I didn’t expect to lose the will to live. That was something for quitters, those who were chronically negative or weak. From my earliest memories, I’ve always been a fighter. Determined, optimistic, stubborn to a fault. Quitting wasn’t an option.
Until it seemed the only option I had left.
It took twenty years of consecutive, unrelenting losses for me to finally lose my will to fight. Betrayal, divorce, single motherhood. Remarriage, step-parenting, and adolescent parenting, followed by fostering and parenting three kids from severe trauma. Then came the three cancer diagnoses in the span of five years — bam, bam, and BAM. And in the middle of that I buried my dad after his thirteen-month war against terminal pancreatic cancer.
And those were just the “big” losses. There were other struggles that were less sensational but no less painful. Like a Weeble Wobble, I’d always been able to bounce back from a challenge. But after the third cancer diagnosis — the one that left me with a permanent disability and in chronic pain — I lost my bounce. Instead, I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again. Any hope I’d once had was gone.
There’s a verse in Romans 5 that talks about the power of hope:
And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (vv. 3-5 NASB).
And hope does not disappoint, the God-inspired Scripture says.
And yet I remember reading those words and immediately feeling a surge of resistance. And white-hot anger.
That’s not true! I wanted to scream. Hope does disappoint!
I’d prayed for relief and deliverance for so many years. And yet, in spite of my bent knees and dogged hope, the only answer it seemed I’d receive was more suffering. More loss. More grief and tears. Disappointment was an ocean, and I was drowning in it. I battled to keep my faith afloat, to believe in a good and loving and powerful God. And yet that belief only seemed to leave me weary and desperate for rescue.
Where was the God of hope? Where was the one who said He loved me and would always be with me? Didn’t my relentless grief confirm His absence — or at least His disregard?
Somewhere in the midst of those hard years, I went to the mailbox and found a gift parcel. I didn’t recognize the return address. Inside was a short letter from a total stranger along with an olive wood cross small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. In the following months and years, I found myself holding on to that cross and rubbing its smooth surface when the worst of the losses threatened to take me under. Something about its tangible presence brought comfort.
Then, during Easter one year, I finally understood why. Although I’d long celebrated Jesus’s resurrection, it was Jesus’s suffering that gave me hope.
Jesus knew what it was like to endure pain and loss. He knew what it was like to ask God for relief and deliverance and not receive it. For so much of my faith journey, I’d viewed Easter through the joy of Jesus’s resurrection. But now I saw it through the eyes of His suffering and crucifixion. Jesus knew both physical pain and spiritual agony. He felt the seeming distance of the Father, who didn’t intervene and spare Him the cross.
And yet Jesus didn’t lose hope.
Because His hope wasn’t in an outcome. His hope was in a Person.
Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.
Psalm 119:49-50 (NIV)
Your promise preserves my life, the psalmist wrote. Not God’s promise of happily ever after. Not God’s promise of physical healing or a perfect family or pain-free existence.
But God’s promise of Himself.
Jesus is God’s promise fulfilled, divine presence in human flesh. And heaven — the hope of an eternal, pain-free promised land — is the final piece of that promise, when I will live in the hope-filling presence of my Father God forever.
It’s now been almost six years since that season of suffering nearly took me under. I’ve had more hard days than I can count. Life continues to have unexpected circumstances and painful losses. Sure, I have plenty of good days too, and I celebrate those. But life remains hard for so many of us.
Still, as I look at my olive wood cross, more worn than it was six years ago, I remind myself again and again:
If I place my hope in an outcome — a prayer I want answered or a healing I want delivered — I will end up disappointed. “You will have suffering in this world,” Jesus says (John 16:33). That’s the bad news in no uncertain terms. None of us will escape the pain of the human condition. It’s part of the deal.
However, Jesus didn’t end with the bad news. “But take heart! I have overcome the world,” He promises (John 16:33).
Jesus — the flesh-and-blood presence of God Himself — is our good news. He is our hope, our answered prayer to all prayers. And if our hope rests in Him alone, we will not be disappointed. Our hope is as sure as His resurrection, our eternity as perfect as His promise. One way or the other, my friends, the best is yet to come.
This story was written by Michele Cushatt, and published in the Create in Me a Heart of Hope Bible Study.
Create in Me a Heart of Hope is an (in)courage Bible study, written by Mary Carver and featuring stories from your favorite (in)courage writers! The first in a series of four studies, Heart of Hope looks at how God offers us hope — real, certain, unshakable hope. We believe that looking at where that hope comes from and what it looks like in our lives will help us understand first, what hope is, and second, the difference it makes. It will allow God to create in us a heart of hope.
