Revive Our Hearts Radio

Hope When It Hurts, Day 3

Leslie Basham: Over many years of physical suffering, Kristen Wetherell has come to this conclusion.

Kristen Wetherell: Suffering and pain isn’t actually our biggest problem. Sinfulness is my greatest problem. That’s what God is saying to us here, that, “Your suffering is light and momentary in that you have a greater problem that I’ve come to take care of through the sacrifice of My Son. You are a sinner, and I’ve come to heal you from this great disease.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for November 22, 2017.

Today, two young women will give us some powerful perspective on suffering. Here’s Sarah Walton.

Sarah Walton: Oh Lord, for years I have prayed for answers, healing, and understanding in this suffering that You have allowed, yet they’ve seemed not to come. Many have prayed to You on our behalf as we have longed for the restoration of what’s been lost. By Your grace we have persevered through trial after trial, trusting that You would uphold us and bring forth good from all of our pain, but many answers we’ve hoped for haven’t come in the ways we desire.

The world’s solutions to our pain have left us discouraged, confused, and fighting hopelessness while the trials, burdens, questions, and uncertainties remain the same.

Lord, I have longed for, cried, and pleaded for You to bring us out from under the pain and heaviness of these trials into a place of abundance. I have asked You to lift these crushing burdens and carry us through the pounding waves and raging fires that threaten to consume our hope, testimony, and lives.

However, I have slowly come to realize that in my desire for answers, I have missed something far more wonderful. You have answered my prayers, though in very different ways than I expected. You have been near, intimately working deep within our hearts as we have laid down our hopes and desires of this world.

While You have chosen not to remove the heartache and overwhelming circumstances from our lives, You have done something greater. You have brought us into a place of abundance, a place of contentment and freedom, not in the form of the relief that I have been waiting for, but in the midst of the very trials I desire to be free from.

Lord, I think You have been teaching me that contentment is in the presence of Christ and not in the absence of pain.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: And that’s Sarah Walton, reading a prayer that she wrote in a book that she’s co-authored with Kristen Wetherell called, Hope When It Hurts.

I love that, Sarah, “You’ve been teaching me that contentment is in the presence of Christ and not in the absence of pain.”

If you’ve missed these last couple of days of the conversation I’ve been having with Sarah and Kristen, you’ll want to go back to ReviveOurHearts.com and pick up this story because that prayer that you wrote, Sarah, came out of a lot of desperate moments.

Sarah: Yes, heartache.

Nancy: Feeling, Where is God?

Sarah: Yes.

Nancy: Unanswered prayers, seemingly.

Sarah: Yes.

Nancy: So this is not something that’s just theory to you.

Sarah: No. Kristen and I have mentioned before that sometimes this feels like it was written out of blood. It was literally felt like we were giving of ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, whenever we wrote any of this because it was coming from a place of real struggle.

Nancy: And out of that struggle is coming life. And, in fact, the passage that your book is built on, 2 Corinthians 4 and 5, (and let me encourage you to open your Bible, if you can, to that passage while we have this conversation) is a passage that has helped to bring life and perspective to you and to Kristen.

Sarah: Yes.

Nancy: In fact, I want to just pick up at 2 Corinthians chapter 4. Toward the end of that chapter, verse 15, the apostle Paul has talked about the horrendous things he has been through, the affliction, the perplexity, the persecution, being struck down. But then he says in verse 15: “This is all for your sake”—those people in Corinthians, those sinning, carnal believers in Corinth. “This is for your sake”—other people who maybe are suffering things—“so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”

Kristen, as you’ve suffered with chronic, debilitating physical weakness and pain, and all that goes with that, how has this verse given you a perspective and ministered hope to you in your hurting?

Kristen: Well, suffering, as difficult as it is, is God’s grace. Suffering is an instrument of God’s grace. That’s something that I have to preach to myself often. And we can say that because we know what God is doing about our suffering. We know that He sent His Son so that suffering and death and sin would not have the final word.

So suffering, if it’s God’s instrument of grace, then what is He doing through it? I think we see in this verse that God is actually using our suffering and transforming it by His grace to be, not only transforming our inner being, but to be of use to others—to be of use to unbelievers, to be of use to believers in the Church.

And so it’s quite amazing when we see a believer trusting God in the midst of a lot of pain, enduring with joy—not just temporal happiness based on circumstances, but deeply seated joy.

Nancy: Have you known somebody like that that has been an encouragement in our own suffering?

Kristen: Sarah!

Nancy: You’ve been that to each other.

Kristen: Yes. This lovely woman sitting across from me, I have seen their family go through a lot, a lot of hard stuff. Sarah has four kids. She and Jeff are amazing parents, but they’ve been through a lot. And I look at Sarah, and I see how God’s grace is abounding in her suffering, how she’s joyful, how she has the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding to guard her heart and mind, how she’s still serving and encouraging other people.

