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Hope In Pain

by Robin Gough

 I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard it.  I’m not sure if you have that you’d forget it either.

     The sound of pain.  Gut-wrenching, terrible pain.  Screams.  Cries of loss.  Impossible sadness.

     These were the sounds that I heard as the small coffin bearing the body of a young child was brought into the church building and was opened.  I remember it like it was yesterday. 

Actually.  I can’t forget it.

     I was at the funeral because a young man in my ministry asked me to be there.  He had just lost a small cousin and asked if I would come to the funeral.  I drove to the church in a part of town that I didn’t know. 

     As I walked up to the entrance of the church building, I was looking around for my friend when I looked to the left and saw the small blue coffin.   It was unreal.  I had never seen a coffin that size, at least not close up.

     When the coffin was brought forward into the church building, I kept my distance and slipped into the back pew.  I watched as the mom, and grandparents slowly stood in anticipation of seeing their baby for the last time.  As the coffin was opened, the wails and cries, the question of “Why God?” filled the church building and seemed to reverberate off the walls.  I even found myself asking that same question – Why God?

     Unfortunately for many, this is all too real.  Perhaps as you read this, you are brought back to some situation where you were the one asking that question, where you were the one feeling that pain.  You know that pain. 

How can we handle such pain?  Such suffering?  How do we respond?

    Viktor Frankl was a Jewish Austrian Psychoanalyst that was imprisoned in Auschwitz. And while he was there as a scientist, he began to study how the different prisoners dealt with suffering. He wrote a book about it called, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

     Some of the prisoners responded to the hopeless situation, where everything they had put their hope in was stripped away -‐ they responded to that by becoming brutal themselves, hard‐hearted/cruel. Some of you know people like this. They have gone through some present sufferings and that suffering has made them cold. They’ve lost hope and become hard‐hearted ‐ harsh with other people. They don’t trust others and don’t see good intentions in people. That’s one way some of us deal with hopelessness. When the things we have put our hope in are stripped away it just makes us hard.

     Another thing he said was that some of the prisoners would do well for a while but would eventually give up. “Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familiar to the experienced camp inmate. We all feared this moment — not for ourselves, which would have been pointless, but for our friends. Usually it began with the prisoners refusing one morning to get dressed and wash or to go out on the parade grounds. No entreaties, no blows, no threats had any effect. He just lay there, hardly moving. “They had just given up; they had lost all hope. That’s how some people respond to hopelessness. When the things they have placed their hope in are stripped away, they lose hope, they give up, they quit. And some of you feel that way. You just want to lay there. You just don’t feel like there’s a lot of hope for ____ and you can fill in that blank. And that’s another way that people respond to suffering if their hope is not in the right things.

     Another way that people would respond to suffering in these concentration camps is that they would put their hope in what their life would one day be outside of the camp. Money, achievements, status, family ‐ those things would all be restored.   So, Frankl said that once they were out of the camps, there was this epidemic of despair, and depression, and suicide among prisoners because they had put their hope in something that was not real.  It wasn’t going to happen that way; those things would not be restored to them. Frankl said the only ones who were successful had “A fixed reference point beyond this world.” Something that was out of the grasp of death and destruction, something death could not erase.

Paul drives this home for us.  He says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:18

     In other words, compared to eternity, this suffering is nothing. But that all depends on where you have placed your hope. 

     The old hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” is running through my head right now. I know that most reading this will know this song. But today, I want to challenge you to read this as if for the first time and to let these words come from your heart. 

     My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. 

     I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. 

     On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, 

     all other ground is sinking sand.



Robin Gough is the Worship Minister at the Fairfax Church of Christ, Fairfax, VA -- He is from Pine Prairie, LA and grew up in the LeCompte Church of Christ, LeCompte, LA


2 Responses to “Hope In Pain”

  1. A.J.Istre says:

    I have known this man for many years. He loves the Lord and loves people.

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33