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Ada Orie says
Thank you. This is where I am today. I needed this devotional. It is human nature to grow weary but I need to focus on who Jesus is and remember he is my hope. I pray for you and thank you again.
Michele Cushatt says
With you, Ada! So glad we don’t have to walk this life alone.
So powerful. As I ponder this perspective, I find I’m like Michele…I hope for an outcome….for a pain free life. God is working with me to see how Jesus the man was…that he truly did experience what we experience…maybe not struggles with a teen, or stress of a technology driven “need it now” world…but he truly did suffer…he was tempted. Scripture says God even had to turn his back on his Son, at the time he was in the greatest need, suffering more pain than I can imagine on the cross. He Knows. He Knows.
Michele Cushatt says
Yes, yes, yes! Exactly, Jennifer. He knows.
The realization that my junk is nothing compared to the things have endured….
Thank you for this encouragement to all of us fellow strugglers ❤️❤️
BC from BC says
Thank you. <3
I really needed this today. Thank you for your story!
Karen Worley says
This touched me soo deep, thank you for saying it so well, our hope is only in the person of Jesus, His love never fails
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Michele thank you for this excellent reading. I find if wanting something from God. I prayed for it. I don’t get the answers. Like to healing need. Or for a person or family member not well. I can get annoyed. Why is God not answering that prayer for me. Especially if I see God’s heal someone else. Even if God used the Doctors or Hospital treatment to heal that person. I not been healed or that person I was praying for. I say God were are you. Why have you healed them not me or the person who I am praying for. Then I get in my head. Dawn in my perfect timing. I will do my way. Should it be through me directly or a Doctor’s or Hospital treatment. Or God takes them home to be with him. The person I was praying for healing. I can ask all sorts of questions. Why God did you not heal them. Or use the Doctors or Hospital treatment to heal them. I then have heard from God Holy Spirit. Say to me Dawn it was best I took them home to be with me. When I get over being annoyed. I can see why God didn’t heal them took them home to be with him. Or didn’t heal me. God is saying to me. You have to know I know best what is right for you. Plus the person you were praying for that I took home to be with me. Why I didn’t heal them and you. As it teaches you know. That person you were praying for. You might not have them on this earth anymore. But you not lost all. You will see them again one day in glory. When you go. Plus for yourself. It teaches you to trust me to help you trust me all the more to help you cope and get through the day. Ask for that in prayer. As if I heald you though the Doctors or me directly. You at the time might say thank you. But then forget what I did for you. Not relay on me as much. Oh I healed now I don’t need God as much. I found that would have been so true. I look at it for the other person God did not heal but took home. It has taught me. To not say why did you not heal them through you or the Doctors or Hospital treatment. I say now God knew best to take them home with him. I will see them when my time up on earth. Mine is not to question. Why God heal them. Trust God knows best for everything. Keep praying and trusting him for everything. I do that now. Thank him for every day he wakes me up to enjoy another day in his beautiful world. Give me the strength to enjoy it. In my prayers all of you at incourage. Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
I am thankful for your honesty with pain and hard, hard stuff. So needed in Christian community.
Ruth Mills says
I’ve been trying to name the character of God that would most minister in a particular need. For example the Great Physician for an illness, the Comforter for the grieving, the Stronghold for the scared… I will now be praying too for the presence of God foremost rather than outcomes. Thanks Michele for tweaking my perspective! Blessings!
Our 24 yr old son was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma in 2007. They told us there was.a 3-5% chance it could return and it is now metastic Stage 4 melanoma. It is inoperable and feels hopeless.
I have found your article puts into words what I have been pondering the last few weeks. It is a struggle to concede that physical healing is not the plan, it IS the plan in my heart. Selfishly I want our son not to suffer and to be with us. My hope is in Jesus. I know the end of the story is in heaven with Him. He wins! I find it hard to hope for that when hope means our son suffers. Being in this, the right now of it, is tormenting. If the cost of God being glorified is our son’s life, I will concede with a broken heart.
Beth Williams says
What a testimony you have!! This world is full of trials & tribulations. Like Jesus said “Take heart for He has over come this world.” We can’t put our hope in answers to prayers. We must hope in the person of Jesus. For He alone can give us a hope that surpasses all understanding. I have personally witnesses a lot of geriatric suffering with my parents. Tears were shed & prayers sent upward. Finally God answered my prayers & took the home with Him to end their suffering. Easter isn’t simply about Jesus’s resurrection. It begins with Maundy Thursday when He was on trial, Good Friday is the day He hung on cross for us & Saturday He spent in Hell. Then after His trials were over & He accomplished what only He could do for us did Resurrection happen & His glory restored.
This Testimony was so touching.
Thank you for it.
It touched my Heart for sure!
We know not what we will face
In this life…