I look at her, and I say, “That is God’s grace in her suffering.” He is using her suffering as an instrument of His grace to bring about in her Christlikeness. Praise God!

Nancy: Which has inspired you to press on.

Kristen: To press on, yes, and to have good courage.

Nancy: And to receive the same grace of God.

Sarah: Thank you.

Nancy: Oh, this is really precious, actually.

Sarah: I’m, like, going to burst into tears!

Nancy: Can you see, Sarah, in your suffering how God is using this in the lives of others that it becomes a gift to others—God’s grace, not that you’re the gift—but God’s grace through you?

Sarah: Yes.

Nancy: Obviously, it has impacted Kristen.

Sarah: Yes. Suffering has a way of throwing us into worlds that we would never have put ourselves in otherwise. And for us, that’s put us into a little bit of the special-needs’ world. It’s put us into the chronic pain world. It, for a time, put us in the job loss, financial struggle—well, we’re still there a little bit.

We don’t naturally go there, but suddenly we can find ourselves there, and the blessing of God using that is: Everybody needs to know Christ. It can be easy to just try to stay comfortable in our own little bubble and in our comfortable lives, but suddenly, when we find ourselves frazzled and uncomfortable, and we’re thrown into these new territories, that becomes opportunities for us to show God to people who are searching for meaning in their pain.

So it ends up blessing me. It ends up blessing you in return when it feels really pointless at times, and it feels very hopeless at times, but God is so good to, when I need it the most, to put someone in my path, or someone sends me a message about how much they’re being encouraged watching us hold fast to Christ in our suffering.

I think that is probably the thing that encourages me the most, because it lifts my eyes above myself, and it makes me realize that my pain is not about me. I think we all need to know that. Our eyes need to be off of ourselves. If it’s on ourselves, which pain has a way of really putting it on ourselves if we don’t turn to Christ, but as He helps us lift our eyes off of ourselves, we see above the world. We start seeing eternally, and that changes every aspect. Then we in return get blessed how God is using our pain in the lives of those around us.

Nancy: Not only using your pain, but using the message of God’s comfort.

Sarah: Yes, exactly.

Nancy: Which, if you go back three chapters in 2 Corinthians 1, Paul says, “Having himself suffered a lot, the God of all comfort has comforted him so that he can comfort others with the comfort that he has received from the Lord.”

So there again, you see it’s not about me ultimately. It’s about God’s glory, God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness being magnified through my life, through my neediness. Because how would we really know God’s comfort if we never were uncomfortable, if we were never discomforted, if we were never in pain?

Sarah: Right.

Nancy: Sarah, your mother was telling me just before we started recording here that the two of you shared at a woman’s event in your church a week or so ago. She said, “I watched other women in that audience just in tears.”

I’m sure they were touched by your story of God’s faithfulness in and through your suffering, but I guarantee you, there were women sitting in that audience whose suffering you don’t even know anything about, maybe nobody else really knows, or few know. They’re having excruciating challenging circumstances, and they’re ready to throw in the towel. But they hear you stand up and say, “This is hard. Life hurts. But it's redeeming this life, and there is hope, and you can press on.” And they’re saying, “This is a lifesaver, a life preserver to a hurting soul.”

Sarah: Yes.

Nancy: So, “This is for you,” Paul is saying, and that’s really what you’re saying.

Kristen: The Church is God’s gift. The Body of Christ is such a gift. To be able to look at each other and say, “Don’t give up. Press on. You can—not because you’re strong, but because you have a strong God.”

Sarah: So much of what people notice is joy when they see you losing something in life but you have joy. That is screaming to the world: “I have greater gain in Christ.” And that is what I think I have gained the most through my trials, I have come to love Him more.

I never would have thought that this much pain and suffering would make me love God more, but it’s made me know who He is, really, for the first time. Because otherwise, I want to be comfortable in this world. I want the financial comfort. I want the pain-free body. I want to feel successful. Who doesn’t? That’s natural in all of us.

But when that’s gone, then we have the opportunity to see that there’s something greater. As we start to actually experience that, the joy and the peace, as Kristen says, is beyond our understanding. You find such gain in that. You hear people say, “I would never trade the pain I’ve gone through for anything, because I’ve gained so much in it. I would never give up what I have gained in knowing Christ and now longing to be with Him more than this earth.”

So it’s really His grace, which is what Kristen was talking about, the grace in His allowing suffering in our lives.

Nancy: And that something greater is exactly what Paul talks about at the end of chapter 4 here. It’s a really familiar passage, but I think you two women have put new light on it and helped me to see it with new ideas. Let me just read this paragraph, and then, Kristen, I’m going to ask you to just talk about this out of your own life and your own journey.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away [this physical, human body—and really, the healthiest person this could be said of, too—our outer self is wasting away, and it’s certainly true when there’s chronic physical pain and illness], our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient [they’re fading, they’re fleeting, they’re moving away], but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16–18).

