Hope is good—it’s important, even—but when you have a sadness that isn’t going away or an illness that needs miraculous intervention, hope can hurt. People mean well when they say, “It’ll get better,” or “Look on the bright side . . .” There are countless notebooks on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble with inspirational quotes in them. Our culture preaches that you’re powerful and can take control of your fate. But anyone who has suffered knows we aren’t actually in control. No amount of positive life mantras or seeing the glass as half full is going to cut through the darkness of suffering.
When our hope is in our own abilities or in our circumstances changing, it’s insufficient. Things might not get better. That’s why our hope should be in Jesus—our unchanging, all-powerful, good Savior. Hebrews 6:19-20 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because he has become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (CSB).
Jesus is our anchor we can hold onto to stay in place when the storms of life beat against us. The storm might not end. The pregnancy test might never read positive. That wayward child might not choose to follow Jesus. The doctor might not come back with good news. Your last name might never change. But God has already given us everything we need. Jesus is in heaven, having already provided the ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sins. He’s made our way forward for the only thing that lasts—eternal life.
When Christians are experiencing trials and suffering, fellow believers sometimes point to Job. He suffered greatly for a time. He cried out, “The LORD gives and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21b CSB). But the rest of this book of wisdom is spent on Job and some of his friends arguing about God’s character and the nature of sin and justice. Job ends up extremely disheartened (Job 19). And after God himself comes down and speaks to Job, he blesses Job with even more than he had at the beginning of the book. That’s the part most comforters will focus on. But we aren’t promised more blessings.
When Christian women are experiencing infertility, people might want to point to Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. Pray about it, and maybe God will open your womb and bless you with a child. And while, of course, God can create life in an empty womb just as easily as he did in the Garden of Eden, he doesn’t promise a child to every woman. This biblical example can lead some women to wonder if they aren’t being “good enough” Christians, aren’t praying earnestly enough or often enough, or aren’t doing their quiet time “right.” But certain blessings aren’t promised to every believer.
The most popular biblical story I’ve heard people bring up (and maybe you have too) when someone’s going through a hard time is the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph started off very blessed—the favorite son of the favorite wife of the current patriarch of God’s chosen family (Genesis 30). But then his brothers sold him to slave traders and tell their father Joseph died. In Egypt, Joseph works hard in his new position of servitude and gets promotion after promotion until his boss’ wife lies and says he tried to rape her. Then he goes to prison for years. All the while, God is working behind the scenes to put Joseph in a position to gather enough food in Egypt to save the people, including his family, through a time of famine (Genesis 45). In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says to his brothers, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people” (CSB). The concept in the first part of this verse is iterated regularly in Christian circles. God can use bad for good. And this is true! Romans 8:28 says that God works all things for the good of those who love him. But this does not mean that in our present suffering, we’ll get to see a grand impact on others, a neat resolution to our story tied up in a bow, or even an end to our suffering.
What we can depend on is Jesus loving us and being with us. We can’t expect deliverance from suffering in this fallen world during this lifetime. We can hope, and we can pray. But the ultimate deliverance has already been given to us as believers: the deliverance from sin’s consequences, that being an eternity apart from our Maker. On this side of heaven, we still get to walk with Jesus. Psalm 23:4 says, “Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me” (CSB). Jesus promised to be with his disciple to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Our circumstances may or may not change, but the goodness and presence of our God is dependable and constant. So please pray for the change you want to see. Cry out earnestly to God about your heartbreaks. He loves you and wants to hear your feelings and fears and hopes. But hope in him, not a change in circumstance. Hold your plans for the future in an open hand and hold tightly onto Jesus, your anchor, with the other.
Photo credit: Emilee Carpenter
Madison Kisgen lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and daughter. After some surprise twists and turns in adulthood, Madison now spends her days writing about her good, good Savior, making pottery and trying to learn what it means to own a small business, and trying to be a good mama and disciple maker day by day.