While I was curled up on the couch one Sunday morning, reeling and crying in pain from recent surgery, my concerned husband asked what he should ask the church to pray for me. Our church has a time of “Praise, Prayer, and Sharing” when parishioners share prayer requests and praises. As an elder, he would be leading this time of prayer.
“Hope,” I cried.
Then I told him not to say that or they would think my faith was faltering. I meant hope that the pain would go away and I’d wake up one morning not feeling terrible.
My husband simply asked for prayer that my recovery would “turn a corner.”
He returned home with a gift bag from the sweet woman who sends get-well cards and gifts when anyone at church is ill. I opened the bag and pulled out a coffee mug decorated with the word “HOPE”! When I thanked her for the “cup of hope” and told her the backstory, she said she prays over what gift to give. She had others to choose from but the Lord told her this was the one for me.
I felt the Lord's assurance I needed to keep leaning on Him to get me through the pain. I’d like to say I felt better the next day, but the pain was still there day after day. After a brief reprieve, the pain returned even as I write this article of encouragement.
It’s not my first encounter with pain. I’ve had breast cancer surgery three times, chronic back pain since I was a young girl, and was recovering from a concussion when the pain started that led to the latest surgery.
Since you’re reading this blog, you probably have a pain that won’t go away too, or you know someone suffering. Pain can be debilitating and demoralizing and tests our faith that we're ever going to get better—maybe even testing our faith in God.
Not all pain is physical—mental or spiritual anguish is painful. There’s no benefit in comparing our degree of pain with someone else’s pain—pain hurts and we just want it gone. How do we survive pain that is unrelenting and unforgiving?
6 Ways God Can Help Us Remain Hopeful
1. Cling to verses of hope. After surgery, my pastor came to pray with us and the Lord gave him Jeremiah 33:3 to share with me. I repeatedly prayed that verse. It’s reassuring to remember where our hope comes from even when the pain is so bad we can’t read our Bible.
“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word” (Ps. 119:114).
“Yes, my soul, finds rest in God; my hope comes from him” (Ps. 62).
2. Let others help. Friends, family, and church family don’t know where you need help unless you tell them. It blesses others to help ease your pain. Receive it gratefully.
3. Seek prayer. Sometimes the pain is so bad we can only groan, but God hears us: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Rom. 8:26). Give others the opportunity to pray for you, and even though the pain might not go away, or you aren’t healed physically, there’s spiritual comfort in knowing others have your back in prayer.
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up” (James 5:14-15).
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (Phil. 4:6-7 The Message).
4. Don’t hide your pain. Tears are healing; it’s okay to be sad and disappointed. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Ps. 56:8 NLT).
5. Don’t listen to discouragers. Cast out negative thoughts; they aren’t from God. Laugh when you can. Play encouraging praise music. Avoid upsetting news or anything that brings you down emotionally.
“You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry” (Ps. 10:17).
“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thess. 2:15-17).
6. Trust God! He feels your earthly pain and never leaves your side even in the dark of night, He’s watching over you. When you feel up to it, reading the Book of Psalm can provide peace and hope. Psalm 68:8 sustains me during physical trials: “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me” (NLT).
“But as for me, afflicted and in pain— may your salvation, God, protect me” (Ps. 69:29).
What if the pain never goes away?
For some of us the pain may never go away completely, and then we have to remember that someday we will trade these used bodies in for brand new perfect bodies. That is the hope that keeps us going.
“For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our ‘tents’ again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet!” (2 Cor. 5:1-8 The Message).
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
If you know someone in pain, I wrote a blog post for you, 10 Ways Not to Help a Sufferer, that also provides ten ways to help a sufferer.
“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying” (Rom. 12:12 NLT).
Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 18 booksincluding, new release Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, and The Team That Jesus Built, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?,Dear God They Say It’s Cancer,Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter, and the Face-to-Face Bible study Series. She is alsothe founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Visit Janet at: womantowomanmentoring.com.
Photo credit: Unsplash.com