Now, first of all, I’ve got to ask you, Kristen, when it talks about this “light momentary affliction.” As you think about Lyme disease, and, Sarah, you with physical disease, family challenges, a child’s neurological issues, financial issues—things that, collectively, the two of you have faced—does it seem to you to be light or momentary? When you’re in the midst of your affliction, do you say, “Oh, this is a breeze?”

Kristen: Nope!

Nancy: How do you even read this? Does this makes sense humanly? How do you come to see it as “light and momentary”? Or, could you feel—and I don’t mean any disrespect here at all—that Paul is kind of mocking? He’s not, but how can he say this is “light and momentary”?

Kristen: No. That is definitely the question that this verse causes us to ask.

Nancy: You say momentary—it’s not like it’s gone in two weeks.

Kristen: Right.

Nancy: It’s two years, or twenty years.

Kristen: It could be a lifetime.

Nancy: For some people, a lifetime. Right.

Kristen: Well, in reading this at first, it was like you said, “Is Paul mocking?” Because it almost sounds like it’s belittling the pain and the suffering. But we have to go to the next part of the verse which is talking about “the eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

When you’re comparing that glory to the “light and momentary affliction,” it is indeed light and momentary. So we know that whatever we’re going through, as horrible as it is, it will not last forever. That’s how we have to fix our eyes on glory.

But I think, really, the root of this verse starts at 16 where Paul is saying, “Our outer nature is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed.”

It starts there because suffering and pain isn’t actually our biggest problem. It’s a problem. It’s not just light and momentary. It’s big, especially for people whose world it’s rocking.

We have a friend who lost her hearing. She’s a young mom, and she needs her hearing, but she lost it. And she said at one point, “Sinfulness is my greatest problem.” And I remember thinking, What? How can you say that? You’re losing your hearing?

But that’s what Paul is saying here, that’s what God is saying to us here. “Your suffering is light and momentary in that you have a greater problem that I’ve come to take care of through the sacrifice of My Son. You are a sinner, and I’ve come to heal you from this great disease.”

So I think that has helped me, thinking about my friend Carrie’s comment. That has helped me to look at the Word and to say, “This really stinks, and we’re not going to shove this aside as belittling it, but I am going to look at that eternal weight of glory, what God is producing in me through His Holy Spirit, which is hating my sin because my suffering is pointing to my sin and all the emotions that it raises up, all the anger, and pointing me in what He’s going to do and ridding me of that on that day of glory and into eternity.”

Nancy: As I’m listening to you, I’m thinking about hearing Joni Eareckson Tada talk. I’m going to paraphrase what she says. But she’s been for fifty years a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair with just limited motion, and a lot, a lot of physical issues. She’s been on the broadcast a number of times, our listeners are familiar with her.

But I remember hearing her say that her greatest anticipation about getting to heaven isn’t about being able to walk and use her hands and her arms and to have a healed body. That, I’m sure, she’s anticipating. But she said, “Even more than that, what I’m anticipating is being done with this body of sin and my angry, petulant, defensive, bitter stuff inside of me.”

We look at Joni Eareckson Tada, and we think, She’s an angel! But she’s been so refined in the fire, she just seems like the epitome of sweetness and sanctification. But she knows her own heart better than we do, and she says, “I want to be done with the sin that’s inside this body.”

And I think that’s what you’re saying. This outer man is perishing. It’s wasting away. But inside God is doing something that is cleansing and is purifying.

Kristen/Sarah: Yes.

Nancy: So as you think, Sarah, about the suffering that you and your family have walked through with health and other issues, do you have some glimpses of how God is using that to sanctify, to purify, to do a good work in your inner person?

Sarah: Yes.

The first word that comes to my mind is loss. The thought of loss in our life, which, that, to me, encompasses a lot of what we’ve gone through—all different levels, all different kinds. Sometimes it feels like one after another.

When I look at the struggles that I face . . . Actually, just this last week I had a really low week. This doesn’t end. This is a constant battle. Last week I was just feeling just the freshness of discouragement over family stuff. I have an ankle issue that I can no longer do what I love, and it’s continuing to get worse. I can’t run. I can’t exercise on it. And that was a part of me that I really enjoyed.

So as I look at life and I feel like, “God, You’ve taken so much away.” It feels cruel sometimes. Sometimes it just feels like, “Why again? Why something else? Why does it feel like I have a target on my back?”

Nancy: I just wrote this book for You!

