Hope in Your Perseverance
“It’s not supposed to be this way” is a well-known quote. In fact, it is the title of an extremely great book I’ve been reading, by Lysa TerKeurst. This sentiment is often expressed when things aren’t falling into place as we had imagined. Frequently voiced when there were high expectations at stake. We tend to picture a scenario and play it over and over in our mind, until it becomes a part of us. Meaning there is no other option fathomable. Picturing a favorable outcome when used positively is an effective way to deal with oppressive thoughts tied to depression and anxiety. However, as with most concepts in life, there are exceptions to the rule. What happens when the scenario you’ve held onto so tightly comes all crashing down in front of you. The idea you so delicately built in your mind slowly disassembles bolt by bolt, ultimately leaving you hopeless.
The perfect picture you’ve dreamed of does not develop as it should have. The image is blurry, and in some circumstances it is entirely out of focus. So much that the entire vision you aimed for is completely lost. You’ve left no wiggle room for any artistic liberty. As you attempt to refocus, the things around you continue to crash, and you wonder whether you should give up. What happens when you know God has been at the center of it all, then all of a sudden you wonder – Where did He go?
As I attempted to prepare for my first event with my newly published book, the vision I built quickly became blurry. The Sunday before the event, only five days before go time, I experienced the most debilitating upper back pain. The pain that was just bothersome quickly morphed into a crippling injury. On Wednesday morning, I woke up in the early hours of the morning to take medication. My husband lifted me from bed into a sitting position, then that was it. I couldn’t move. Literally, my upper back seized up, and the pain associated with that was unbearable. I kept telling myself the pain would let up any minute. But as minutes turned into an hour, intense nausea kicked in, due to the level of pain I was experiencing. I sobbed into my pillow, asking my husband – what was I going to do? I couldn’t move! What would I do when I had to go to the bathroom? Being in this state made me feel so vulnerable and scared. Jon, my husband, stayed by my side the whole time. He went from lifting me out of bed, to helping me walk to the bathroom, then rushing downstairs to help the kids prep for school.
The pain wasn’t breaking as I voiced to Jon that I wasn’t sure how much more my body could take. As we contemplated making a trip to the emergency room, Jon grabbed my phone. At our church we have a ladies prayer group, and he decided it was time to reach out. Honestly, because of the intense pain, I hadn’t even thought of asking for prayer! The request for prayer was officially sent. As the messages confirming prayer started to flood my notifications, the pain subsided, and a warm sensation covered my entire body.
As Jon leaned in to hold my hand, and his face touched mine, we called on the name of Jesus together. We were in this together, all three of us – Jon, myself, and Jesus. I wept, not because of the pain, but from the palpable presence of Jesus in the midst of our room. In the middle of this storm, we were learning to cry out together. Our bedroom was transformed into a battle ground in those moments as we spiritually fought through these unusual circumstances. I’m a relatively healthy person. I couldn’t remember a time when I’d injured myself, there was simply no explanation. The release of my book “Perpetual Healing: Dance It Out Every Single Day” was finally at hand, and there I was struggling to move out of bed. The irony was almost laughable, but not quite. I just kept thinking – it’s not supposed to be this way.
As the day wore on, thankfully, the pain improved. My body allowed me to be more mobile, at least in comparison to that morning. It was a huge improvement. But the days following, the pain was still present and nausea had now become a close friend. My husband took time off work, and my older children helped tremendously. Although I was grateful for the improvements, I couldn’t help slipping into a melancholic state.
You see, for so long during the publication process I had pictured things rolling out a certain way. This was perhaps one of my biggest accomplishments. The book is a piece of my heart and soul, and to finally share it with the world was exciting. Not because of what I could ever possibly write, but to share this message God had placed on my heart. Except I was stuck in bed, and I felt like my body was failing me unexpectedly and without explanation.
The book of Ruth is one of my favorite lessons in the bible. As Naomi tries to survive the heartbreak and loss in her life, God is working something out she never could have imagined. Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, is faithful to her and to a God that she doesn’t even quite know yet. Most likely Naomi did not know beforehand the loss she was going to deal with, nothing could have prepared her for this. Many of us, if placed in her circumstances, may have decided to turn away from God completely. To lose your husband and two sons would shake everyone to their very core. Throughout the book you can feel the disappointment and anger she has towards God because of her circumstances. However, not once do we read that she turned away from God. In fact, after telling both her daughters-in-laws to leave, she declares and asks that the Lord bless them . These words come from a hurt woman, who clearly still believes in the power of God. But also a woman that has resolved – I guess it’s supposed to be this way for me!
If Naomi had not kept her eyes on God, then the plans He had for her wouldn’t have come to pass. Naomi kept her hope in God rather than the expectations that she had dreamed up. Little did she know the Author of her story was not finished, and if she could find the strength to hold onto Him, the reward would be great! Hope found in your expectations is setting yourself up for disappointment. But hope found solely in God fosters a spirit of perseverance. Hope and perseverance go hand in hand. When we persevere, we develop hope, and vice versa. Naomi may not have felt the hope she had inside, but because of her hope in God, she was able to persevere without even knowing it. Romans 5:3-5 explains this concept perfectly “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
As Naomi perseveres beyond the pain, she finds herself blessed beyond measure. Ruth marries Boaz, and they conceive Obed. Who, interestingly enough, is the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. The greatest story of love and hope that will ever be told was unfolding before her eyes. And she had a hand in it because of her perseverance and hope in a God who never leaves us.
We could all use a lesson from Naomi at some point in our lives. What she thought “was not supposed to be this way”, was exactly what God had intended. As we know that all things work together for our good, we can rest assured that our perseverance will not be fruitless. But like a tree that bears fruit, there are seasons of growing pains when all may seem lost, but later it will produce a great crop!