Spiritual Life

Hope in suffering will bring spiritual growth

PASCO, Wash. -- A friend called me one day, baffled about the medical staff's seeming insensitivity about her situation.

"I know that my husband is dying. Why do they keep telling me that as if I did not know? I just hope to bring him home to die as he wished."

I remember a neurosurgeon's comment about a victim of a terrible road accident: "Forget about his Ph.D. He will be grade-school level if he ever survives this situation."

But what do we know?

The patient, after several months in ICU and the rehab unit, recovered and started work as a physicist. The company held his position in the hope he would recover. He did.

A woman in ICU received a poor prognosis that without surgery she would die. She thought that she had lived a full life and was ready to die. For two days, she said goodbye to her family and friends.

But what do we know?

A few days later, I saw her eating breakfast and reading the paper!

A hospice patient I journeyed with kept hoping that God would cure him. When his condition worsened, his hope underwent many changes from, "I hope to see my youngest son graduate from high school" to "I hope I can reach the age of 50 next month." In the end, his hope was to have a peaceful death. He did.

Another woman who was dying of cancer shared her final hope: "I hope that the day will come when nobody would have this suffering."

These are the many faces of hope.

Hope is not just for cure as from the stories above. It is about total healing and conversion (metanoia) in body, mind and spirit. It is a process of wrestling with reality, letting go and surrendering oneself to God who loves us. Hope in the real sense of the word knows and accepts the reality of suffering and death which paradoxically is the process of spiritual growth.

The moment of grace comes when we get to the point of freedom as when Jesus before the hour of his death asked, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39 NASB).

Jesus exemplified for us the paradigm of life and of hope -- passion, death and resurrection. In the resurrection scene, Jesus showed his wounds to his disciples.

How many times have we been wounded, hurt, gone down to the pit? And as we look back, we can ask ourselves, "What has sustained us? How did we survive?"

There is only one constant in all of our experiences of suffering and dying -- God's immeasurable, unconditional and outrageous love for us.

We know and believe that death and darkness are not the end, but life and light. Hope, not optimism, not mere positive thinking, leads us to a promise of new life, "a future full of hope" (Jeremiah 29:11) for which we are only asked to participate.

* Onie Mision-Reed is the director of Pastoral Care at Loudes Health Network in Pasco.

Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive,Kennewick, WA 99336. Or emaillluginbill@tricityherald.com.