By junior year of college, the healthy, pain-free life I had known began to slowly disintegrate. Over a period of six years, I went from running races and performing theater and energetic days to perpetual weakness, inhibited movement, and chronic fatigue that put me in bed at 8:30pm. I knew something wasn’t right, but no doctor could give me an answer.
Yet, the problems worsened as the years passed. After a long day of typing at work, my arms and hands would ring with aching pain. The fatigue felt like waves of heaviness, like crawling through a dense fog, that would keep me from focus and any sense of normality.
After six long years, my husband, Brad, and I saw a Lyme-literate doctor, and we got confirmation of the diagnosis. By God’s grace, and after two years of treatment, we have every reason to believe the Lyme is gone (I stay up later than Brad some nights!). Even so, my body has been left weak and has years of rebuilding to do; some days are long and hard and strewn with discomfort.
Suffering has made me desperate for truth, comfort, and peace. With God’s help, I am grasping more and more that the gospel speaks into every aspect of my suffering, giving me hope and purpose. I’m acutely aware of pain’s realness, and how it exposes my need. And I need something to meet my need, something beyond meds and appointments and good luck. What I need is the truth about Jesus Christ, because our suffering only makes any sense and we only retain any hope when we look at ourselves through a gospel lens.
My mother-in- law, who lives in Romania, has been facing various health issues for quite some time. But a while back, we received the news of aggressive tumors. The doctors recommended a surgery that would allow her to continue eating, while preparing the way for other forms of treatment.
For two days I was unable to pray. How strange it felt, as someone who is used to praying at specific times and off and on throughout the day, to be unable to spiritually breathe. It was as if the wind had been knocked out of me. No words could come. My inability to pray did not stem from anger toward God or faithlessness in his purposes, but from the shock that paralyzed my heart. I felt him, but I couldn’t talk to him.
Through this time, I began reading a little book from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson, called All Things for Good. Watson calls Romans 8:28 the Christian’s “cordial,” hearty medicine for the suffering soul. He connects the pain of the present moment to the joy that comes from being assured of God’s providence.
“To know that nothing hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort; but to be assured that ALL things which fall out shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings, that showers of affliction water the withering root of their grace and make it flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over.”
This line ministered to me more than anything else in the book. Here, Watson is speaking of the times of trouble that the Lord leads us through:
“He is their strength in the time of trouble” (Psalm 37 v 39). God will be the strength of our hearts; he will join his forces with us. Either he will make his hand lighter, or our faith stronger.”
God will not allow us to be overcome by our weakness. He is our strength. Either he will lighten the trial or strengthen our faith. In both cases, he is with us.
As John Piper has written: “There are things to see in the Word of God that our eyes can only see through the lens of tears.” I don’t want to waste this season of suffering. I want God to plow the fields of my heart and plant seeds that will bear fruit in the future.
I am married with two children and have suffered with a chronic bladder condition throughout my adult life. This flares up from time to time, does not seem to have any triggers and there is no cure.
At times over the past months I have felt like I have been tormented. This sounds extreme but it is how the constant pain has made me feel. My family and my church family have helped immensely.Hope When It Hurts has also been a light of hope for me. It has brought me peace and also tears but tears of joy. The Lord has greatly used this in my life and though I would never choose this pain I am thankful for the work it is doing.
I pray for you and Sarah and thank God for your words, and also thank God that above all else we have a steadfast hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I asked my 13 year old daughter to write out Lamentations 3 v 22 and I’ve put it up at the bottom of the stairs so it’s the first thing I see every morning.
With postpolio syndrome, my body is continually weakening, and pain has become my daily companion. The hardest thing for me is losing use of my hands. The other day, as I was having my quiet time, my right hand became so weak that I could no longer write in my journal. I was so afraid that this loss, like so many others, might be permanent.
Through tears, I opened my Bible and turned to my first reading for the day from 1 Kings 17. The story of the widow of Zarephath. That story came alive to me once again as God reassured me, “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry…” My next reading was Psalm 84. “No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Those passages were both so precious to me as I sensed God’s comfort even in my pain. I left my time with the Lord filled with hope, knowing that he would provide everything I needed.
Vaneetha Risner, author of The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering @vaneetharisner
Thirty years ago, I was infected with Lyme disease. I didn’t know I'd been bitten, but I had a "flu" two months later. My fever shot to 104 degrees quickly and remained elevated 6 hours. I was in agony. The aching continued several weeks. The next two years were the same. I developed odd symptoms seemingly unrelated.
