Hope in Suffering

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Back in college, at Northern Michigan University, I remember a dear friend, Morgan. She was a quiet, humble Art student, who’s face always shined a smile, laced with joy. She, just like any other college student in the U.P., loved exciting wilderness adventures and late nights laughing with friends, but her greatest love was Jesus. Whether she realized it or not, she had a knack for gathering people together, intently listening to them, and offering super-sized doses of encouragement.

Towards the conclusion of her college years, in November of 2005, Morgan was engaged to be married to her boyfriend of many years. But just a handful of months later, in April, Morgan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma—cancer in her lymph nodes. And so, her many regular trips to the doctor for Chemo Therapy just began.

In January of 2007, Morgan married her best friend. She enjoyed the day, as her husband wore his cowboy-style tuxedo, and she dawned a simple yet beautiful gown. The day was a glorious celebration of their long awaited union in marriage, but the stench of brokenness still filled the air. As everyone at the reception danced wearing hats to make light of Morgan’s lack of hair, they were all thinking about how Morgan had to travel back to the hospital the next day for an extended stay. There would be no extravagant trip to the Bahamas or a quiet winter cabin in the woods with her husband. No, not even twenty-four hours after her reception, Morgan journeyed back to the hospital for more treatments.

For her first year of marriage, she spent more days at the hospital than at home. Her husband spent each week, two hours away, at their home so that he could work and try to pay the bills. He would stay with her at the hospital on the weekends, only to leave in the wee hours of the morning on Mondays to get back to work. For a year, this was Morgan’s normal; this was how she lived.

Morgan experienced extreme suffering, and many times, felt deep frustration or even anger towards God. But Morgan’s perspective ran deeper than the suffering she experienced. Through it all, her deepest desire was that God would be praised. She realized life was not about her.

In January of 2008, just one year after marrying her best friend, Morgan passed on to glory. Although covered in sadness and joy, Morgan’s story shaped the lives of her family and friends, but to others, it was simply a stark representation of how sin causes deep, deep suffering in our lives and in the lives of those we love.

Sometimes we experience the hurtful consequences of our own sin; other times, it is the interworking of the sin that is woven within our culture and world that causes severe suffering in our lives.

Suffering proves to be a very real experience for each one of us, even though it is often manifested in different ways. Suffering is heavy. It is oppressively disheartening. It can seem unbearable. Many even view suffering as the absence of hope.

But hope is greater than suffering.

Hope is the perspective that something better is yet to come. Hope can exist in a new job, a spouse, a vacation, a financial gain, or an upcoming social event. Some hope in food, drink, wealth, or relationship, but it is glory that provides supreme hope, the glory that is to be revealed to us.

The hope of glory–which presently resides with those who have received Christ–encourages, empowers, and strengthens those who suffer. When we have been grasped tightly by this everlasting hope, it is always enough. We thrive in it; we rejoice in it; we rest in it.

As Morgan laid in her hospital bed, just moments prior to breathing her last, she asked for a fork because she always lived by the motto: “Save your fork, for the best is yet to come.”

Just as Morgan looked ahead to the glory of dwelling in the eternal presence of her Savior, it is the future grace of glory that steadily and confidently leads each of us through the sufferings of this present time.

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