And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5
Hope and disappointment do seem to go hand and hand. I think that is the reason why this scripture is so hard to accept or understand. We all have hoped for something and been disappointed.
I hoped to grow up, get married, raise a family and be able to provide a wonderful life for them. Have many of my hopes been realized? Yes, I guess they have, but not without some very difficult trials along the way. Serious illnesses, severe financial struggles, marital strife, emotional and psychological pain all have led to some very trying disappointments in the midst of this hope.
Recently I had some profound encounters with hope that gave me a deeper understanding of the relationship between hope and disappointment.
My daughters, Anna, Johanna, and service dog, Taffy and I traveled to Chicago to visit the CCM3 (which stands for Cerebral Cavernous Malformation Type 3) clinic at the University of Chicago and Comer’s Children’s Hospital for testing and consultations on Johanna’s condition. The clinic and our trip were sponsored by the Angioma Alliance,CCM3 Action, a grass roots organization searching for a cure. I am so grateful to so many of you in our local community who contributed to this cause through “Johanna’s Hope for a Cure.”
During our stay, we spent a few days at the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago. Ronald McDonald Houses are wonderful places where families in health crises can find reprieve and support as they navigate their way through the tumultuous trials of battling life-threatening illnesses in their children. The RMH provides hotel-style rooms for a donation. They have a fully equipped and functional kitchen for families to cook and store their own foods. Oftentimes there are meals sponsored by local organizations to give the families a time to relax without the pressure of preparing meals. They also provide shuttles to the nearby hospital, making it possible for families flying in from other states to stay without needing to rent a car. We have stayed in RMH in Manhattan, when Johanna was hospitalized for a long time. This was our second trip to the Comer’s Corner RMH.
One would think that staying in a house with 50 or so other families facing severe medical crises with their children would be a depressing experience. But actually the opposite is true. The house was filled with laughter and children— children playing with toys, playing tag and hide and seek. In the midst of the laughter, there were some weary parents gathered at the dining tables or cuddled next to their child reading a book. Some were sharing stories with other parents: hopes and dreams of brighter tomorrows; some were sharing advice as to how to best advocate for their children to get the answers they desperately need.
One of my favorite discoveries at this RMH is the chapel on each floor. The chapel was just two doors down from our room; it was quiet and light, with a big stained-glass window of a beautiful tree which shone brightly as the sun began to rise. It was nondenominational, just a place to commune with one’s thoughts and with God, if you wanted to do that. There was a Bible on a shelf and a large table in the center of the room. I found myself there at 3 a.m. each morning.
In most of the rooms, there are journals to write in, to share your story or write a prayer. These journals should be published someday to give everyone a perspective on life.
Turning the pages of this journal, in one story after another, there were descriptions of profound suffering.
“Please pray for my son who has a rare form of cancer and is not expected to live…Tomorrow we go for another round of treatments, hoping this one takes…back for our annual check-up, please God, another year free of this disease…”
The stories went on and on in the journal.
As I read I was struck not with an overwhelming sense of despair, but rather of hope in the midst of suffering. It was then that this scripture came back to mind as I turned back to Romans chapter 5 for a complete picture of this “hope that will not disappoint.”
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. – Romans 5:2-5.
These journal entries all manifested the truth found in Romans 5. You can’t find the hope without the suffering. It is the suffering that produces perseverance and character. Those are two qualities I have witnessed first-hand in pediatric ICU’s, surgical waiting areas and even at the bedside of dying children with grieving families.
You learn to persevere because there is no other option.
And like the way exercise strengthens the body, suffering calls forth perseverance, molds character and all these give birth to hope.
But this hope is not rooted in simply earthly outcomes. It’s deeper than even that. This hope that emerges from suffering is eternal, looking towards the glory of God.
It has been said that there are no atheists in fox holes. I too have said there are also no atheists in a pediatric ICU. Parents know what is to give life to their children. Birth is an arduous process and so is hope.
Somewhere, in the midst of suffering, hope springs eternal, like a flower emerging through the cracks in the sidewalk. We might not be sure how it got there, but we surely admire its beauty.
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus
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