We moved, and my symptoms worsened dramatically. We attended a large church when I began suffering new, bewildering symptoms. From very active to sleeping 18 hours a day, barely shuffling around. My alarm woke me to drive kids to school, and again to pick them up.
After two years of worsening symptoms, I found a doctor and heard the word "Lyme." My husband drove me 100 miles one way. The doctor read my detailed history, gave me a physical, and declared I had Lyme. Blood was drawn for tests and came back positive. Two antibiotics were prescribed. My die-off reactions cycled on and off every two weeks for two years.
Church acquaintances told me if I prayed harder, read my Bible more, trusted God fully, I’d be healed. So, it was my fault I was still sick. A common problem for those with chronic illnesses. I did pray; I begged God to heal me! I truly believed my God was able! Years passed with worsening symptoms.
I became bitter and angry at God for not healing me. Folks told me I looked great. What they couldn't see was the excruciating pain underneath.
We hosted a Bible study and God changed me. I was able to share my pain and transformation with those in the study.
2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “We all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
God has shown me the deep things of His heart through my experience. He’s taught me to be grateful for all my circumstances no matter how difficult. He’s brought JOY and is helping me bring encouragement to others who struggle.
In August 1998, during a busy time at work, I got flu. It proved to be the beginning of ME — or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome — and for most of the following four years I was sick and tired.
ME is a scary thing. Energy goes, concentration goes, you can’t cope with noise, you sometimes get depressed. Some people (including the odd friend and a few of the medical profession) are skeptical. People don’t understand, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Humanly speaking, falling ill was disastrous. I had to give up my job and my rented house and move to live with my parents—over 200 miles from my friends.
But in my darkest times, God was mining gold. Isaiah 43:2 became one of the most important verses to me: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you”.
As I look back I remember the depth of pain and difficulty of that time (what other people saw on the surface in my not being able to function any more)—the horizontal perspective if you like. But I also recall the vertical perspective; the digging deep into God, the helpless dependence and not knowing how it was going to pan out—the amazing truth that He alone was with me as I passed “through the waters”. He alone understood.
‘Useless, worthless, guilty, failure.’ The mantra relentlessly reverberated around my head. I was struggling with post-natal depression, and busy as my life was, that was nothing compared to the turmoil in my heart and mind as I wrestled with a constant barrage of negative thoughts.
I would walk to school with my buggy full of boys. Breakfast still on their faces and down their clothes. As I approached the gates I would pause, and give the nappy bag a kick. Sure enough the McDonalds freebie (from ‘The Penguins of Madagascar’) would sound from the dark recesses of the bag, amongst the old raisins, sand and dirty tissues: ‘Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.’ Obediently I would take a deep breath and put on my fake smile.
I couldn’t be a perfect mother. So, my coping mechanism was ‘smile and wave’. I entered those school gates with my perfect mum face on, cheery, and chatty, hoping no-one would say to me, ‘How are you? No how are you really?’
‘Useless, worthless, guilty, failure’ was how I thought God saw me too. Until one day, when I was in the bathroom (door open as usual, kids wandering in and out) humming one of those irritating kids memory verses. The words hit me like a ton of bricks. ‘God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him,’ John 3:17. I looked into the mirror and realised that though I condemn myself, that is not God’s verdict. He sent his son to save me. To take my sin in his body on the cross and give me his perfection.
Songs became a very important part of my (very slow) recovery from depression. Bible reading was hard because I struggled to concentrate, but through songs I found I could fight the negative thoughts with Biblical truth. When I felt guilty, I could sing to myself ‘my sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, it is well with my soul.’ A Christian from long ago penned those words when he had lost everything - his daughters, his livelihood, his home. He had clung to this truth through the darkest storms of life, and therefore I reasoned, so could I.
These words did not lift the depression. I was not cured. My recovery has been slow and I sometimes wonder if it may just have become a part of who I am. But they gave me hope. Through the blackest darkness I could cling to the truth that God does not condemn me. He has saved me. However dark my thoughts, however bleak my future, however awful my pain, in Christ it is well with my soul.
Linda Allcock, speaker and church worker
A few months after I gave birth to our third son, I developed an extremely rare condition called autoimmune progesterone dermatitis or progesterone hypersensitivity. Essentially, I am allergic to my own progesterone. Any time my hormones spike, my body attacks itself, and I run the risk of going into anaphylactic shock. There is no cure, and while medication helps, I still have unexpected episodes from time to time. While I am not in constant pain, I do carry the heavy weight of never knowing when my immune system will strike.
