The Narrative of Hope

The following are notes from Cameron Cole’s talk “Preparing Kids and Adult to Suffer: Truths That Comfort, Sustain, and Redeem in Tragedy,” given at TGC 19 in Indianapolis on April 2, 2019:

The road ahead of me is long and painful, but Christ has defeated sin and death through the cross. I can face reality and make this journey, because on the other side of the cross is the resurrection. In the same way that Christ rose from the dead, so too can my life emerge from the darkness into light. The gospel tells me that I cannot redeem myself; only Christ can heal and free my heart. My only hope is to trust him to do so. My tragedy has not disrupted the narrative of my life. My story remains God’s story, and that is a story of redemption. (Gospel)

Christ claimed that he was God. He claimed that he could forgive sins. He claimed that he will redeem the world. He rose from the dead and proved his promises to be true. God’s promises of redemption are not wishful fantasies. They are real, relevant, and powerful promises based on an event in history. If God has the ability to raise Jesus from the dead, then he can redeem all of my suffering and misery. The life of my Worst is buried with Christ in death and will be raised with him in resurrection power. (Resurrection)

My need is so deep; I am desperate for help. God longs to be gracious to me. He rises up to show me compassion. He has called me to focus only on this hour, only on this day. The Lord deeply loves me. He is on my side. Out of this loves comes his burning desire to help me. I can call on him, and he will give me just the grace I need for this hour of darkness. He will supply the grace for the next step. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus assure me that God cares for me and that he will go to the greatest extent to meet my need. (Grace)

Even though I dwell in darkness and anguish, God can rescue me. I am not called to redeem myself. I am called to shift my burden to Jesus and to trust him to deliver me from this pain and despair. God can do it, and I can rely on him to be my redeemer. (Faith)

God understands my suffering. He lived as a vulnerable, afflicted human being in Jesus Christ. When I cry, he cries. When my heart breaks, his heart breaks. I can trust him as a fellow sufferer who empathizes with me. (Empathy)

I am not alone. I may feel isolated, but the Lord never will turn his back on me. Nothing I can do will make him walk away. In my suffering, Jesus draws near to me. God always remains at my side, and I remain in his arms forever. Nothing can stand between the Lord and me. (Presence)

Bitterness is my biggest enemy in the season of my worst nightmare. I am a sinner to whom God owes nothing. I am not entitled to anything and cannot resent God. God is not punishing me. Jesus removed whatever judgment I earned through my sins. In spite of my sin, God loves me through Christ. (Sin)

My trial is not a random accident. Nothing comes into my life but through God’s perfect discretion. God remains in control of all circumstances. He has a hand in my painful circumstances, which means that his hand can extend to redeem my life. God is good. The evil in this world and the suffering in my circumstances do not represent his character. The perfectly kind and loving person, Jesus Christ, is the very image of the character of God. I can trust him, knowing that he is fully good and fully in control. (Providence)

When I am confused and frustrated, I can express these feelings to God. I can share my doubts with him. I am a human being and not capable of fully comprehending why my child died. God knows this; he loves and accepts me anyway. I can be honest with God.  Never will I have a satisfactory explanation in this life, but I take comfort knowing that God is good and his ways are perfect. (Doubt)

My life is not over, my despair not permanent. I can have joy today—in this moment—through the presence of Christ. God can turn all of my sorrow into joy, all of my mourning into gladness, all of my crying into dancing. Christ is making all things new. In his time, he can redeem the entirety of my pain and grief and give me a joyful life. (Joy)

My life is not over. God has purposes and plans for me in this life until I enter into his paradise. He will use me to love and serve people. He may use my Worst as an avenue to comfort others who might share in a similar suffering in the future. God has purpose and meaning in every day of my life until he calls me home. I will live by faith and entrust my life to his service. He will give me joy and hope as I serve him and bear fruit for his kingdom. (Service)

My ultimate home is in heaven. There I will live in perfect bliss and peace forever. God will eliminate all of my pain and misery. Many reunions await me in heaven with friends and family. In heaven, I will see Jesus face-to-face and he will hold me forever in perfect comfort. With every day I live, I move one step closer to my ultimate home of absolute joy and peace. God ultimately will bring heaven to earth and forever eliminate sin, sorrow, and brokenness. (Heaven)

Cameron Cole has been the Director of Youth Ministries for eighteen years at the Church of the Advent, and in January of 2016 his duties expanded to include Children, Youth, and Families. He is the founding chairman of Rooted Ministry, an organization that promotes gospel-centered youth ministry. He is the co-editor of “Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practice Guide” (Crossway, 2016). Cameron is the author of Therefore, I Have Hope: 12 Truths that Comfort, Sustain, and Redeem in Tragedy (Crossway, 2018), which won World Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year (Accessible Theology) and was runner up for The Gospel Coalition’s Book of the Year (First-Time Author). He is also the co-editor of The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School (New Growth Press) and the author of Heavenward: How Eternity Can Change Your Life on Earth (Crossway, 2024). Cameron is a cum laude graduate of Wake Forest University undergrad, and summa cum laude graduate from Wake Forest with an M.A. in Education. He holds a Masters in Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary.

More From This Author