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How to Keep Fighting for Hope When You Don't See a Purpose for Your Pain

  • Kimberly Carroll
How to Keep Fighting for Hope When You Don't See a Purpose for Your Pain

“Where then is my hope—who can see any hope for me?” Job 17:15

Are you struggling to breathe under the weight of your pain? Is your soul weary and depleted of all hope? Do you long to disappear and escape the darkness?

If so, you are not alone. Suffering does not discriminate. Even the strongest people find themselves in pits of despair. Whatever you are facing, there is no shame. You are loved right where you are—with all of your mess and all of your pain.

But before you refuse to hope any longer, would you take a few minutes to consider that maybe, just maybe, there is reason to continue fighting? Life might very well have thrown you the very worst it has to offer. Your pain might be far greater than anything I’ve experienced, and I’ll never pretend that everything is going to work out perfectly in this life. But if you think there’s nothing left to hope for today, would you give me just a moment of your time?

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My Story

“Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help…” Psalm 69:1-3 (NLT)

Ten years ago, I reached a place of complete brokenness in my struggle with mental illness. No matter how hard I fought, the battle intensified. The exhaustion felt so overpowering that I longed to disappear from it all—to sleep through the pain and wake up in peace.

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Doing “All the Right Things” Was Not Enough

I had done all the “right” things. I put my life on hold to enter treatment, attended support groups, clung to Scripture, prayed relentlessly, and tried various medications. I fought day and night for months, believing the struggle would ease.

Eventually though, the fight grew too hard. Otherwise simple tasks like breathing or getting out of bed in the morning felt too painful. As much as I wanted to hope for freedom, the mental fatigue felt crippling. With each passing day, my ability to hope slipped further from my grasp. Every ounce of fight and strength within me had been sucked dry, and hope felt more like a fairytale than a promise.

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Choosing Hope

Ultimately, I had to make a choice. If I waited for myself to feel hopeful, I would never keep fighting. If I waited until I could see God’s promises coming to life, I would never step out in faith and continue putting one foot in front of the next. If I waited until I had enough fight in me to hope, I would never survive.

Fighting for hope when everything in me wanted to quit required radically committing to the mindset that I would never give up. No matter how deep the waters swelled. No matter how intense the exhaustion grew. No matter how many doubts raced through my mind or how overpowering the darkness felt. I had to commit to never letting hope fall completely from my hands.

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Why Refusing to Quit Isn’t Enough

But just refusing to give up was not enough in and of itself. I needed a reason to keep fighting—a reason greater than any suffering.

On some level, it helped to envision all that could be in my future if I refused to quit. But focusing on having my prayers answered and my dreams realized in this life would not be enough to weather the darkest days. That level of hope could not withstand the pressure of life’s greatest trials. If all my hope relied solely on having things work out in this life, it would ultimately crumble.

Instead, the core of my hope had to surpass all earthly things. To actually persevere no matter what, the crux of my hope had to be rooted in something impossible to lose. To truly last, I needed a hope that said, “Even if everything I’m working for in this life fails, even if all my dreams collapse, even if those I love most are stripped away, I still have a reason to press onward.”

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The Source of My Hope

In my searching, the only hope I found that could withstand the absolute depths of human pain was Christ himself. Only a God who entered into the bitterness of our hell firsthand, who withstood pain in its most extreme form, who placed himself in the middle of human suffering and conquered the grave—only He alone could give me reason to say, “No matter what I face, I will rise.”

As long as Christ walked into the darkness before me, I had reason to continue putting one foot in front of the other. As long as He carried me through all which felt unbearable, I had reason to keep moving forward. As long as He promised my suffering would not have the final word, I had reason to keep breathing.

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Because of Christ

In the words of Dr. Gregory Boyd in Letters from a Skeptic, “[B]elieving in God means having faith that all that God stands for—love, truth, justice, peace, etc.—will ultimately triumph…evil need not be the last word in our existence.”

Because of Christ, I claimed victory over my struggles even when I felt defeated. Because of Christ, battles were being fought on my behalf regardless of my strength. Because of Christ, I looked beyond my struggles and declared that God created my life for something more. Because of Christ, my hope did not depend on how I felt in the moment. Because Christ promised to never let go, I chose to never give up.

“But I will call on God, and the Lord will rescue me. Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice.” Psalm 55:16-18 (NLT)

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A Daily Choice

Choosing to hope despite everything I felt need to be a daily decision. I couldn’t just make a simple one-time choice and suddenly have everything become easier. Fighting still meant gritting my teeth, pushing through walls that felt unmovable, and feeling like the struggle would never end.

Each day, choosing to hope meant sticking out my treatment plan for the long-haul and getting out of bed when breathing felt too hard. It meant running towards God when I felt angry, reading His Word when I questioned it all, and praying when I didn’t know what to say. It meant letting others see the real me and taking away shame’s seat at the table. Refusing to quit meant surrendering the outcome of every day into God’s hands and trusting that He would equip me to face whatever stood before me.

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Beauty from Ashes

Over time, the crushing weight of my mental illness lifted and I found full freedom. I experienced abundant joy again, witnessed dreams become reality, and saw God bring beauty from ashes that once felt irredeemable. But even more, I learned to build my hope on a foundation that surpasses this fleeting life. Now regardless of what tomorrow holds, I know I still have reason to lift my head, ride out the breaths that feel suffocating, and declare once more that I will rise.

“I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.” - Psalm 62:1-2 (NLT)

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Final Thoughts

However deep in despair you feel, Christ is in the middle of the struggle with you. He is weeping alongside you, conquering that which feels too heavy to carry, and redeeming beauty from even the most bitter ashes. As long as you have breath moving through your body, you have reason to keep fighting.

Will you fight with me? Will you dare to believe that there is more to your life than the darkness that overpowers you today? Will you step out in faith regardless of how hopeless things appear, and choose to believe that God will bring beauty from that which attempts to destroy you? Even if the most you can do is continue breathing, will you choose hope today?

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You Are Not Alone

Please know you are not expected to do this alone. The Church is here to hold you up when you can no longer stand. We are here to lift your arms in battle when you’re too weary to fight, to believe that God has a greater purpose for your life even when you can’t believe it yourself, and to honor your story with a compassionate ear. If the church you attend is not a safe place for the broken to come as they are, find a new one! But please, let people lock arms with you in your suffering and love you through the overwhelming darkness. Evil need not have the final word, friends. There is absolutely hope for you!

***Disclaimer: This article is not intended to take the place of professional counseling. If you are struggling with your mental health, please seek professional help. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or have plans to harm yourself or others, please call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-TALK). Your life has immense value. Seek help today.

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Kimberly Carroll is a military spouse, mother of toddlers, and graduate of UNC Chapel Hill. She has a heart for the weary and broken-hearted, holds tightly to her eternal hope in Christ, and values vulnerability over perfection any day. Follow Kimberly on FacebookInstagram, and her blog as she discusses mental illness, body image, community, faith, and the importance of never giving up.