Imagine it’s a Friday night like any other. Your husband, sick from a cold, went to bed early. So you decide to spend some time alone. You pick out a good bottle of wine and some scrap-booking supplies, and spend a quiet evening enjoying some Riesling, being with your thoughts, and reminiscing on family times through the photos laid out before you. Around two in the morning your evening of solace comes to an end. Since the better half isn’t feeling well, it will no doubt be you getting up early the next morning with your two little ones.
As you hit the landing of the two-story home, you look up the stairwell, and sitting there still as a statue in the bay window is Jesus. He doesn’t have the long blond hair and blue eyes your faithful Lutheran grandmother always led you to believe He did, but nonetheless you would know Him anywhere. Your knees buckle, your stomach lurches, and you get so dizzy you almost fall over. The ‘Jesus Christ?’ uttered under your breath is far too ironic. Your mind races – it doesn’t feel like the rapture, and since you don’t qualify for the next virgin birth – you know this can’t be good.
He reaches out for your hand, and you go to Him. He then speaks, as kindly as one would imagine Jesus would. He tells you that when you finish the walk up to the bedroom, the room you share with your beloved, your spouse will wake up and be unable to breathe. Before He can finish, you shoot Him a piercing glance, rip your hand from His, and bolt up the stairs. Your husband is fast asleep, and appears fine. You glance back out the bedroom door, and the Messiah is no longer sitting casually in the stairwell.
At this point you lay down convinced you have lost your mind in a postpartum state. Not a full hour goes by, and the baby needs a diaper change. It’s from in the baby’s room you hear it; a shrieking gasp of sorts. You hear it again, and can tell immediately it is a sound stemming from pain. Taking off running from one room to the next you see Him again in the middle of the hall. Your Savior, flesh and blood, in your very house. As if this moment in the hallway goes by in slow motion, you can see this time He is looking down; this time He is in tears. The word ‘NO’ belts from your mouth before you even reach the room.
Once back in your bedroom you again become aware of Christ’s presence, and you know that He is still weeping. Chaos follows: a frantic and fruitless effort to communicate, there is loss of bodily functions, a collapse onto the bathroom floor, your desperate 911 call, CPR, chest compressions, cries of mercy, last words to your beloved, blood gushing from what feels like everywhere, and finally the ambulance arrives. You are roughly ushered into the hallway of your own home. Wearing nothing more than an oversized white t-shirt you dive onto the carpet, hitting so hard your knees become rug burned. You cry out to the Abba Father in a screech that has never come from your body before . . . only to hear the sound echoed. You look to your left, and there on his knees screaming out the same prayer is your Redeemer. Jesus leans into you, embraces you tightly, and ever so faintly you hear him whisper in your ear, “In this too, there is hope.”
This story isn’t an actual re-telling of the night my husband died. Well, at least not the Jesus part. Jesus didn’t physically show up, hold my hand, warn me, or weep with me. February 5, 2011 in true detail looked a little more like this, and felt a little more like this. And yet, when I look back on this traumatic day, as well as the journey I’ve been on since that day, it is how I choose to see it. It is easier to find the message of hope, which I believe God is calling me to, within this context. After all, He is with us always until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Jesus Christ . . . with us . . . always. Even in death, divorce, suffering, illness, depression, sexual depravity, abuse, and addictions. With us always.
God allows suffering we cannot explain at times. At other times we choose our own paths of destruction. Both can cause horrible and unspeakable pain. When we find ourselves in this type of pain we must listen closely to what Jesus would say. My belief is He is inviting us to find hope. Isn’t it strange how in Romans 5:3-4 we see that suffering leads to endurance, endurance leads to character, and character leads to hope? We far too often fly by this. Whimsically reading quickly over this verse, as if it makes perfect sense, but I would ask you to look again. Take out ‘hope’, and finish the sentence without your preconceived notions of the Bible swaying your answer.
Suffering results in endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces . . . Strength? Perseverance? Wisdom? Understanding? Compassion? Even bitterness maybe?
Okay, so bitterness might be a little too dark for Paul’s message here, but do you see where I am going? Hope produced from suffering doesn’t seem the likely choice. It seems that hopelessness is far more appropriate. And yet, after my husband died I found myself hopeful. I felt called for the first time in my life. I felt called to write, to reach out, and to connect with others. I felt God was showing me hope in a hopeless situation. I felt Christ whispering to me, “In this too, there is hope”.
So where in your life is Christ asking you to see hope where you feel hopeless? In finding a relationship? In following a calling? In parenting struggles? In a church with religious confines that have your soul pained? In a broken friendship? Replace your feelings of darkness with that of light. Imagine Christ standing next to you in that place whispering to you, “In this too, there is hope.” Then find that hope, follow it, hold onto it, and stand back as God amazes you with what He had planned all along. The Kingdom Living that Christ desires for us is happening now . . . it’s happening all around us. And whether we like it or not, sometimes it’s suffering we need in order to find it.