Hope When It Hurts, Day 2

Leslie Basham: Kristen Wetherell has gone through a lot of physical suffering in her life, and she’s gained this important perspective.

Kristen Wetherell: The gospel, it tells us why suffering is, and it tells us what God is doing about it. We know from the whole Bible—from God’s salvation story—that suffering is a result of sin entering the world, but we see what God has planned, from eternity past, to do to restore His people to Himself and to make everything right again.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for November 21, 2017.

Nancy: I’m so thankful to have two new friends—Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton—here with me in the studio this week. Kristen and Sarah, you’ve lived a lot of life. In fact, somebody sitting in the engineer’s room was just telling me before this conversation that one of the amazing things about your story is that you’re relatively young.

You don’t expect some of this kind of story of chronic pain and suffering. You think that’s somebody who’s older, who’s got that story. But I think a lot of younger women—and older women as well—are going to relate to your story.

So, thank you for joining us. I want to say “thank you” for writing this book called Hope When it Hurts. But in order to write it, you have had to be living it. I want to thank you for embracing the journey God has had you both on, and the challenge of the chronic pain, and for then being willing to share out of your journey with others.

Kristen: Thanks, Nancy.

Sarah: Oh, thank you. It’s really been God’s goodness. It’s not been easy.

Nancy: Both of those can be true, right? It’s not easy, but you see God’s goodness. [The ladies agree.] I think sometimes there are aspects of God’s goodness that we never experience as deeply as we do when it’s not easy—when it’s really hard.

But when it’s really hard, isn’t that when we’re tempted to wonder, Is God really being good? How can those two go together? Right? But they do!

Kristen: They do. Suffering causes us to ask those (I’ll use the word) existential questions. For certain people, “Is there a God? And, if there is a God, what is He up to?”

For believers, “Is God really good?” God says that He’s good, that He’s faithful, that He’s love. “How does this line up with my experience? Because everything feels so bad right now.”

So it really does help us to walk by faith and not by sight . . . and, really, to look at what God has done for us at the cross (which I’m sure we’ll get into today) and to gaze there.

Nancy: And for those who didn’t hear the conversation yesterday, let me say first of all, go to ReviveOurHearts.com and pull up the program (the audio or the transcript) from yesterday’s program, because these young women have a really powerful life message.

We’ll talk more about this today and tomorrow, but it involves a lot of chronic pain—both of you with this Lyme disease diagnosis—and a lot of physical weakness. And then family challenges, child challenge, financial issues at one point.

Both of you have packed a lot of hurdles into a short lifetime but—you didn’t really have a choice, right? God was writing your story!

Kristen: Yes. Right.

Sarah: That’s for sure!

Nancy: And out of that you’ve been driven to the Word . . . and out of that has come this beautiful book. It’s a beautiful-looking book, but it’s beautiful content in the book. The book is called Hope When t Hurts.

The subtitle is Biblical Reflections (there are thirty short biblical reflections) To Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering. I’m glad you made these short! Because I think when you’re exhausted, you don’t have the time or the energy—or maybe even the heart—to read something that’s long.

You can pick and choose between these. You’ve each written about half of them, and they talk about each of your stories. I want to read just the first paragraph of the introduction to get us started, and then we’re going to jump into God’s Word to give us that perspective that we need.

But you start by saying,

“Life hurts! We’re no strangers to this fact; it’s why we wrote this book . . . and not simply because life hurts, but because there’s hope even when it does!”

Now, that first sentence, two words. How can anybody disagree with that? “Life hurts!” And some people might say it this way: “Life stinks!”

Kristen: Yes.

Nancy: I mean, sometimes it’s just really hard! I know we have listeners today who are in the throes of deeply painful life circumstances. But, somehow, through your hurt, through your pain, you have come to find hope.

One of the passages that God has used to do that is 2 Corinthians, chapters 4 and 5. We read that text yesterday. Today we want to start just unpacking it a little bit at a time and, as we do, I’m going to kind of just read one or two or three verses at a time, and then I want to listen to the two of you talk about what it is about those verses that gives you perspective and hope in your suffering, and maybe to illustrate it out of your life. So, let me just pray.

