Have you ever sat in a waiting room, your heart beating hard, walking through the many “What-if’s” of that space:
What if it’s cancer?
What if my loved one can never drive again, play tennis again, kiss me again?
What if…my loved one loses her job?
What if…my loved one has six months to live?
Whether you are the caregiver or the patient, the “what-if’s” of the waiting room can feel terrifying, and the wait can feel agonizing.
When our twenty-two-year-old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor while my eighty-one-year-old father was dying of cancer, I sat in many varied waiting rooms. During seemingly endless spells in such uncomfortable spaces, I began to wonder—what if—this space could make space for another, better kind of waiting?
- What if…the waiting room could become a hoping room, a place to grow our hope?
- What if…in this waiting room, we could discover the surpassing peace of Christ?
- What if…in this waiting room, our eyes could open to the glory and goodness of God?
- What if…in this waiting room, we could discover that as God allows our bodies to be broken, his mercy is working to reconstruct us, to refashion us into people who are more like our suffering Savior, God’s Son Jesus?
- What if…in this waiting room, we could see that he is coming to heal not merely all broken brains and hearts and limbs, but more importantly, to heal our deepest wounds caused by our own sins and the sins of others?
Is redemption of the waiting room season possible?
The gospel says it is.
Earthly Hope vs. Biblical Hope
To understand this redemption, we first need to grasp the difference between earthly hope and biblical hope. Earthly hope focuses on significant, but, in perspective, smaller stories; biblical hope focuses on the crucial and life-transforming Story God is writing in our hearts, in his kingdom, for his glory and our good.
Earthly hope focuses on good outcomes in the here and now, or at least in the near future. Earthly hope is most often tied to circumstances: we hope that the surgeon can fix our wrecked knee; we hope that our son’s tumor will be benign; we hope that this antibiotic cures the infection. These are all good things to hope for, but we have little control over them and no certainty that they will happen. Earthly hope often fails us in the short-term, because it is too short-sighted.
Biblical hope, on the other hand, fixes its eyes on the far future, the day when Christ will return to fully heal and finally restore all that was lost in the fall. Biblical hope, unlike earthly hope, is not linked to circumstances in the here and now but to the conviction that God’s glorious work in our hearts and in his kingdom will be completed. In that day, our deepest hope—to enjoy God and glorify him forever—will be fulfilled. To better understand this biblical hope, we need to know the whole story Scripture tells.
The Big Story God Is Writing
In the beginning, God created humans in his image and designed them with a purpose: to glorify and enjoy him (Genesis 1-2). Within a short time, though, humans listened to the evil one, who tempted them to believe that God was holding out on them, that God was not good. They disobeyed their Creator God, taking life into their own hands when they ate the fruit God had forbidden them to eat (Genesis 3).
As a result, sin entered the world (Romans 5:12), and ever since, all humans have been born in sin and have suffered its disastrous effects: death, disease, destruction, and division. But the ever-faithful, always-loving God did not leave us in this miserable condition. He sent his beloved, holy Son into the world to save us from our sins (Isaiah 53:4-5).
In the current season of God’s story, those who trust in Christ as Savior know the freedom from guilt and sin that he has brought us (Galatians 5:1). And yet, we still live in a world that is tainted by evil. Drunk drivers have accidents. Political leaders oppress. People pollute rivers and oceans. We harm those we love with our words. Those we love get sick. Those we love die. Every day, we sin; every day we suffer the effects of sin.
Our Hope Fulfilled
All who love Jesus Christ, as well as all of creation, groans as we await the end of God’s Story and its accompanying glory, the final healing of all broken things (Romans 8:18-19):
- In that day, we will be made like him (1 John 3:2).
- In that day, God will wipe away all our tears, and death will be no more (Revelation 21:4).
- In that day, God will dwell with us, and we will never again be separated from the One who completely satisfies our hearts (Revelation 21:3).
- In that day, we will finally live as God designed us, glorifying and enjoying God fully and forever (Isaiah 43:7).
That is what we are really waiting for.
The waiting rooms of a health crisis offer us the surprising opportunity to learn to wait in hope, to make more room in our hearts for the coming of the Lord in all of his glory. If you find yourself in a waiting room season, I invite you to seek peace and hope in the bigger story God is writing in this challenging story you are living. May you find the Word and words, the Story and the stories, which lead your heart to rest in the One who made you and loves you and waits for you to live with him forever.
Editor’s Note: This post is excerpted from The Waiting Room: 60 Meditations for Finding Peace & Hope in a Health Crisis. To learn more or to purchase a copy, click here.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Turnage is a writer, story coach, and teacher. She founded Living Story to help people learn, live, and love the gospel. The author of the Living Story Bible Study Series (P & R), she is currently writing a devotional for people in health crises. Elizabeth offers gospel-centered resources at her blog, www.elizabethturnage.com.
Elizabeth has been married to orthopedic surgeon Kip Turnage for 36 years. They enjoy spending time with their children, Kirby and Amy Anne Turnage, Jackie and Matt Roelofs, Mary Elizabeth and Caleb Blake, and Robert Turnage. When they are not working or visiting their kids, they enjoy doting on their golden doodle, Rosie, the “best-dog-ever”!