When I was first diagnosed, I was anxious every moment of the day. I feared that I would have a reaction while caring for my three little boys, and I was scared to be alone with them. The anxiety was crippling.
But God, in his kindness, spoke truth to me through his Word and through the words of fellow sufferers like Kristen and Sarah, the authors of Hope When It Hurts. I have grown in courage—not because I have learned to be strong, but because I have learned to wait on the One who is.
“Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14)
Being a princess for a day, wearing a big white dress, eating cake and being the centre of attention. That’s what every girl wants, right? The perfect day, the perfect man, the perfect marriage. I’ll admit I felt a slight loss of identity as I changed my status, my name, and my signature. But you are becoming somebody’s wife, so it’s all ok.
Only one day you wake up and it’s not all ok, and you discover that a huge crack has formed. You wonder how you missed the earthquake that shifted the very foundations of what you thought was a happy marriage. Or was it a little crack that slowly grew bigger? The good wife you thought you were wasn’t kind enough, organised enough, didn’t listen enough. Just wasn’t enough. You find that not only are you now losing your identity as a wife, you have to search for your old self as you appear to have misplaced her somewhere along the line. Who am I now?
Sometimes I find it hard to put into words the pain and angst I feel. I just want to pout my lips and put my head in my hands and groan. Groan and groan until it doesn’t hurt anymore. And I hope and pray that God can take these groans and do something with them. I can’t even make sense of them. But he can and does, the Bible tells us the Holy Spirit himself hears our groans (thank goodness!) and one day it will all make sense and be revealed to us.
I recall during the hardest of days waking up in the middle of the night and fetching my Bible. I prayed for God to speak to me and my Bible naturally fell open to 2 Corinthians and my eyes fell on 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
God spoke to me in my hour of need—that’s what is awesome about God: when you need him most, he always pulls through for you. Looking back at my journalling notes from reading ‘Hope When It Hurts’ I wrote “I wouldn’t, like James ‘Consider it pure joy’ to be going through what I’m going through because it hurts. Like an open wound that keeps getting salt in it, or lemon juice in a papercut. But these trails keep me clinging to God, like those bits of leaves that stick to your clothes on a countryside walk. I’m latched on and clinging on for dear life. And a life with him is SO dear, so precious. He won’t let me go. He’s got me.”
My identity is not a wife, or someone who has left her husband, or even just a lonely mess. My identity is in Christ Jesus, because I am a child of God.
My four years of high school were a downward spiral: I experienced bullying from peers, an eating disorder, a broken relationship with my parents, and depression that resulted in my being admitted to the hospital. It was there that I gave up my attempt to live both for Christ and for the world, and committed myself to following Christ.
Life seemed to become smoother for a time. I met my husband at 20, and to my great surprise I was married and a mother by 23. From a young age, our eldest son began displaying behavior that was defiant and destructive, and has caused a decade of confusion and chaos in our home. Countless doctors, tests, and evaluations seemed to leave doctors shaking their heads.
Along with that, my own health grew worse. As my son’s disorder continued to intensify, confusion and hurt began to grow in our other children, and our marriage began to suffer under the weight of it all.
I was on a scary journey that it seemed no one else could relate to. As the struggle intensified, I found myself pulling away from those I cared about, staying home, and pushing down the stress and emotional turmoil building within me. In the confusion, fear, and uncertain future, I felt utterly alone.
But—and I still find this surprising, and wonderful—over these lonely years I have discovered within me a thankfulness for the lonely road I have been given to travel. Walking it has brought me a greater understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to know him not only as my Savior, but my comfort, sustainer, hope, and strength. There’s something about having our worldly comforts stripped away that allows us to begin to experience the true depth, length, and height of his love for us. Christ has walked the road to Calvary so that I would never have to walk any road apart from him.
I saw the evidence of the beginning of more loss and called to my husband in shock and despair through immediate tears. "There's blood!" He rushed from the kitchen and met me in the hallway as I slid down the wall. "The baby is dead. I knew this would happen. I can't do this again." These words were spoken through monstrous tears as my sweet husband held me so tightly. I was right. This moment would serve as a marker for the beginning of losing another little one through miscarriage.
