Hope in the Midst of Suffering – Stacey James

As a junior in college, I was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident. In a split second, my world changed forever. I went from an extremely active college student to someone who would never do the things I once loved: run, dance, twirl the baton, and play piano and guitar. I had planned on being a missionary and serving God with my life. How could he let this happen to me?

I often would lay in my bed and cry, cry because I was trapped in a body I could no longer control, cry because I was alienated from friends, cry because the doctors were supposed to be able to fix this. I was angry at times when some doctors seemed so matter-of-fact about my situation, and embarrassed at the stares of other college students as I wheeled down the hall.

I had read in the Bible that God says once we come to know him, he will never leave us. Even though I lay there in despair, I knew there was hope because God loved me and still had a purpose for my life. It was my choice to believe that and let him go through this with me, or to be bitter and angry at him. I chose to follow him, even though my feelings didn’t necessarily agree at the time.

Often when bad things happen to us, we are tempted to doubt God’s love for us: “God, if you love me, you wouldn’t let me suffer like this.” I learned that we can’t let our situations determine God’s love for us. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). That is the one thing we must look at to determine God’s love. Not our blessings or absence of them.

I learned that love does not mean the absence of pain and problems. God often uses these very things to help us mature and grow. Life is and will continue to be difficult. I still experience complications from my accident, and I have had loved ones pass away. The nature of life is a mixture of good and bad. I am learning to accept that more and more the longer I live.

God also gives us the freedom to hurt and to cry. Not to express our feelings is to bottle up pain that will eventually release itself in possibly destructive ways. When we suffer, we need time to work through the loss or crisis, to express our grief in the right ways. We don’t have to put up a front, especially to God. He made us and knows exactly how we feel. I still take my questions and feelings to God in prayer, and to close friends when I need someone with skin on.

God also promises a future hope. The more I live with the problems of a spinal cord injury, the more I look forward to the day when I will walk again in heaven. He has created for us a place where there will be no more crying, pain, sickness or death.

To this day, I am not bitter about the circumstances of my life. I have seen the goodness of God, I have become a stronger person, and I would rather be in a wheelchair and know God than be a million-dollar professional athlete and spend an eternity apart from him.

God can give you peace and comfort in your own life, too. Know that He is with you and will never leave you. Be honest with Him, and when you are tempted to doubt God’s love, remember that God’s love for us was shown by Jesus’ death on the cross for us. Choose to follow Him no matter what, and He will reward your faithfulness. And in due time, all wrongs will be righted and all tears will be wiped away. I’ll see you on the other side, my friend. Save a dance for me!

”I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).