Hope When It Hurts: A Review

March 2, 2017 by

I loved the title: Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering. You see, I know what it means to hurt; struck with a degenerative spine condition sixteen years ago, I’ve lived with chronic pain every day since. But I wasn’t sure I’d like the book itself. Yes, I’ve been blogging about the Beatitudes for almost a year, and the theme of finding purpose in suffering is dear to me. But one of the first reviews of the book I saw described it as “biblical meditations inviting women to see how God is caring for them, growing them, and even using them, in times of suffering.” I’m just not one for a lot of flowery talk about “being grown” by God.

But by the second chapter I was hooked. Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton, the authors, are young and in the prime of life; they really shouldn’t be writing about pain, disappointment, and loss. But like mine, their lives were halted when they began to suffer vague crippling symptoms. Years of uncertainty and bewilderment came to an end when both women discovered the cause of their serious disabilities: undetected Lyme disease. What is worse, Sarah had passed Lyme disease to each of her four children, who now suffer its adverse and permanent affects.

Hope When it Hurts cover and author pictures

Coming from their own experience of wrestling with the deep hurts of life, Kristen’s and Sarah’s insights are unique and insightful. As they have for me, pain and disappointment have prompted them to question and explore God’s dealings in their lives. As a result, they have come to know God not as a distant being who hurls random hardships at us weak human beings, but as a God who uses “all things . . . for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Kristen, speaking from the depth of her own pain, says: 

Sometimes life hurts, and sometimes the pain goes on and doesn’t stop. When it hurts, it feels like we’re alone. It feels like there’s no point to anything, like no one understands. When it hurts, it feels like God’s abandoned us. But in the hurt, there’s something else: a God who is right there with you. A God who understands your pain because he has suffered himself. A God who can bring purpose to suffering. A God who brings you hope – when it hurts.

I too hate being in pain, hate that feeling of being abandoned. I get frustrated at times, when I see a filthy house that needs scrubbing and know I can’t roll up my sleeves and get busy. Or an overgrown garden that needs weeding and realize I can’t do a thing about it. Last week there was a heavy snow, and people were out sledding, sleigh-riding, and playing winter sports, all of which I used to greatly enjoy. But now I can only watch from my window. Summer Sundays are the worst. My neighbors take off to hike the mountain trails while I sit at home. I would give anything to be out there with them, soaking in the beauties of nature and working up a good sweat.

But I thank God for my pain, too. When life throws us a curveball, everything changes. It’s up to us whether we change for the better or worse. Choosing to embrace pain and disability, loss or disappointment, is never easy. When dreams are shattered, it hurts; no question about it. But it is just when – and where – we hurt that God’s strength can be revealed.

So Kristen and Sarah’s book touched me more than I expected it to. The scripture passages they’ve included are my favorites – words I have come to rely on in my own search for peace. Take the verse they explore in the second chapter: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7):

We hate weakness and will do almost anything to escape it. Behind our masks, everyone is weak. It’s inbuilt into our humanness in this world. We can’t run from it, and thankfully, we don’t need to. What we need is a biblical understanding of the value of weakness and how suffering is the tool God uses to expose it.
Everything changes when we see weakness and suffering in the light of the gospel. For it is through human weakness that God’s strength upholds us and is displayed to the world.

According to Kristen and Sarah, Christians have this treasure:

What treasure? The glorious gospel: the work of Jesus Christ to save sinners by grace through faith. And what is clay? A brittle, easily broken substance. And that’s what I am. That’s what you are. Such a weak vessel [as I am] is not fit to hold such a glorious treasure. On our own, we are sinners who are not fit to display the beautiful gospel of Christ, and our weaknesses only magnify this truth. Left to ourselves, we are not beautiful – we’re sinners. Even after putting our trust in Jesus, we continue to have weakness in our physical bodies as we struggle against aging, defects, declining health, and disease; and we also go on struggling against sin and failure.