I never knew what it was to long to be a mother until I carried two sweet babies in my womb, only to feel their lives slip away. I never knew you could love someone you've never met, until I felt the proof of their existence fade from within. Sin and death has touched my womb in a very real way and I have never hated its affects more. But I've never loved Jesus more. The Savior who entered into our sin saturated world and bore our sin, shame and sorrow...the Savior who lived perfectly on our behalf and died the death we deserve...the One who by rising from the dead, crushed sin and death, so that, not only am I freed from the bondage of sin, I am confident that our babies are safe with him where I will one day be.
2017 ushered in more grief than I had ever imagined but it was far from fruitless. What a joy it is to trust God through suffering and to watch him work through the pain. I've learned to treasure Jesus more than anything and I've watched him use my suffering not only for my sanctification, but to help other women, which remains the cry of my heart.
Through it all, my husband and I have held tightly to the truth found in God's Word. He is good. His ways are higher, his ways are best, and his ways are for our joy and to draw us nearer to Jesus. So, even now, we praise him. We will lift his name up and pray for strength to glorify him in this journey. Though it's hard and holds within it the possibility of even more loss, he doesn't waste an ounce of our pain. We are blessed to take part in a small way in the suffering of Christ. We know all our questions will fade when we gaze upon his beauty.
Brittany Allen, writer @brittleeallen
I’ve always liked to think of myself as a planner, but what that really means is that I’m a worrier. In high school and college, I worried about getting good grades and performing well in athletics and music. That angst grew worse in my first year of marriage when I began having panic attacks after the sudden death of my new sister-in-law. I developed an irrational fear about being the next family member to die and wrestled with hypochondriac thoughts that disrupted my work, harmed my marriage, and distorted my perception of the truth of God’s goodness.
After spending exorbitant time and money on medical tests prompted by my real or imagined physical symptoms, my husband confronted me about these recurrent health scares and explained how much of a toll it was taking on him. In that moment of seeing my husband suffering due to my anxiety, I realized I needed to make a choice and stop the vicious cycle.
As I considered the task before me – transforming my mind and subduing its fearful impulses – God reminded me of His infinite patience and showed me that I could chip away at these hardened habits with faith and endurance. Rather than feel shame for experiencing mental health struggles and frustration over not being able to conquer them right away, He reassured me of the sustaining grace He would render in moments that I desperately needed His strength. During times of emotional upheaval, I could trust He would give me peace that passes understanding – which is the confidence to believe the power of His Spirit.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
Anxiety still burdens me, and has come in waves during different periods of hardship: years of infertility, months of post-partum depression, continual hormonal issues, and daily concerns about family and even ministry. I’m grateful that this is not a battle I face alone or something I must overcome by my own willpower. It is mind-blowing to think that in this ongoing struggle, my Redeemer can be glorified as the living Hope for worried minds and restless souls.
Jenn Hesse, wife, mother, writer
Cofounder, Graceful Wait ministry
I used to dread the 5 hour drive up north to see my mum, ravaged by early on-set Alzheimer’s. ‘What mood would she be in?’, ‘How would she have deteriorated this time?’, ‘How long was this going to continue?’, ‘Would I manage to show compassion and patience for my whole visit?’.
Each time I journeyed up to her, I tried desperately to supress these questions and numb my emotions, fearful of the floodgates opening and not being able to close them again. The pain seemed unbearable, the burden too great.
But then, each time, as I sat by her, listening to her nonsensical chatter and hallucinations, seeing her robbed of dignity and withering away, trying to calm her anxieties and my own, God found a way to minister to both me and her. He taught me to sing a new song.
Mum had had a brilliant singing voice in her day and had encouraged me as a teenager to learn hymns off by heart as she had done, and so there I would sit singing familiar hymns. She never winced or covered her ears, and more amazingly than that, she was able to join in. Her face lit up, her restlessness stilled. God was at work in her inner being, bringing her comfort and reassurance.
But God also used the Gospel truths I was singing to remind me of his love and faithfulness. That He was my Good Shepherd who longed to provide for me and lead me; that He was my Heavenly Father who sang over me; that He was my rock and refuge in whom I could find shelter in; that he had saved me through amazing grace and I was his forever; that I could confidently declare ‘how great Thou art’, even though I did not understand the why of what was going on.
Those times of song were so precious to me and to my mum. She may not have known me, but she did know the one who had loved her first. And how that caused me to rejoice and to reset my eyes on Him once more.
Most of the times led to me once again confessing my needs to God, admitting my fears and failures and seeking his help, but there was one time, a year before she died, that I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth or even formulate them in my head. Mum had suffered a massive stroke and it all just seemed too much, too cruel.
