• Topic > When Life Hurts

    From Wailing to Worship

    Kim began battling breast cancer in 2013. Four days after her treatment ended, doctors diagnosed her with a progressive lung disease and gave her three to five years to live. She grieved, sobbing prayers as she processed her emotions before God for the first year. By the time I met Kim in 2015, she had surrendered her situation to Him and radiated with contagious joy and peace. Though some days are still hard, God continues to transform her heart-wrenching suffering into a beautiful testimony of hope-filled praise as she encourages others.

    Even when we’re in dire circumstances, God can turn our…

    Keep On Going

    Working in the corporate world allowed me to interact with many talented and levelheaded people. However, one project led by an out-of-town supervisor was an exception. Regardless of our team’s progress, this manager harshly criticized our work and demanded more effort during each weekly status phone call. These run-ins left me discouraged and fearful. At times, I wanted to quit.

    It’s possible that Moses felt like quitting when he encountered Pharaoh during the plague of darkness. God had hurled eight other epic disasters at Egypt, and Pharaoh finally exploded, “[Moses,] get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear…

    Expect Delays

    Are you kidding me? I was already late. But the road sign ahead instructed me to adjust my expectations: “Expect Delays,” it announced. Traffic was slowing down.

    I had to laugh: I expect things to work on my ideal timeline; I don’t expect road construction.

    On a spiritual level, few of us plan for crises that slow us down or reroute our lives. Yet, if I’m paying attention, I can recall many times when circumstances redirected me—in big ways and small. Delays happen.

    Solomon never saw a sign that said, “Expect Delays.” But in Proverbs 16, he does contrast our plans with God’s providential…

    A Purpose in Pain?

    When Siu Fen discovered she had kidney failure and would need dialysis for the rest of her life, she wanted to give up. Retired and single, the longtime Christian saw no point in prolonging her life. But friends convinced her to persevere and go for dialysis and trust in God to help her.

    Two years later, she found her experience coming into play when she visited a friend from church with a debilitating disease. The woman felt alone, as few could truly understand what she was going through. But Siu Fen was able to identify with her physical and emotional pain…

    Praying and Growing

    When my friend David’s wife developed Alzheimer’s disease, the changes it brought to his life made him bitter. He needed to retire early to care for her; and as the disease progressed, she required increasingly more care.

    “I was so angry at God,” he told me. “But the more I prayed about it, the more He showed me my heart and how I had been selfish for most of our marriage.” Tears welled in his eyes as he confessed, “She’s been sick ten years, but God has helped me see things differently. Now, everything I do out of love for her,…

    Sinking into Grace

    Finally, on January 8, 1964, 17-year-old Randy Gardner did something he hadn’t done for 11 days and 25 minutes: he nodded off to sleep. He wanted to beat the Guinness Book World Record for how long a human could stay awake. By drinking soft drinks and hitting the basketball court and bowling alley, Gardner rebuffed sleep for a week and a half. Before finally collapsing, his sense of taste, smell, and hearing went haywire. Decades later, Gardner suffered from severe bouts of insomnia. He set the record but also confirmed the obvious: sleep is essential.

    Many of us struggle to get…

    Seen by God

    My first pair of eyeglasses opened my eyes to a bold world. I’m nearsighted, meaning objects close up are sharp and defined. Without my glasses, however, items across a room or in the distance are a blur. At age twelve, with my first pair of eyeglasses, I was shocked to see clearer words on blackboards, tiny leaves on trees and, perhaps most important, big smiles on faces.

    As friends smiled back when I greeted them, I learned that to be seen was as great a gift as the blessing of seeing.

    The slave Hagar realized that as she fled from her mistress…

    Love and Peace

    It always amazes me the way peace—powerful, unexplainable peace (Philippians 4:7)—can somehow fill our hearts even in our deepest grief. I experienced this most recently at my father’s memorial service. As a long line of sympathetic acquaintances passed by offering their condolences, I was relieved to see a good high school friend. Without a word, he simply wrapped me in a long bear hug. His quiet understanding flooded me with the first feelings of peace within grief that difficult day, a powerful reminder that I wasn’t as alone as I felt. 

    As David describes in Psalm 16, the kind of peace…

    The Mood Mender

    As I waited at the train station for my weekly commute, negative thoughts crowded my mind like commuters lining up to board a train—stress over debt, unkind remarks said to me, helplessness in the face of a recent injustice done to a family member. By the time the train arrived, I was in a terrible mood.

    On the train, another thought came to mind: write a note to God, giving Him my lament. Soon after I finished pouring out my complaints in my journal, I pulled out my phone and listened to the praise songs in my library. Before I knew…

    A Song in the Night

    My father’s life was one of longing. He longed for wholeness, even as Parkinson’s gradually crippled more and more of his mind and body. He longed for peace, but was tormented by the deep pain of depression. He longed to feel loved and cherished, but often felt utterly alone.

    He found himself less alone when he read the words of Psalm 42, his favorite psalm. Like him, the psalmist knew a desperate longing, an unquenched thirst for healing (vv. 1–2). Like him, the psalmist knew a sadness that felt like it never went away (v. 3), leaving times of pure joy…

    An Alternative to Worry

    A law-abiding, honest man received a voicemail that said, “This is officer _______ from the police department. Please call me at this number.” Immediately the man began to worry—afraid that somehow he had done something wrong. He was afraid to return the call, and he even spent sleepless nights running through possible scenarios—worried that he was in some kind of trouble. The officer never called back, but it took weeks for the worry to go away.

    Jesus asked an interesting question about worry: “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27). Perhaps this can…

    Hope Is Our Strategy

    My favorite football team has lost eight consecutive games as I write this. With each loss, it’s harder to hope this season can be redeemed for them. The coach has made changes weekly, but they haven’t resulted in wins. Talking with my coworkers, I’ve joked that merely wanting a different outcome can’t guarantee it. “Hope is not a strategy,” I’ve quipped.

    That’s true in football. But in our spiritual lives, it’s just the opposite. Not only is cultivating hope in God a strategy, but clinging to Him in faith and trust is the only strategy. This world often disappoints us, but…

    The Great Life

    Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled . . . —John 14:27

    Whenever we experience something difficult in our personal life, we are tempted to blame God. But we are the ones in the wrong, not God. …

    Lonely Christmas

    The loneliest Christmas I ever spent was in my grandfathers’ cottage near Sakogu, northern Ghana. I was just 15, and my parents and siblings were a thousand kilometers away. In previous years, when I had been with them and my village friends, Christmas was always big and memorable. But this Christmas was quiet and lonely. As I lay on my floor mat early Christmas morning, I remembered a local song: The year has ended; Christmas has come; the Son of God is born; peace and joy to everybody. Mournfully, I sang it over and over.

    My grandmother came and asked, “What song…

    Confident Hope

    Dr. William Wallace was serving as a missionary surgeon in Wuzhou, China, in the 1940s when Japan attacked China. Wallace, who was in charge of Stout Memorial Hospital at the time, ordered the hospital to load his equipment on barges and continue to function as a hospital while floating up and down rivers to avoid infantry attacks. 

    During dangerous times, Philippians 1:21—one of Wallace’s favorite verses—reminded him that if he lived, he had work to do for the Savior; but if he died, he had the promise of eternity with Christ. The verse took on special poignancy when he died while…

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