• Topic > When Life Hurts

    Friendship Bench

    In the south central African country of Zimbabwe, war trauma and high unemployment can leave people in despair—until they find hope on a bench. A friendship bench. Hopeless people can go there to talk with trained “grandmothers”—elderly women taught to listen to people struggling with depression, known in that nation’s Shona language as kufungisisa, or “thinking too much.”

    The Friendship Bench Project is being launched in other places, including Zanzibar, Malawi, London, and New York City. “We were thrilled to bits with the results,” said one London researcher. A New York counselor agreed. “Before you know it, you’re not on a…

    Instead of Revenge

    After Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were killed by Huaorani tribesmen in 1956, no one expected what happened next. Jim’s wife, Elisabeth, their young daughter, and another missionary’s sister willingly chose to make their home among the very people who killed their loved ones. They spent several years living in the Huaorani community, learning their language, and translating the Bible for them. These women’s testimony of forgiveness and kindness convinced the Huaorani of God’s love for them and many began to follow Jesus.

    What Elisabeth and her friend did is an incredible example of not repaying evil with evil but…

    Never Give Up Hope

    When my friend received a diagnosis of cancer, the doctor advised her to get her affairs in order. She called me, sobbing, worried about her husband and young children. I shared an urgent prayer request with our mutual friends. We rejoiced when a second doctor encouraged her to never give up hope and confirmed his team would do all they could to help. Though some days were harder than others, she focused on God instead of the odds stacked against her. She never gave up.

    My friend’s persevering faith reminds me of the desperate woman in Luke 8. Weary from twelve…

    This Is Me

    The powerful song, “This is Me,” is an unforgettable showtune featured in The Greatest Showman, the smash movie musical loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum and his traveling circus. The lyrics, sung by characters in the film who’d suffered verbal taunts and abuse for failing to conform to societal norms, describe words as destructive bullets and knives that leave scars.

    The song’s popularity points to how many people bear the invisible, but real, wounds caused by weaponized words.

    James understood the potential danger of our words to cause destructive and long-lasting harm, calling the tongue “a restless evil, full of…

    Strengthened in Song

    When French villagers helped Jewish refugees hide from Nazis during World War II, some sang songs in the dense forest surrounding their town—letting the refugees know it was safe to come out from hiding. These brave townspeople of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon had answered the call of local pastor André Trocmé and his wife, Magda, to offer wartime refuge to Jews on their windswept plateau known as “La Montagne Protestante.” Their musical signal became just one feature of the villagers’ bravery that helped save up to 3,000 Jews from almost certain death.

    In another dangerous time, David sang when his enemy Saul sent…

    The Last Word

    Her name was Saralyn, and I sorta had a crush on her back in our public school days. She had the most wonderful laugh. I’m not sure whether she knew about my crush, but I suspect she did. After graduation I lost track of her, as they say. Our lives went in different directions as lives often do. 

    I keep up with my graduating class in some online forums, and I was intensely sad when I heard that Saralyn died. I found myself wondering about the direction her life had taken over the years. This is happening more and more the…

    Created for Relationship

    There’s a growing “rent-a-family” industry in many countries to meet the needs of lonely people. Some use the service to maintain appearances, so that at a social event they can appear to have a happy family. Some hire actors to impersonate estranged relatives, so that they can feel, if briefly, a familial connection they long for.

    This trend reflects a basic truth: Humans are created for relationship. In the creation story found in Genesis, God looks at each thing He has made and sees that it is “very good” (1:31). But when God considers Adam, He says, “It is not good…

    A Sad Story

    Painfully, the evil that has long been swept under the rug—sexual abuse of many women by men who had power over them—has come to light. Enduring vile headline after headline, my heart sank when I heard proof of abuse by two men I admired. The church has our own sordid scandals. These days are a reckoning.

    King David faced his own reckoning. Samuel tells us that one afternoon, David “saw a woman bathing” (2 Samuel 11:2). And David wanted her. Though Bathsheba was the wife of one his loyal soldiers (Uriah), David took her anyway. When Bathsheba told David she was…

    “Though”

    The opportunity to help people in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 took a group I was a part of to Houston. Our goal was to encourage people who had been impacted by the storm. In the process, our own faith was challenged and strengthened as we stood with them in church buildings and homes that were damaged.

    The radiant faith exhibited by a number of these people in wake of Harvey is what we see expressed by the prophet Habakkuk at the end of his seventh-century bc prophecy. Habakkuk predicted that tough times were on the way (1:5—2:1); things would…

    Plodding for God

    Those raised in the English village with William Carey (1761–1834) probably thought he wouldn’t accomplish much, but today he’s known as the father of modern missions. Born to parents who were weavers, he became a not-too successful teacher and cobbler while teaching himself Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. After many years, he realized his dream of becoming a missionary to India. But he faced hardship, including his child’s death, his wife’s mental-health problems, and for many years the lack of response from those he served.

    What kept him serving amid difficulties so that he could go on to translate the entire Bible…

    But a Breath

    Bobby’s sudden death brought home to me the stark reality of death and the brevity of life. My childhood friend was only twenty-four when a tragic accident on an icy road claimed her life. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, she had recently seemed to be moving forward. Just a new Christian, how could her life end so soon?

    Sometimes life seems far too short and full of sorrow. In Psalm 39 the psalmist David bemoans his own suffering and exclaims: “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.…

    No More Running

    On July 18, 1983, a US Air Force captain disappeared from Albuquerque, New Mexico, without a trace. Thirty-five years later, authorities found him in California. The New York Times reports that, “depressed about his job,” he’d simply run away.

    Thirty-five years on the run! Half a lifetime spent looking over his shoulder! I have to imagine that anxiety and paranoia were this man’s constant companions.

    But I have to admit, I also know a bit about being “on the run.” No, I’ve never abruptly fled something in my life . . . physically. But at times I know there’s something God wants…

    God Looms Larger

    Giles Kelmanson, South African game ranger, described the incredible scene: two honey badgers battling a pride of six lions. Although outnumbered, the honey badgers refused to back down from ferocious predators ten times their size. The lions thought the kill would be simple, but video footage shows the badgers walking away with something like a swagger.

    David and Goliath offer an even more improbable story. Young, inexperienced David confronted the fierce Philistine Goliath. Towering above his young combatant, Goliath possessed brute strength and unrivalled weaponry—bronze armor and a lethal, razor-edged javelin (vv. 5–6). David, a fledgling shepherd, carried only a slingshot…

    How to Find Peace

    “What do you think about peace?” my friend asked as we ate lunch together. “Peace?” I said, puzzled. “I’m not sure—why do you ask?” He answered, “Well, as you jiggled your foot during the church service I wondered if you’re agitated about something. Have you considered the peace God gives to those who love Him?”

    That day some years ago, I was a bit hurt by my friend’s question, but it started me on a journey. I began exploring the Bible to see how God’s people embraced this gift of well-being, of peace, even in the midst of hardship. As I…

    Present in the Storm

    Fire swept through the home of a family of six from our church. Although the father and son survived, the father was still hospitalized while his wife, mother, and two small children were laid to rest. Unfortunately, heartbreaking events like this continue to happen again and again. When they’re replayed, so is the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? And it doesn’t surprise us that this old question doesn’t have new answers.

    Yet the truth that the psalmist puts forth in Psalm 46 has also been replayed and rehearsed and embraced repeatedly. “God is our refuge and strength,…

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