It was then that God brought to mind a song I had been teaching the children in Sunday School, “Sovereign One” by Sovereign Grace Music. It kept going round and round in my head, that week as I sat by her bedside , one line in particular, “When things in my life don’t make sense, I will trust in you for you are good, you are good”. I couldn’t pray but I could preach truth to myself. God gave me hope once again.
Tamar Pollard @tamespolly
I have one son, Joel, who was born in 2011. During the three years following his birth, I experienced three more pregnancies, all of which miscarried, and eventually we came to the realisation that we were not going to have any more children.
Some of the Christians I know believe that everything that happens in this life is God’s will. By this logic, my three miscarriages were part of God’s perfect loving plan for my life. I struggled to accept this. It led me to question whether God really did love me, if indeed He
had ordained these miscarriages to happen. In August 2016 we went with some friends to their local church, All Saints Swanage. There
were a number of embroidered banners which had been made by a member of the congregation, and one of these in particular caught my attention. It was an embroidery of a daisy, with four petals falling to the ground. It was reminiscent of the classic caption “He loves me, he loves me not”, where each petal takes its turn in the lottery of life. But on this daisy, each petal was embroidered with the words “He loves me”.
The four petals seemed to symbolise my four pregnancies. The first represented Joel, a gift through whom God has clearly shown His love to me all along. But the second, third and fourth petals also bore the words “He loves me”. The daisy did not attempt to answer the
question “Why?”. It did not confirm or refute the opinions of those around me. But in that moment I knew God’s love and His compassion. I knew that, through each of those painful losses, God was with me, He loved me and He cared for me more than I ever realised. It was simple but powerful and true, and it was immensely comforting.
It was the summer holidays – which meant only one thing for my parents – another chance to take much needed food, medication, clothing and Christian literature to Eastern Europe. They had been doing similar humanitarian trips for almost 30 years, travelling beyond the Iron Curtain, continuing after the fall of Communism – and the summer of 1997 was no different. Except it was.
For one night, as they slept in a Hungarian layby, they were brutally attacked by three local young men. My Dad was killed, suffocating on his own blood, and my mum was left for dead. Neither I nor my siblings were with them on this fatal trip but we flew out as soon as we could to be by my mum’s beside.
And it was then, as we walked into her hospital room that we heard the blow-by-blow account of what had happened a couple of days before. She was doing a TV interview from her hospital bed. It was then that I saw with my very own eyes what they had done to Mum, how they had bruised and mangled her face. It was then that I listened to all my father had gone through. It was then that the penny dropped. It was then that pure hatred flowed through my veins. And it was then that my Mum uttered the most amazing words, “I don’t bear any malice towards them…in fact I actually pray they will become Christians”.
It was the final straw. I stormed out of the room, onto the balcony. I was absolutely furious. How on earth could she say that? And then, other questions began to flood my mind. Questions like: “Do I really believe God exists and is in control?”, “Do I really believe God is good and his plans are perfect?”, “Do I really believe God sent his son, Jesus into the world?”, “Do I believe Jesus died in my place, to take the punishment I deserve?”. And as I answered yes to each and every one of them, I was then left with the question, “Well, how am I going to respond?”
As a Christian, I knew I ought to accept phrases like “Forgive one another” and “Turn the other cheek.” But I didn’t know how I could do that. How can I turn hatred to love, anger to peace, revenge to forgiveness? It wasn’t humanly possible and so I just threw myself on the mercy of God and begged him to change me. I had just memorised days before Hebrews 4 v 16 and pleaded that God would give me his grace and mercy in my time of need. Instantly He answered. My mind was stilled, my emotions transformed, I was able to forgive and have continued to be able to do so ever since, through long, dark days and even longer, darker nights; through heart-wrenching grief and confusion; through good times and bad; God’s help has remained constant, his enabling the same.
Tamar Pollard @tamespolly
My sister, my mom and I were all diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease ten years ago. We've tried different methods of treatment along the way, but still struggle with symptoms.
At Christmas last year, my sister's health started to decline. She hasn't been able to do much of anything from that time until now—and that has been especially difficult for her.
Since the end of October, we have had to live elsewhere while our home has undergone mold remediation. During these months, Hope When it Hurts has been a comforting, encouraging sigh of relief to all of our hearts.
