dealing with a spouse’s serious illness | hope


Part VII: Hope

(I’ve said this before but it bears repeating—I’m not a theologian, not even an amateur one. I’m just a girl reading my Bible trying to figure out what it all means. I’m warning you because I’m about to quote a passage of the Bible and explain how I understand it. If my interpretation is wrong or skewed, I want to know. And I want you to know my mistakes should not be construed as a reflection on my father, who actually IS really into theology. He is Mr. Bible McBiblePants. Some things don’t pass down the genetic ladder, just sayin’.)

In any illness, the actual illness is Enemy Number One. Discouragement and depression is Enemy Number Two. Hope is the antidote for that. Because trust me, if your spouse is seriously or chronically ill, you will feel discouraged. You will feel so tired. You’ll feel like you can’t wake up again today and still face this. But you’ll be armed with the truth and the promise of hope.

Like Abraham, an example of wild hope:

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
(Romans 4:13-25)

What is hope? I think hope is being fully convinced that God is able to do what He says. Look at what Paul says about Abraham: He did not weaken in faith, no distrust made him waver, instead he grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, fully confident he could do what He promised. Abraham saw his old body, Sarah’s old body, and dismissed what most everyone would call reality—they were too old to have children—and chose to believe what God told him (you will father a nation). And sure, it probably helped that God literally spoke to Abraham and clearly told him what would happen. Most of us don’t get that kind of hit-over-the-head clarity about God’s plan for our lives, but still, Abraham’s hope was gutsy.

Is hope foolish? I don’t think so. Anyone in Abraham’s time would have laughed at him. But hope is sort of the line in the sand—do you or do you not believe your Father? Jesus Himself has this answer for those who might doubt God’s willingness to do good in our lives:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

He gives us every reason to trust.

Hope isn’t an emotion. Yes, you can feel hopeful, but I’m not convinced that feeling hopeful is the same thing as having hope. Hope is a mindset. Hope is confidence in our Savior. One of the lessons Brad and I have learned while dealing with his illness is that salvation really matters. Regardless of what happens to Brad’s body here on earth or how we feel about it, he is saved. His body will be healed and redeemed, and he’ll be placed in eternity with the One who paid the price for him to be there. So we’re so thankful for the hope salvation gives us, because it’s a sure hope. In fact, it’s the only sure thing we know about Brad’s future. (Something I haven’t quite figured out yet—how essential suffering is to making us recognize the hope we have in God. Is it the main tool God uses? Read Romans 5:3-5 to see what I’m talking about.)

Where does hope come from? This might be obvious to everyone else, but to me it was a real breakthrough: God gives us hope. I don’t have to conjure up hope in myself by my own measly spiritual strength; I can ask God for it. I’ve been trying to use this verse as a prayer for myself because I’m a wuss and I need all the help this verse promises:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

I want to be filled with joy and peace in believing in God for healing; I want to be so full of it that I can feel it bursting out of my skin. Writing that sentence almost brings me to tears because it seems so far away right now. But just knowing “joy and peace” could be my reality gives me hope.


This is the last entry in this series. The Lord must have known I would need to dwell on hope these last few days. You see, two weeks ago I got the news that I, too, have Lyme. Well, sort of. Let me back up: When Brad and I first went to his LLMD, he mentioned offhand that researchers found the Lyme spirochete can be transmitted male to female. As a precaution, Brad and I decided I should have a Western Blot test. I took that test more than a month ago and got the results just after Labor Day. My test is negative by CDC standards, but I have enough indeterminate bands present that my test would be read as positive by European criteria. We’ll probably never know if I contracted it from Brad or if I had a tick bite at some point. (Remember how nature hates me? It could happen.) We won’t know much more until I discuss the results more fully with our doctor (not ’til December!), but this could mean a few things. First, it could just mean that I was exposed to the bacteria and my body kicked it and all that’s left in my blood are the antibodies (since that’s what the Western Blot measures). Second, it could mean the bacteria is there and active, but we caught it early enough that it hasn’t gotten much of a foothold in my body. Depending on which bands are active on my test, that could give us a clue about how long I’ve had Lyme, whether or not it’s still actively dividing (reproducing), and how I should be treated.

As all these things run through my head, I’m praying it will all help Brad and I to see our Savior more clearly and to take joy in the hope He gives us.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Thanks for sticking with me during this series. Here’s the whole batch:

Part I | gratitude
Part II | prayer
Part III | faith
Part IV | fear
Part V | frustration
Part VI | truth




  1. Lan

    a variety of things come to mind after reading this post. i really enjoyed this series, it was thought provoking and so heartfelt. thank you for sharing.

    i have wondered this last month or so if things were ok since you had not posted much. quite honestly i am at a loss for what to say about your Lyme diagnosis. but your hope is inspirational and in turn gives me hope. i have the words some mad hope tattooed on my wrist to remember when i am lonely, sad and of course, feeling hopeless.

    i will continue to pray for you & your husband. happy weekend.

  2. joannalinberg

    Thanks, Lan. I’ve enjoyed your comments through the whole thing. I did take a little time to process, but the sad truth is I’m also just a little boring. :) Things are all work work work over here, but I’ll settle back in soon. I hope all is well with you!


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