Where Is Hope When You Are Suffering?
Suffering is all around us and pervades our own lives, too. How in the world are we to find hope when life is swirling with uncertainty and loss?
Dori’s husband hadn’t returned home from work at the end of the day.* The hour was late. Her phone rang, but it wasn’t the voice she hoped to hear. Her brother informed her that her husband had been taken away in handcuffs. Dori needed to leave the country with her two children, and she needed to leave now.
They secretly left their home in the Damascus suburb in the dark of night. They walked through the city and onto the highway leading to Jordan. At a large intersection south of Damascus, they passed the scene of a man and woman who had been hanged, blood still dripping from their tortured bodies. To her horror, Dori recognized them as the parents of a child her son had played with growing up.
Four days later, they arrived at a holding facility, two miles from Jordan. Two nights in, she dug under the fence and ran to the highway in search of bread and water for her children.
The little family escaped from the holding facility. Warned not to enter a refugee camp in Jordan, Dori instead turned toward Amman, where they arrived two days later. A church there provided food, clothing, and moral support.
Dori lost her husband, her stable home, and every ounce of worldly security. Along the way, Jesus found her.
Read how friends describe her on the other side of her suffering:
“People now tell me that I have eyes filled with hope and joy,” Dori says.
Suffering produced hope.
(*You can read the full story of Dori in Killing Christians, by Tom Doyle, pp. 43-73.)
What suffering or loss have you experienced?
- Have you experienced the death of a loved one?
- Have you lost a relationship, or endured the loss of the once-sweet love in that relationship?
- Has your health taken an unexpected turn?
- Have you lost your job or your financial security?
Has this suffering led to hope, as in Dori’s case, or has it left you empty, tired, and angry at God?
Notice the sequence in Romans 5:3-5 (ESV):
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Do you see the path? Closely reread these verses. The sequence begins with suffering and leads to hope.
This seems odd, and we need to admit that we don’t always let our suffering lead to hope.
How can we find hope in suffering?
I find it fascinating that the word hope appears in 21 verses in the book of Job, second only to the book of Psalms.
You would think this would mean that Job exercised abundant hope. On the contrary, many of the mentions of hope come from Job’s friends, who routinely offer errant advice, promising Job that if he would just live the right way, he would have hope.
They missed the main point that our hope comes from the Lord, not from anything we do.
Many of the verses with hope are spoken by Job, but you wouldn’t post them as inspirational quotes. Instead, he complains that he has been so mistreated that he has lost hope. He even curses the day he was born. This is not what we might expect from this supposed pillar of patience!
You see, God allowed Satan to test Job, and in that process, Job lost just about everything imaginable:
- He lost his livelihood, including his livestock and most of his servants.
- All of his children–seven sons and three daughters–were killed in a tragic accident.
- Job was stricken with “loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7).
As a result, Job lost his prominent position in the city. His appearance was so grotesque, people could hardly bear to look at him.
The depth of Job’s suffering was unfathomable.
Job complains in chapter 19 (ESV):
10 He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone,
and my hope has he pulled up like a tree.
This is not exactly the profession of hope we might be looking for.
And yet, after extended perseverance and piles of character building–and only six verses after blaming God for everything–Job declares profound hope, the words we sing at Easter:
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
There it is!
In the thick of suffering, hope!
Somewhere, somehow, in the midst of his deep losses, Job musters the strength to utter that despite it all, he knows that his Redeemer lives, and one day he himself, with his own eyes, shall see God.
Suffering produced endurance; endurance, character; and character, hope.
And this hope does not disappoint. Why? Because it is based not on anything we do, but on God’s love, which has been there all along, poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5).
What loss have you experienced? What suffering have you endured? Can you, with Job, open your heart to God’s love, which provides enduring hope?
Digging into God’s Word: Where Is Hope When You Are Suffering?
It hardly makes sense to us, but suffering can actually produce hope. As you read this passage from the book of Romans, notice what true hope is rooted in.
Romans 5:1-11 (ESV)
Peace with God Through Faith
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Digging Deeper: Where Is Hope When You Are Suffering?
Treasure this time with the Lord. Reflect on or journal about the following questions, listening for what God has to say to you.
1. In what area of life have you experienced suffering or loss? Acknowledge this loss with God, talking openly with Him about how you feel about it.
2. Carefully read Romans 5:5 and identify whether God’s love has filled your heart. If it has not, ask God to pour His love into your heart. Only with His love inside you will you experience true and lasting hope.
“and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
3. Thank God for the journey of your life. No part of it has been wasted. God can use it all.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:5-6a ESV)
4. Remind yourself of the hope you have in Jesus by worshiping with these songs. Choose one or all of the songs to listen to, or come back to these songs throughout the week.
There Will Be a Day (Jeremy Camp)
Worn (Tenth Avenue North)
Have Thine Own Way, Lord (an oldie, but a goodie!)
It is very important to not take parts of the book of Job out of context. Job’s friends give eloquent, poetic speeches, filled with bad advice. God calls them out, saying repeatedly, “for you have not spoken of me what is right” (Job 42:7, 8)
The headings above the chapters in Job make clear who is talking.
I find chapters 38 to 42 particularly riveting, a stunning conversation between God and Job.
For easy-to-read articles that further explain the book of Job, see these links:
Book of Job (This is a fantastic, practical summary of the book of Job)
Find the Series
You can find the entire series on Hope here: Hope Springs Eternal
Click these links for a few favorites from this series:
Free Printable on Psalm 103!
A few weeks ago, we finished a series on Leaving a Legacy, which focused on living out the characteristics that God models for us in Psalm 103. For a printable on What Psalm 103 Tells Us About God, click this link:
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