In the quiet before bed, our mom reads a chapter out loud. Thank you for sharing your personal struggles with what it is like to have Lyme and grapple with suffering—and for demonstrating how it's possible to cling to Christ with great hope in the process. It has been a beautiful gift to have someone who understands—and cares!
I had come to accept that I would never get married, but when at nearly 41 years old I met and married Guy, a wonderful Christian man, I marvelled at how God had given me this very beautiful gift.
The realisation that having children might now happen and the excitement, anticipation and hope that came with that, was suddenly very alive and real. I knew I was on the older side but nothing is impossible with God. But seven years of hoping and waiting for a child that has never come has been deeply painful for us both—at times the sadness has been overwhelming.
Tests showed there was no medical reason why nothing was happening. After a year we had to think through how far we were prepared to go with fertility treatment. We often did not know where to go or who to talk to as it is such a taboo subject and church is overflowing with children and babies. We confided in a few close Christian friends and family members.
Suffering and grief can be lonely experiences. One can feel like an island with days of calmness and then the storm hits again. My loving Father has always provided comfort in His word or in His people at the darkest moments. Sometimes it has come days after a very weepy day or when I have felt very angry, but it has always come. Sometimes the tears come quickly and with no warning. Then sometimes I feel totally at peace and relieved not to have children. It is an emotional roller-coaster.
I am learning to recognise the possible triggers and Guy is always there with a steadfast hug. I know Jesus hasn’t left me or that this pain is not how it should be, but I also know He can and does work all things for good for those who trust Him. So I will keep trusting that His sovereign plans are good and His plans for me are good. I know that the tsunami waves of sadness will continue to hit me, but I want to keep my feet on Jesus my Rock.
Want to share your Story of Hope? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We named our fourth son Benjamin in part because we thought at one time that he would never make it out of the womb alive. Mirroring Jacob’s words in Genesis “If I am bereaved of my son, I am bereaved” we wanted Ben’s name to reflect our trust that God is the author of life. We just didn’t know that God would demand that same trust again, in even greater measure. To make a long and painful story short, the baby we almost lost in the beginning, we almost lost again (along with my own life) when my placenta partially abrupted at 33 weeks. After a long hospital stay he was safely delivered. As we heard his little gasps and screams, we wept with thankfulness that the son we agonized over was here—and he was alive. His name and his story gives me hope in more ways than one. Why? Because seven years ago I lost our first baby, five years ago I found out I was having twins, four years ago they were born and required a long NICU stay, three years ago I lost our third baby, two years ago our third son was born, and four months ago Ben entered this world.
Pregnancy after pregnancy God has asked of me the same thing he did when we thought Ben and I might die—trust me. And pregnancy after pregnancy he has shown up, not always in giving me what I asked for, but always giving me what I needed.
Courtney Reissig, author of Glory in The Ordinary and The Accidental Feminist @courtneyreissig
Just days before my fourteenth birthday in May of 2015, the healthy, energetic life I had always known fell apart. Now at nineteen, I suffer from multiple chronic illnesses, and I have lived the last five-and-a-half years mostly in bed and disabled. This is not the life I expected, but it is the life God has for me, at least for a season. This is not a detour; it is the road, and it leads to somewhere good.
When I am discouraged, I remember the promise of Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to His purpose.” God will bring good out of my suffering; in fact, I can already see glimpses of it. My faith is stronger. My relationships with my family and friends are deeper. I take great delight in what I used to take for granted. I've had the opportunity to pray for and encourage others. All these things are just foretastes of the good that is to come because of my pain. Suffering grieves the heart of God, but He knows the road I am on is achieving for me an eternal weight of glory.
For me, motherhood was never "something nice" to have. No, motherhood was my goal, my priority, a necessity. So when infertility became my reality, my identity was shattered.
Fear took root in my heart in the form of anger, bitterness, and jealousy. I believed Satan's lies that I had been rendered purposeless and insignificant if I wasn't a mother.
In feeling purposeless, my soul began to crave God's Word in a way I'd never experienced before. Jesus humbled me to see the lack of control I had over my life. I felt small, insignificant -- but that insignificance drove me to actively acknowledge Jesus as Lord over my life.
I reflected on the gospel's reference to sparrows. Matthew 10:29-30 says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." In his tender care, Jesus says, "Not one of them is forgotten before God" (Luke 12:6). His care for his creation is so boundless that even a seemingly insignificant sparrow's fate is noted by and under the authority of God. How much greater is his concern for me? I am immeasurably greater in value than this loved sparrow! What a balm for my soul!
