.”

As we focus on the power, past faithfulness, and goodness of God’s promises, our impossible circumstances will shrink in comparison and we will grow in anticipation of seeing how he will show himself faithful.

Remember Who is the giver of faith.

“God…who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (v.17b).

If you’re like me, you may be thinking, “I want to have that kind of confidence, but my faith feels so weak.” You may be facing circumstances that seem so impossible that you feel paralyzed, unsure of how to step forward in faith.

You aren’t alone.

But here’s the good news: Jesus is the “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We aren’t expected to muster up faith in ourselves, but instead, “through him (Jesus) we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” (Romans 5:2).

Without the promises of God through Jesus Christ, we would have no basis for our hope. But, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can look to Jesus and ask that he would give us the faith to trust him and walk in the truth and hope of his Word. He is always faithful to answer a prayer of dependence and trust (Zechariah 13:9).

Believe that you will one day rejoice.

“…and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings…” (5 v 2-3).

Immediately after Paul reminds us of Abraham’s faith, he encourages believers that we have access to this same hope. There is something incredibly mysterious about the ways of God. In our eyes, easier circumstances, fulfilled desires, and greater comfort is what we assume will bring the most joy. But as God’s children, we are being made for another world. In our Father’s love, he works in our sufferings to transform our mortal minds into eternal ones, producing in us a joy that is deeper than this world can give – a joy that often comes through the very things we try to avoid. I can attest to the joy and blessing of growing in endurance, faith, and hope as I’ve come to experience Jesus as more precious than anything this world can give (Romans 5:3-6). And I believe Abraham knew that kind of joy and confidence. His faith didn’t waver because his hope was not based in his promised son, but in God himself.  

I believe that this is the deep work God is currently doing in my own heart. Is it wrong for me to desire healing for my family? No. Is it wrong for me to grieve the pain over all we’ve lost? No. Is it wrong for me to cry out in my grief and plead for God’s leading, wisdom, and miraculous intervention? No.

But I’m realizing that, while God sometimes shows his power and glory by working a miracle in a seemingly hopeless situation, he often shows his power and glory by working a miracle in us instead – one that’s eternally rewarding.

Christian, pray that God will work a miracle in your circumstances and believe that he can. But praise him even as you wait, confident that if he doesn’t work a miracle in your circumstances, he is most certainly working a greater miracle within your heart – one that will lead you and others to rejoice in your suffering as you see the endurance, character, and hope of Christ being magnified in your life. In waiting, we wait with confident expectation. In hope, we believe against hope – for our eternal joy and his eternal glory.  

Home is around the corner,

Sarah

hurts_medium.62ycfe4p32lgurjshoegogequhxiqninTo read more on the hope we have in suffering, you can purchase “Hope When It Hurts – 30 Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering” authored by Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell here or here. You can purchase the newly released audio version here. Spanish translation can now be purchased at Poiema.co

20 thoughts on “When All Seems Hopeless”

  1. Deepest heartfelt gratitude to Jesus-for you. I am reading this and absorbing truth multiple times over and praying for you/your family.

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  2. Sarah, thank you such for sharing in the midst of your storm. A friend gave me your book when my life was changed through illness. Illness that has resulted in chronic pain, limited mobility, and multiple autoimmune problems. Thank you for the much needed refocus with today’s post. The work God is doing in my heart is of eternal value. I am praying today that God provides everything you need for this day, Sarah. He is a God abounding in mercy and compassion. He sees right where we are and meets us there.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this encouragement with me. I’m so sorry to hear how you’ve suffered, but praise God that he has been faithful to you and drawn you closer to him through it all. Thank you for your prayers!

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  3. The Lord has given you such incredible wisdom in your young life! Thank you for sharing. I’m 70 and suffer from late-stage Lyme disease and co-infections, plus many ramifications from many decades of misdiagnoses (over 50 years). I was only diagnosed in September 2015. A HUGE symptom is very severe depression and fear as the bacteria has hit my brain, and the depression is growing worse. I am unable to tolerate psychotropic medications…and they never helped anyway after trying them for 50 years. I am not only suffering the physiological effects of these illnesses but the trauma of doctors’ and others’ treatment of me.

    I’m feeling so incredibly hopeless…especially inasmuch as I have to first treat mast cell activation disorder, then mold, THEN The Lyme. However, I can neither tolerate the treatments nor afford them, as I’m on limited Social Security and cannot afford the practitioners, the lab testing, or the treatments. I have no family to care for me and the thoughts of going into a nursing home…well I won’t go there

    I have no idea how to get out of this hopeless pit and pray daily that God will take me home SOON. I don’t have the faith to sustain me through this horrible nightmare.

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    1. I’m so sorry, Marcia. I know you have suffered much. Only God can meet you in the way you need it most, sister. But I pray that when you feel like you can’t hold onto him, he will faithfully hold onto you and strengthen you for each moment that he gives you.

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    2. Dear Marcia,
      I just read your post here and am sorry that you are suffering so deeply. My heart is heavy with grief for your situation and I am praying that the Lord will bless you with comfort and peace. Hold on to Jesus Marcia! When you feel you’ve run out of hope ask Him for more. He is your great Provider and He loves you endlessly. I know you may feel like you can’t face another day with your current situation, but God created you for a very specific reason and if He still has you here then He still wants to use you for His good purposes.

      I’m going to pray for you Marcia. May you be filled with His glorious peace and feel His loving embrace as you look to Him. God bless you!

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    3. Marcia,

      There’s a book by John Piper called, “Suffering and The Sovereignty of God ” which I found to be a great encouragement when I was experiencing extreme hopelessness. There’s a chapter written by Joni Eareckson Tada, (“Hope…the Best of Things “) that was powerfully uplifting and I take it out and reread it whenever I’m feeling down or full of despair. It brought me a lot of comfort and I think you might find it helpful in dealing with your own feelings of hopelessness.

      You can actually download the book as a pdf if you prefer. Just do a computer search using the title of the book and include “pdf” in your search. It’s listed in the “Desiring God” site which belongs to John Piper. Downloading is free.

      (Sarah, I do apologize if I’ve over stepped any regulations on your site and would completely understand if you choose to remove my post.)

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  4. Dear Sarah,

    I can only imagine just a tiny part of what you and your family are going through. My heart nearly broke… and that was good for me!

    Thank you for blessing me, week by week, by journaling your story. I haven’t suffered much in my life (I am 57). I’m a pastor’s wife in Cape Town, South Africa, so I see a lot of suffering but it’s usually not mine.

    Yet you have reminded me this morning that the God in sovereign control over your life is also my God. He is good and He is mysterious. I do not understand why he is making you suffer like this and not me. That makes me tremble, and it’s good for my soul. Thank you.

    “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Cor.1:3,4

    Please keep on and please keep on writing,

    Warmly in the love of Christ,

    Gillian

    Gillian Clegg

    Mobile: 073 178 5804

    Landline: 021 715 8695

    Website: http://www.sbbc.org.za

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  5. I’m having trouble posting a comment here….☹️. Don’t want to be too persistent and you wind up with a dozen of them. Will try again tomorrow.

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  6. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing. I am praying for, God to continue to provide in your family. He will continue to make a way for you, and your family. I know how hard it is. My daughter was diagnosed with disease 7 months ago. It hurt so much. He remained me every day that I can go through this trial with his grace. Right now I am very thankful for his grace.

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