But here’s the exciting message:

If we are not fit to hold such a glorious treasure as the gospel, then why in the world would God entrust it to us?! To show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. . . God has decided to use our weaknesses to display his power and love. A jar of clay might be cracked in a few places, making it unusable in the world’s eyes, but God sees these deficiencies as a means to pour out and reveal more of himself.

So we are left with a challenge, the same challenge placed on us by the Beatitudes: will we allow ourselves to be broken so God’s light can shine through us? Will we allow our jar of clay to be filled by him, however cracked and splintered? Will we permit God to mold our lives, shaping in us the virtues of his heavenly kingdom: poverty of spirit, meekness, and purity of heart?

If you’ve been reading my blog posts about the Beatitudes, you probably know someone struggling with these issues, or you yourself are. Hope When It Hurts might help them or you; check it out when it’s released later this month. And let me know what has helped you find hope in your hard times. Leave me a comment below.


About the author

Rebekah Domer

Rebekah Domer

Since Rebekah’s upbringing at the Woodcrest Bruderhof in New York, life has taken her on many diverse assignments, from the...

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  • Rebekah, Thank you both for taking the time to not only read the book, but to write such an encouraging review of it. You wrote a beautiful review that wasn’t only about the book, but rather, focused on Christ, which is what is most important. Thank you again for your support, your review, and your willingness to help us spread the work about the book! You have encouraged Kristen and I today and we are incredibly grateful. May God continue to bless your ministry. ~In Christ, Sarah

    Sarah Walton
  • Reading and sharing the blog - very good - insightful - honest. We are studying the fruits of the spirit in our small group - they sound so easy to attain but when you really get into their truth, you realize that you really don't possess any of them - not on your own anyway. Crazy thing is that "love" was the hardest for any of us to wrap our minds (and hearts) around. That fruit provided the liveliest discussion.

  • When I received your blog, "Hope where it Hurts," it helped me so much. My dear friend lost her husband to cancer three months after I lost my husband, and now has lost her son of forty with a heart attack. She comes to me but I don't know how to help her with her grief. I have read your Hope Where It Hurts over and over. It has helped me God Bless You Ann

  • I do agree with this article We do go through so much disappointment and pain that only belief in God can get you through any situation But it is so hard sometimes to keep the hope . Can only keep trying

  • Thanks for your post. It is poignantly real and it's good to cry. Good thing this life isn't the sum total of everything. 2 Cor 4: 16 16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal

    Kimberly Robles
  • Suffering through pain can take us to amazing places. I see patients daily who are in various stages of physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. The healing comes when a connection is made with the other bringing the Divine present.

    Tom Rowan
  • This latest theme in this blog is a universal one, you doubtless realize. We all have disappointments and painful circumstances, even if not physical pain. We identify with this: When life throws us a curveball, everything changes. It’s up to us whether we change for the better or worse. I’ve had some conversations and realizations recently touching on the lifelong human struggle against the deep-seated self-love that’s part of our human condition… or put more positively, how everyone who tries to follow Christ has a lifelong battle, with daily and hourly choices to be made: do we love Christ and other people more than we love our self? So the challenge expressed in your last paragraph is universally true for every one of us. Thank you for sharing these, and keep them coming.

  • Dear Rebekah, Many thanks for your email. It is a very demanding effort to understand when explaining Hope when it Hurts. As you do you give many examples and that helps many. Keep up the good work. Thank you for sharing this blog with me.

  • Rebekah, I didn’t know about this book coming out soon, but I’m glad you heightened my awareness of it – and your own story in the midst of it all. I hope you’ll consider submitting your excellent and spiritually-enticing review to those already posted at Amazon

    Clair Hochstetler
  • I really enjoyed this, Rebekah. You have such a gifted and spiritual mind. Be well Chris

    Chris Armstrong
  • As always, Rebekah, you have found additional champions in the endeavor to overcome anger, pain, weakness and insecurity. These women have triumphed in choosing to make the most out of the 'cars they've been dealt' and, more importantly, be able to see God's purpose and their own in the scheme of things rather than just wallow in self pity, depression and anger. They are truly inspiring and admirable as are you. Thank you again for sharing. ~ Rosalie

    Rosalie V Gambino