Like any believer living in a broken world, I still have fears about my infertility and identity. But they have no true victory over me, and I refuse to sink under the weight of fear. God doesn't see me as "childless, purposeless, insignificant Meredith." No, he sees me as "Meredith, my chosen, forgiven, justified, redeemed, loved child." Now that I know who I am as a child of God, I no longer need to manipulate my story -- the Author of creation has already written it for me.
Lonely, scared, angry, bitter, distraught, self-absorbed, desperate and hopeless…
Those words describe me in the first years of marriage. Falling for, then marrying, someone from my church youth group had seemed too good to be true – but the reality was far from it. He started working in a recording studio and I hardly ever saw him. So I began to see myself as a victim…
I was aching for a deep connection and, rather than finding that in God when he offered to heal my hurting heart, I chose to look to another man. A few weeks later, that man left me and I was totally alone – feeling frightened and ashamed. It was the way that my husband responded that put the hope back into our marriage, and taught me how much God – and he – truly love me.
Today I share our story without shame and fear, as I long for others to find hope in their difficulties too. My book, Taking Off the Mask, gives more detail but also reveals how God has since taken me on a journey towards true, authentic living. I believe he wants us all to enjoy the freedom to be who he has created us to be.
My husband and I have walked through nearly 3 years of secondary infertility and multiple miscarriages. After years of testing, we were told that we were part of the 50% of couples who never have an identified medical explanation for their infertility. We fought to continue to trust in His sovereignty and rely on His promises, for we know He withholds no good thing.
While we mourned and wrestled with the “why”, He was patiently and faithfully teaching us that our ultimate hope is in the person of Christ, not our circumstances or hopes fulfilled. It was a season of waiting, listening and ultimately surrendering. Good, but hard soul-work that yielded an intimacy with Christ that we wouldn't trade for the world.
It was after this quieting of our hearts that we could finally hear His calling to adopt; a desire He always had on our hearts, but we were too hung-up on "our plans" that we almost missed it! So here we are waiting again, ready to see what story He writes as we live out a life of obedience and yielding of our best laid plans to “Nevertheless” not our will, but His be done.
Krystle Edelson, Blogger at Team Twenty One + One
I’ve never been one to handle pain very well. Papercut? Yeah, I’ll cry like a baby. Stubbed toe? I’ll whine about it. Sore throat? I’ll sulk in bed until it goes away. But even though my reaction to pain can be ridiculous at times, there is one pain that I’ve had to learn to live with since I was young.Migraines.
I’ve grown up with chronic migraines. Sometimes they’re worse than at other times. Although I get headaches very frequently, my migraines are always so much worse and I have anywhere from one, to several a week. Growing up, we tried everything we could to figure out the causes of the migraines and to eliminate triggers.
The migraines can prevent me from doing what I love and feel called to - writing - for a few hours, to a few days. I just don’t understand. Why, God? Well, instead of a direct answer, He simply gave me this…
“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV)
I’m puzzled over this. I wonder…why would God choose grace as the simple answer? Not healing, not relief. Grace.
The answer that came to me was, maybe…Maybe grace is the healing all along. Perhaps, in seasons of physical suffering, our hearts are not always longing for a physical healing. But perhaps, our hearts are searching for an internal miracle. Something that will heal the deepest wounds in us, that physical healing can’t reach. And grace? Well, grace can be that miracle.
Whether it’s physical or emotional pain you suffer from, His grace is sufficient. His grace is enough. His grace is the healing my soul looks for most.
Bella Morganthal, author, blogger, speaker, and founder of The King's Princess magazine for girls. @authorbella2015
My world was forever changed in 2014 when my beloved husband of 31 years went home to be with his Lord and Savior. The “chariot” that God used to bring my husband home was terminal cancer. In a moment, my life had changed. I was no longer a wife, but a widow. Though my role had changed, my identity remained the same. I was still God’s beloved child, and that would never change.
I read that a widow has two great enemies—loneliness and fear. So true, as at times the loneliness has been suffocating and the fear overwhelming, especially fear of the future. Loneliness, however, can be a blessing if we allow it to drive us to a deeper relationship with the Lord, to look to Him alone for life, and not be deceived into thinking we would be happier if we had another spouse, if circumstances were favorable, if we had better health, etc. All those things are subject to change at a moment’s notice, and we will be insecure and unstable if we tether our hearts to them. Spouses, children, good health, a job, etc, can be a source of great blessing in our lives, but they were never meant to be our life. We were never meant to cling to them—only Christ. “For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” (Ps. 63:7,8 ESV)
In addition to the pain of widowhood, I have also been struggling with chronic physical pain (proximal hamstring tendinosis) which makes a basic function as sitting very uncomfortable. Steroid and PRP injections have not helped. Many times I have felt like I am in a “wasteland.” My heart hurts because I miss my husband, and my body, this “jar of clay” hurts because of the chronic pain. But God shows up in the wasteland, too!! I know I am never alone, even though there are times my emotions are telling me something very different.
