I am going to be honest with you.
The last year has been difficult for me and my wife, Sarah. It has involved a lot of illness, worry, anxiety and stress on our behalf and a lot of uncertainty with God on mine.
The Last Six Months
Roughly six months ago, I started to feel lethargic, consistently nauseous and mentally absent. After getting myself into the best shape of my life in preparation for Ride Around The Bay, my health started gradually slipping and then rapidly sliding until I became a shell of myself, physically and emotionally.
It all came to a head during a particularly tough charity ride, where I started experiencing muscle cramps for the last three hours of the arduous ride. I thought with enough hydration, nutrition and rest that I could recover quickly.
That week, I threw up multiple times a day and wasn’t able to move away from the bed for the entire week. Doctors advised me that a test indicating muscle inflammation showed that I had ten times the regular amount of inflammation and that if I had pains in my stomach to race to hospital, as I would be having renal (kidney) failure.
I went from preparing for the biggest ride of my life to withdrawing from Bible College, putting a halt on most of my social life and placing significant strain on my wife to pick up the slack that I left behind. During those weeks and months, I lost a lot of hope.
The question that kept rolling around my head was always about God. Where are you?
The words of David, the writer of Psalm 22, became my words.
“My God, My God, why have you forgotten me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from hearing my cries of anguish”
I had done my part. I was running the race. I had stepped out in faith and listened to Gods call. I had followed.
Yet, once again, my body had started to fail on me. As someone who has had health issues since the day I was born, it is always difficult to navigate new ones. Every new issue can bring nagging doubts about God’s goodness and sovereignty, regardless of how much theology I know or the God I experience.
Another part of the problem is that it is really difficult to talk honestly about significant health issues without people becoming awkward and wanting to tie up the conversations. Many of us with health issues leave discouraged from our conversations, with an ice-berg level of submerged doubt and frustration that is often only shown in the tip at the surface.
During this time of illness, one of the most common things to happen was for people to give me cliches to try and keep my spirits up. I heard a mountain of them:
- Everything happens for a reasons, you just need to wait to find out.
- She’ll be right mate, just stick in there.
- God must have big plans for you for you to go through so many trials.
- God won’t give you anything you can’t handle. You can handle this as well.
Clichés are what you say when you don’t know what to say to someone doing it tough, it’s a socially accepted form of non-talk when actually not talking would be awkward.
They are also the single worst way of encouraging anyone going through any form of trouble. They last a moment; mean nothing and most of them aren’t even true or helpful.
What I craved above all else during this time was for someone to give me the good news of the Gospel because true hope lives in the truth of the Gospel.
Hope Lives In The Truth of the Gospel
Don’t give me a cliché when I am in despair. Do not console me with meaningless words and sentences. Give me good news.
Tell me about a prodigal God who has given the breath of life to men and women dead in their sins. How much more can I trust God with my temporary health when I know he was already done the miraculous in my heart?
Tell me about Jesus, the living and breathing Son of God who conquered death once and for all. How much more can I have hope in Jesus when he has conquered the grave?
Tell me about God’s plan to restore the broken world we live in. How much more can I have hope in this life when I know that one day he will wipe away every single tear from our eyes, where there will be no death or mourning or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Rev 21:24)?
Tell me about how God himself invaded this world and took on our pains and sorrows? How much more can I trust God when he knows exactly the feelings I have and the physical limitations of a broken body in a broken world?
True hope is rooted in the Gospel and anything less is false promises.
If you know someone in despair, give them the gospel.
If you are in despair, seek Jesus and his good news.