Lord, I thank You for these young women. I thank You for the power of Your grace in their lives, and I thank You for what Your Word is doing in them to give them perspective and hope and to help them see Your purposes in their suffering.

Although, we all think we’re just seeing the hem of the garment of Your ways. We don’t know all Your purposes, ever, ’til we see You—but we get a glimpse of it. And that has given these women joy in the midst of a really difficult physical journey, and other challenges as well.

So as we open Your Word, I pray that You’ll give hope to other pilgrims who are struggling, who are hurting, or who love someone who is—a son or a daughter or a mate or a friend who’s really hurting—and they don’t know how to encourage them.

Would You encourage us all with Your grace and Your Word, I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

So if you’re where you can grab a Bible, I want you to open to 2 Corinthians chapter 4. We’ve got our Bible open here on the table in the studio. The apostle Paul starts by saying God has given us this ministry we have, He’s been merciful to us, and we’re not going to lose heart—no matter what happens to us. We don’t lose heart!

Would you all say that there’s one thing in particular (I’m sure there are many!), but could you point to one thing in your journey that has helped you not to throw in the towel when it was so hard you felt like you couldn’t keep pressing on?

You wanted to lose heart, you were discouraged, but God used a moment, or something from His Word, or something from this passage to just give you hope.

We’re going to look at the details as we go on, but how have you not just given up in the really hard journey? I’ll let you start, Kristen.

Kristen: Sure. Nancy, I remember a particular moment, back about five years ago when I was actually living in New York City. I had just come out of school. I had studied musical theater, so I moved there to see if that’s what God had for me—the performing arts.

I remember a particular moment where I had been going through a very difficult time in many ways, but it was also the start of my chronic pain symptoms getting worse and worse—to the point that I couldn’t climb the subway stairs without pain, and my jobs were very difficult to get through.

I remember opening the Word and reading the Word and thinking, I have never experienced before that Christ is sufficient for me.

Nancy: You probably knew it.

Kristen: I knew it. I had read it, learned it, and I believed it. But I’d never experienced it. I had never grasped it. So I think getting to a place of kind of hitting rock-bottom (and at that point I didn’t know that things were going to get worse), but that was kind of my rock-bottom at that point. I could actually take hold of the Word and read it and say, “Jesus is enough for me.”

I can believe that when circumstances are not going my way, and my health is failing me. I have no idea what’s going on. My family is thirteen hours away, and I really don’t know very many people here. I’m not rooted in a church. I was lonely. I was hurting.

So to be able to say, “God’s Word is enough for me and Jesus is enough for me,” that was kind of a profound moment, where I actually experienced this gospel hope that I had believed.

Nancy: And somebody has said that you’ll never know that Christ is all you need until He’s all you have. And when He’s all you have, then you really will know that He is all you need. And so, what was theology in your head—up to that point—became something very necessary and life-giving for you in that moment.

I think even that this may be that moment for someone who’s listening to this conversation today. So . . . the sufficiency of Christ.

How about you Sarah? Is there something that has kept you, at a key moment, from losing hear, kept you from saying, “I’m chucking all this! I’m out of here!”

Sarah: Yes, I’ve had several! I will say probably the one that comes to mind the most actually happened right after we had finished writing the book. The weekend we received the manuscript (we had just finished it, and we had to proofread it) my husband lost his job.

That morning, my husband and I had been praying together—desperately, “Lord, we need You to do something in our lives!” At that point, we were so low already. We had all this stuff going on with my son—a lot of behavioral issues, neurological stuff.

I was battling my health issues with Lyme disease and trying to deal with all the kids’ health issues—various issues with Lyme disease—every day. I was so discouraged. And that morning I remember thinking, I just know that He’s going to provide somehow!

Well, an hour later my husband got a call that he had lost his job.

Nancy: Not the answer you were hoping for!