I remember sitting in Sunday School and every wife around me was pregnant. I thought, 'Where is my baby, Lord? Am I next?'
I remember after my 7th miscarriage that every day around that period was filled with grief. My thoughts were, 'Will this ever end? Where’s my baby, Lord?'
I remember the loneliness of the holidays. No children to wake up and upwrap presents. 'When is it my turn? Where’s my baby, Lord?'
I remember making dinner for two and wondering what it’d be like to cook for a family. 'Where’s my baby, Lord?'
Then I stumbled on 1 Samuel 16 v 1. God understands mourning. But when the time is right, He’ll let you know when it’s time to stop mourning and start moving.
I may not have children, but I have His grace and His grace is sufficient.
By Sarah Walton
As my husband and I drove home from our night out to celebrate my birthday, I laid my seat back in the car and wept. I had looked forward to this night away for days but, as usual, I found myself gritting my teeth in discomfort, trying to convince myself that I wasn’t feeling miserable. By the time we were headed home, grief and anger had gotten the best of me. As I lay there with stabbing pain going through me, I groaned in frustration, “Sometimes I feel as though I live on an island, left to face this life on my own in this miserable body of pain. No one can see the misery that I live with and no one can do anything about it.”
Now, even repeating those words, I realize how inaccurate and wrong they are. Of course, I do feel that way at times since no one can physically feel the pain of my hurting body or fully grasp the grief and stress that I bear from the trials that plague our family. However, I’m never truly alone. First, and foremost, I know that I have a Savior who is always there with me and able to fully enter into my pain and suffering - even when others cannot. He sees the tears that flow from the grief of pain and loss in my life. He knows what it is to carry a burden that no one else can carry but himself - the Cross (a burden far greater than any cross I will ever be asked to carry). And he knows that I cannot carry these burdens and pain alone. Therefore, in his grace, he continues to give me more of himself as I come to the end myself.
Secondly, I am not the only one suffering on this earth and, although many may not know my specific pain (and the internal battle that comes with it), they can walk alongside me through it if I allow them in. The truth is, I am not on an island - I am in the family of God - along with every other child of his. Though this is done far from perfectly, brothers and sisters in Christ have been given the body of believers to comfort, strengthen, challenge, and grow alongside of each other- in every season of life.
This is, in part, why I wanted to be a part of writing Hope When It Hurts - 30 Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering. Despite the truth that we are never truly alone in our suffering - we often feel as though we are. Therefore, Kristen Wetherell and I set out to write a book that addressed the hard realities of suffering, but also offered the hope and treasures that are found within it. We prayed along the way that God would use this small offering of ours to reach many who are hurting with the hope of the Gospel, the treasures that are found as we draw near to Christ in our suffering, and the reminder that we are never alone. By His grace, we have been humbled and in awe of how faithful he has been to answer that prayer.
It’s out of that same desire that we have created HopeWhenItHurts.com - a place where those who are hurting (or walking alongside loved ones who are), can hear stories of people from every walk of life who have experienced God’s faithfulness, goodness, and glory shown within their suffering. It is a place to be reminded that you are not alone, but, part of a family of believers who are united by one faith, one hope, and one King. Though we may face different forms and levels of suffering, Christ offers us comfort through His Word and one another. Our hope is that we can provide a place for those who feel alone in their suffering, and are searching for community, to come and be encouraged with the hope that we have in Christ - our suffering Savior.
Real stories, real people, and a real hope. Whether you want to take part by briefly sharing your own story and the ways you have seen God’s faithfulness and goodness in your suffering, or you just want to be encouraged and comforted to know that you are not alone - we invite you to join us in our mission to share the hope of the Gospel to a hurting world.
No matter what you are facing - you are not called to walk it alone.
Do you have a Story of Hope that you'd like to share with the Hope When It Hurts community? Send it to email@example.com to get it published among the other Stories of Hope.
Would you like to invite Kristen and Sarah to speak at your upcoming event?