Sarah: Exactly! But as I look at that loss, and as I was saying before, when I see the contrast of the gain and how much I long for eternity, not so much anymore just for freedom from pain and freedom from what’s hard, but to be with Christ. That is what heaven is. It’s to be in the glory of Christ. If we’re only going for freedom from our pain, we won’t . . . John Piper (I think) has said, “You won’t want to be in heaven if you’re only there for freedom from what’s hard in life. If we don’t want to be there for Christ, why would we want to be there?”

So, that is what He’s done. He’s allowed stripping away of one thing after another, stripping away of my desires in life, of my physical abilities, stripping away my confidence as a mom, my talents, He’s taken away.

So, as each one of those things have been stripped away, I have to ask, “Well then, what does He have for me that is better than this? Where do I go then?”

That forces me into the Word more. As He draws me to Himself, I start feeling—gradually, it’s not always this ah-ha moment where you realize, “Oh, this is worth it!” It’s gradual. You look back, and you think, Wow! Where He has taken me from! How much I loved this world. I never would have thought I did at that point, but I really did. I really loved the world far more than Him.

But the more He’s taken away those things, it’s made me realize that that is really what I would have really wanted Him to do if I had known what He would give me instead. We just don’t naturally go there. In His love for us, He takes away what’s comfortable sometimes. He takes away what we think we need.

And then all we have is we see Him, and we realize He is all we need because He starts to fill us with the purpose—not our purpose anymore but His purpose—and He starts to fill us, not with our comfort but with His comfort, and not our joy but His joy. As those start to fill what we have lost, then those shrink in comparison.

Which is why Paul can say that, “For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

He’s still living at this point. It’s not like he’s in heaven with the eternal weight of glory. He’s saying it, but he’s so confident in it at that point because he’s realizing, even in the loss he’s experienced, he’s gained so much in the eternal weight of glory that cannot compare to what he’s lost in this life.

Nancy: Kristen, I want you to just speak for a moment to someone who’s listening right now who’s really hurting, and their eyes are filled with tears, and they can hardly look up, and they feel like the weight is just too great to bear. They don’t feel like they can put the next foot in front of the other. You have felt that way at times.

Kristen: Yes.

Nancy: Sarah has felt that way at times.

Just speak a word of encouragement. Now, if they want a lot of encouragement, they can get this book and have thirty days of heart encouragement from God’s Word. But, what would God put on your heart right now for that woman?

Kristen: Yes. Friend, this brokenness and this place of need, it’s exactly where you need to be. You think that you need to be strong, and you think that you have to have all the answers to come. But you don’t.

In our suffering, it can feel like God is farthest away. It can feel like He’s not near, like He doesn’t care, like He doesn’t love you. But, in fact, He has you exactly where He wants you, and that’s to see that you need Him, badly, eternally, right now, and forever.

Even if you feel like You can’t trust Him, ask Him to help you, at that basic level of, “God, I can’t even trust You. I need You to provide that for me.” Ask Him. Pour out your heart to Him.

Our pastor just pointed out that the Bible is soaked in tears. Pour out your heart to Him because He’s not going to shove you away.

That’s what I would say. He’s a God who has come near to you through His Son, and in Christ, you will find a suffering Savior who gets it. So I would say, “Come to Him because He really has what you need, and in your weakness, that’s actually exactly where God wants you to be, dependent on Him.”

Leslie: That’s Kristen Wetherell giving us powerful perspective on the suffering we go through.

Kristen has written a book with Sarah Walton called, Hope When It Hurts. They’ve been talking with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth about it today, and we’d love to put a copy of that book in your hands.

When you support Revive Our Hearts with a financial gift of any amount, we’d like to send you a copy. Your gift will help this ministry spread more hope from God’s Word to women who need to hear it.

When you donate any amount, ask for the book Hope When It Hurts. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to donate and get the book.

Tomorrow, Nancy will help you better understand how to be thankful in all circumstances. Now, she’s back with one of today’s guests.

Nancy: Here’s Sarah Walton again, expressing her heart in prayer to the Lord about her current circumstances but the future hope she has in Christ.

Sarah: Lord, You can change my circumstances in a moment if You choose to. You can restore my health, heal my children, free my son from the bondage of his illness, remove the hurt and confusion in my other children, restore the home and the income that we walked away from, and provide the answers that we pray for. But, for now, You have chosen not to.

Lord, don’t waste a moment of this pain. Instead of letting me fix my eyes solely on my desired outcome and change of circumstances, help me to seek and rest in Your provision, guidance, nearness, and heart-changing purposes. In the moment and place where You have put me, I trust that it’s in this wilderness journey that I will see Your faithful provisions and nearness most clearly.

Father, I’m longing for the day when I will be in Your presence for eternity, but, for now, help me find rest in the here and now. You are my place of abundance, and in You there is contentment, freedom, rest, peace, hope, and joy. Even as these waves crash and these fires rage, You are my rock. Please be my rock. Thank You. Amen.

Nancy: Amen.

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

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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