Sarah: Not the answer I was looking for, and I didn’t know what to do. I really struggled in the deepest parts of my soul. I especially want people listening to know that we both know for sure that, just because we have hope, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t ache and it doesn’t hurt in a way that you sometimes don’t even know what to do.

I remember, in this moment and the days following that, they were really low days. They were days that I wrestled with things—even with what we’d already gone through—I wrestled with things that I had not had to wrestle with. It just took it to a new level.

My husband was low, we were both low, so we didn’t have either of us to pick each other up. I didn’t write anything for about two weeks, because I knew anything I wrote would be hypocritical at that point.

I went out for coffee by myself one day, because I just needed some alone time. I remember sitting in that coffee shop, and I sat with my computer and I just wanted to write something down. I just needed to get thoughts out of my head.

Suddenly, I started writing and out came this (it didn’t even feel like I was writing it) testimony of God’s goodness. It almost was strange to me that that’s what I was writing. But by the end of it, I just was struck by how much God had done through the worst of circumstances in my life.

And then I had to read through this whole book . . .

Nancy: . . . that you had written . . . about just circumstances.

Sarah: Exactly. I had to read about bitterness and loneliness and confusion when God doesn’t seem good. All of these topics that felt really real again. Every chapter I read, I was a ball of tears!

It was just like God was speaking to me with words that I didn’t feel like I had even been a part of. It was a balm—again, like you said—to our weary hearts, to read how God is faithful.

I got to the end of the book, and Kristen’s last chapter talks about how we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, to be held accountable for what we’ve done in the body, whether good or evil.

And at first it seems a little odd, like the last chapter—you know, to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. But it actually was a beautiful ending, and to me it raised my eyes again to say, “God has given me this life to live. He has allowed these (for whatever reason, I don’t understand) circumstances that are so far beyond what I feel like I can handle. But He has allowed it because He knows that He is using it for His purposes and His bigger story of redemption in my life—and beyond me.

And so, to know that I’m going to stand one day before Him, and He is going to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”I will want to have been standing before Him and hear those words knowing that I had pressed on even when it felt like there was no hope left in life.

Anyway, I just remember reading through that book and saying, “This book itself is a testimony of God taking a broken, awful situation and making something beautiful out of it!”

Nancy: Right.

Sarah: He’s doing that every day. Now, it doesn’t always mean a book. But a mom that’s at home with her kids that are struggling . . . You can’t see it in the moment, but sometimes there is something that is deeper being done in those children watching that mom struggle and cling to Jesus that she can’t see in the moment.

I have to do that every day. I don’t feel like my kids are catching on. They see me struggling, but I have to trust that God is making something beautiful out of something that does not seem beautiful right now.

Nancy: And what it seems that God did for you in that moment—and what He’s done for you both, and for all of us in so many moments when we’re tempted to lose heart—is where this passage, 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 takes us. It is to lift our eyes up above our circumstances and ahead, beyond the immediate.

So, up to Christ—seated at the right hand of the throne of God—and ahead, to the end of the story. Of course, we can’t see any of that clearly, but by faith we see. That’s what gives us the courage Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 to press on when it just is so hard.

And how thankful we are that Paul wrote this record, under the inspiration of the Spirit, out of his own sufferings, out of his own affliction, to give us hope. Now, you’re writing, building on what Paul said, and applying it in your own lives, and you’re giving some other pilgrims hope in their journey.

So let’s move into that, 2 Corinthians chapter 4, and starting in verse 6, [it] talks about, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 

You both talk in this book about how, when you suffer, you have to have Jesus, and you have to have the gospel. Now, Kristen, I think a lot of people think, “The gospel? Well, that’s what I needed when I got saved.”

Kristen: Right.

Nancy: How does the gospel make any difference in the here-and-now, the suffering, the chronic pain—these issues? How does the gospel speak to that?

Kristen: Paul is so clear. Before he moves into the practical side of what it looks like to not lose heart and to be of good courage, he starts with the gospel. He’s building us a foundation. He’s saying, “This is not something that is just a one-time deal, right? It infuses everything that God ordains for us and every way that we respond.”

