Ah, Lie number 4. It is a doozy: Things will never get better. This is when you take the idea of “things could always be worse” a step beyond being grateful that they aren’t worse and start actively expecting them to get that way. This is a poisonous path. It can break your heart.
Life is hard sometimes. When you are watching someone you love slowly or quickly deteriorating, it can be difficult to believe things can get better. When there is an obvious pattern of worsening, when you are tired and your loved one is tired and the pain keeps getting worse and there is nothing you can do….it is tempting to think things are never going to get better. It is almost a relief to let go of your hope. Because…why? It’s so exhausting to keep looking for help/cure/treatments, chronic illness is so relentless in its progress, and it takes so much energy to fight it and seems to do no good. And, after a while, it feels like you’ve tried everything already anyway. Why keep praying when the heavens are always silent? Why pay for another MRI when the last four have shown nothing abnormal? Perhaps accepting the situation is for the best.
This kind of thinking is what I call the Voice of Job’s wife, or the “curse God and die” mentality. And it does us about as much good as she did for Job in his trials. If you know the story of Job and you live with/care give for someone with a chronic illness you are bound to draw a few parallels between Job’s suffering and your loved one’s.
Good old Job. He was just going along living a righteous life, abounding in God’s favor and blessings and BOOM out of nowhere he loses everything: His livelihood, his children, his health, his peace of mind. He keeps his wife, but that’s not much of a comfort. He keeps his life, the purpose of which now seems only to suffer. He suffers in every way possible short of death. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, he is destroyed. His “friends” show up to preach to him and spout highfalutin sermons. And, repeatedly, his lovely wife looks at his sorry state encourages him to curse God and die already. It’s bad.
But throughout it all Job never completely gives up. He acknowledges God’s sovereignty. He boldly questions his situation. He even feels sorry for himself. But he never does curse God. And, honestly, that may not sound like much but I have to give Job some kudos for that. That took some real faith. It is certainty better than I can say for myself and I haven’t endured near what Job did. There is a reason why people say someone has “the patience of Job”.
Of course, eventually Job’s suffering ended. His faithfulness pays off. Satan loses the cosmic bet and God even comes down and sets Job’s long-winded friends straight, and Job too while He’s there. Then God blesses Job even more richly than he was blessed before. It’s a happy ending for good old Job. It’s a happy ending for us, believers, too. But right now we are still in the midst of the story. We are in the mean time. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble…”. So, in a “pie in the sky by and by” kind of sense, things will get better. Believing that is part of being a Christian.
But what about in a more immediate sense? People get sick. People get sicker. They suffer. They die. Even though we do and say and and believe all the “right” things. Even though we stay faithful sometimes, more often than not, there is no miracle. The answer to our prayers is, “No.” How do you nurture hope and expect the best when you are going through the worst?
The short answer is you CHOOSE. When Job’s wife’s voice starts to ring in your head and the belief that things will never get better beckons, you CHOOSE to believe God instead. It is tempting to give up. You are tired, you are hurting, you are filled with grief for your loved one and yourself. Every day, every moment, every breath you are choosing to believe what you see with your eyes or what God has said in His word.
Things may look bad. Really bad. To others you will look like a fool. But your soul will live. Your loved one’s soul will live, even as their body may fail. And things will get better. Your heart will heal and you will feel joy. As Rich Mullins wrote in his song, “My Deliverer,” “…I will never doubt His promise, Though I doubt my heart, Though I doubt my eyes.” The promise is real. The promise is eternal.
Here are few promises to hold on to, every one of them is a lie breaker:
- “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 God’s Word Translation).
- “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, 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. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:25-28 NIV)
- “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 New Living Translation).
- “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:17-18 NIV)
- “…teaching them [new disciples] to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 ISV)