What I like to think about when I look at this is that the gospel, it tells us why suffering is, and it tells us what God is doing about it. We know from the whole Bible, from God’s salvation story, that suffering is a result of sin entering the world.

And I always clarify this, because it doesn’t necessarily mean that your suffering is a result of your sin. It doesn’t mean that you did something bad and now God’s punishing you. In fact, the opposite in the gospel, which I’m sure we’ll get to later.

But because of the Fall, because of what happened in the Garden, we have sin. And sin has caused a breaking of everything: our bodies, our minds, certainly our hearts and our souls. We are tempted, and we do give into sin.

But suffering is a result of sin entering the world, and so things are broken. But we see what God has planned from eternity past to restore His people to Himself and to make everything right again.

He’s sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to heal us from sin—to save us from this great disease of the soul. But also He promises that one day He’s going to wipe every tear from our eyes and that there will be no more pain and no more suffering and no more death!

It’s an incredible thing when you have the gospel—call it a “lens”—through which we view everything. It infiltrates and saturates everything. It’s changed our lives! And it’s this light that God, through His Holy Spirit, has enabled us to see who this Jesus is, and to bring us to faith in Him.

That’s something that Sarah and I have been praying, that through this book men and women will see this beautiful light of the glory of Christ and will want Him! That people will say, “I want You as my Lord and Savior, because You’re the only One who is my hope!”

Nancy: In fact, that’s one of the messages that comes out in this passage—and in what you’ve written and experienced. We have this weakness. Let’s go on to verse 7: “We have this treasure [the glory of God, the beauty of Christ] in jars of clay [that’s us!], to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

You demonstrate how, in our weakness—in our fragility and our suffering—God puts something beautiful in us to transform us and to give beauty and the gospel to others.

Sarah: If you think of yourself as a jar of clay . . . which, if you’re in pain of any sort or suffering in general, it shows your “cracks” very quickly—whether it’s sin or . . .

Nancy: . . . your fragility and weakness.

Sarah: Yes. How vulnerable we are to everything. Until something hits us, it’s very easy to live thinking, That’s not going to happen to me. We can live as though this world is our home.

But as we start feeling the effects of the jars of clay that we are—and cracks enter into our lives—it’s not until then that we’re faced with this crossroads. Either I’m going to fight really hard to try to be strong myself . . . (Which the Lord, I found, often allows just enough so that.) I can’t do that!

Nancy: Wow. And that’s a good thing. 

Sarah: Yes, it is a good thing. It’s His grace; it’s His severe mercy that He allows that. That is really where we start seeing this treasure come out, as you start feeling your own weakness and you start having to put into practice the gospel, the gospel lens.

This is practical. This is every day, in a very practical way—whether you’re at work, whether you’re at home, no matter what is going on—with that gospel lens . . . No matter who's around or what is happening . . . It changes everything!

Let’s think about my weakness at home. I’m at my house with my children, and my body’s hurting. I’m feeling anxious because I feel like I can’t take care of them. My son is screaming and throwing a tantrum. My other kids are screaming at each other. Everybody’s a wreck!

Right then, the anxiety’s out the roof at that point. I can start feeling like, “Everything is pointless! Why me?” I can go down this path of a miserable pity party. That’s always a temptation. But the truth is, as I change my focus to the gospel lens, then I start to realize and remember that God has ordained this situation for me.

He has chosen me; He has chosen my children. He knew we would be sick; He knew they would be sick. He is there with me in that moment. If we believe that He never leaves us or forsakes us, then—no matter what we are enduring in that moment—He’s Sovereign over it. He is with us in strength, and He promises to equip us with what we need in that moment.

So I may not feel strong, myself, and I may be battling this anxiety. I may look at my circumstances and think, Well, this sure looks hopeless right now! But if I focus on the truth, and I have this in front of me again, that, “I am a jar of clay!” . . . (I’m really a fool to think I’m anything other than that!) 

God in His mercy is reminding me in that moment, I’m a jar of clay but He’s chosen me to display this power of the gospel. I can press on through that day. I can choose to trust Him. I can choose to go and do what I need to do with my children, even though I don’t feel like it in that moment.

And then, not only is that strengthening my own soul and teaching me to rely on Him, but others look and they see your life, and they think, Well, I don’t think I could do that! or Where is she getting that? Why is she smiling? How does she have any joy in her life?”

That is giving testimony to this gospel that we are proclaiming. And so, that’s really how it comes out, and the more cracks we have, the brighter it shines.

Nancy: We are weak, but He is strong. Not I, but Christ. That becomes our testimony. And Paul, then, moves on in this passage to his own experience, which is—he’s not preaching about storms from standing on the shore. He’s out there in those storms!

He says in verse 8–9, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

And, Kristen, as you’ve experienced some of this—being afflicted, being perplexed, being persecuted In a sense, struck down by life’s circumstances, by health issues, by things that you couldn’t comprehend (God’s incomprehensible providences). How do you walk through that? How could Paul say what he did, and how can you say in the midst of that affliction, “I’m afflicted, but I’m not crushed. I’m perplexed, but I’m not driven to despair. I’m not forsaken, I’m not destroyed.”

Kristen: Right, that was my question when I got to the text, “Paul, how can you say this?!” This is not easy to say, right? Just the other week, my husband and I had some—call it perplexing—circumstances arise that, actually, had nothing to do with chronic pain and Lyme disease.

The tables were very much turned on a situation, and I found myself so angry, so resentful toward certain people involved. I wouldn’t say I was so directly toward the Lord, but I was just completely perplexed about what was going on.

I feel this way every time the pain returns. I had plans for the day, and I end up laying on the couch, instead, with ice on my knee or something. Looking at these verses, it’s quite amazing, because I see Jesus and His experience in the incarnation when He walked the earth in human form, as God—the God-Man. I see Him in here.

We go into further detail in the chapters about each of these specific things—they’re broken down into each chapter. But we look at Christ. I fix my eyes on Jesus.

Like the other week, I was angry and feeling bitter, and I thought about all that He endured to go to the cross. He did not have a comfortable, everything-laid-out-just-so experience. He trusted the Father and He went. Scripture says He set His face to Jerusalem, and He went.

Nancy: Knowing what He faced there. . .

Kristen: Yes, He knew. He knew what He was going to face, and He knew that it would be the hardest and most painful thing ever. So I look at the cross, and I think, Man, Jesus was truly afflicted in every way. He knew the crushing of God’s wrath that He took for me, and for everyone who would trust Him.

He was perplexed. At one point He did say, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?”—when God had turned His face away. There was an abandonment that I will never know now because I will be with Him forever. 

SoI look at the cross. I think this helps me to look through my circumstances and to look at the cross and to say, “This doesn’t make everything hunky-dory and take it away, but this gives me the strength.” Because I know that Jesus’ life is in me—which Paul says later—the strength to carry on, the strength to be of good courage and not to lose heart.

Nancy: That’s the message of God’s Word to suffering saints—today—who are listening to this conversation. At whatever point you are in your journey, that you do not have to lose heart, you can be of good courage because Christ has been there before you. He has been there for you, and there is grace and sufficiency in Christ to move through this situation, and in the midst of it, to glorify Him.

Well, the clock is going so quickly! We’re going to pick up this conversation tomorrow. I hope you’ll join us here on Revive Our Hearts. But I also hope that you’ll pick up—at least—a copy of this book, and maybe purchase another one at our store that you could share with a hurting friend.

It’s called Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering. It's written by two young women who have been there, are there, are living this message today—as we speak.

We’ll be glad to send you one copy of this book as our way of saying “thank you” when you make a donation of any amount to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Just give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, and be sure to ask for a copy of the book Hope When It Hurts. If you’d rather, you can visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

I hope you’ll be sure to join us tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts as we continue this conversation with Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton on finding God’s grace in the midst of pain.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to offer you hope. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

Join the Discussion