• Topic > When Life Hurts

    For Others’ Sake

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Singaporeans stayed home to avoid being infected. But I blissfully continued swimming, believing it was safe.

    My wife, however, feared that I might pick up an infection at the public pool and pass it on to her aged mother—who, like other seniors, were more vulnerable to the virus. “Can you just avoid swimming for some time, for my sake?” she asked.

    At first, I wanted to argue that there was little risk. Then I realized that this mattered less than her feelings. Why would I insist on swimming—hardly an essential thing—when it made her worry unnecessarily?

    In Romans…

    With Us in the Valley

    As Hannah Wilberforce (aunt of British abolitionist William Wilberforce) lay dying, she wrote a letter in which she mentioned hearing about the death of a fellow believer in Jesus: “Happy is the dear man who is gone to glory, now in the presence of Jesus, whom unseen he loved. My heart seemed to jump for joy.” Then she described her own situation: “Myself, better and worse; Jesus, as good as ever.”

    Her words make me think of Psalm 23, where David writes, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley [the valley of the shadow of death], I will fear no…

    Rest Well

    The clock blinked 1:55 a.m. Burdened by a late-night text conversation, sleep wasn’t coming. I unwound the mummy-like clutch of my tangled sheets and padded quietly to the couch. I googled what to do to fall asleep but instead found what not to do: Don’t take a nap or drink caffeine or work out late in the day. Check. Reading further on my tablet, I was advised not to use “screen time” late either. Oops. Texting hadn’t been a good idea. When it comes to resting well, there are lists of what not to do.

    In the Old Testament, God handed down rules…

    God Knows We Feel

    Feeling overwhelmed, Sierra grieved her son’s fight with addiction. “I feel bad,” she said. “Does God think I have no faith because I can’t stop crying when I’m praying?”

    “I don’t know what God thinks,” I said. “But I know He can handle real emotions. It’s not like He doesn’t know we feel.” I prayed and shed tears with Sierra as we pleaded for her son’s deliverance.

    Scripture contains many examples of people wrestling with God while struggling. The writer of Psalm 42 expresses a deep longing to experience the peace of God’s constant and powerful presence. He acknowledges his tears and…

    Rise Again

    Olympic runner Ryan Hall is the U.S. record holder for the half marathon. He completed the event distance of 13.1 miles (21 kilometers) in a remarkable time of fifty-nine minutes and forty-three seconds, making him the first U.S. athlete to run the race in under one hour. While Hall has celebrated record-setting victories, he has also known the disappointment of not being able to finish a race. 

    Having tasted both success and failure, Hall credits his faith in Jesus for sustaining him. One of his favorite Bible verses is an encouraging reminder from the book of Proverbs that “though the righteous…

    Hope in Grief

    As the cabbie drove us to London’s Heathrow Airport, he told us his story. He had come alone to the United Kingdom at age fifteen, seeking to escape war and deprivation. Now, eleven years later, he has a family of his own and is able to provide for them in ways unavailable in his native land. But he laments that he’s still separated from his parents and siblings. He told us that he has had a hard journey that won’t be complete until he’s reunited with his family.

    Being separated from our loved ones in this life is hard, but losing…

    It’s Okay to Lament

    I dropped to my knees and let my tears fall to the floor. “God, why aren’t you taking care of me?” I cried. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. I’d been laid-off for almost a month, and something had gone wrong with my unemployment application. I hadn’t received any money yet, and on top of that, the stimulus check the US government had promised hadn’t arrived. Deep down, I trusted that God would work out everything. I believed He truly loved me and would take care of me, but in that moment, I felt abandoned.

    The book of Lamentations…

    Worth It, or Worthy?

    Helen Roseveare, an English missionary physician in the African Congo, was taken prisoner by rebels during the Simba Rebellion in 1964. Beaten and abused by her captors, she suffered terribly. In the days that followed, she found herself asking, “Is it worth it?”

    As she began to ponder the cost of following Jesus, she sensed God speaking to her about it. Years later she explained to an interviewer, “When the awful moments came during the rebellion and the price seemed too high to pay, the Lord seemed to say to me, ‘Change the question. It’s not, ‘Is it worth it?’ It’s…

    Got Plans?

    Caden, a young man of almost eighteen, was anticipating attending his first choice of a college on an academic scholarship. He was involved in a campus ministry in high school and looked forward to participating in a similar ministry in the new environment. He’d saved money from his part-time job and also had an excellent lead on a new job. He’d established some great goals, and everything was coming together exactly on schedule.

    And then in the spring of 2020 a global health crisis changed everything.

    The school let Caden know that his first semester would probably be online. The campus ministry…

    Guilt and Forgiveness

    In his book Human Universals, anthropologist Donald Brown lists more than four hundred behaviors that he considers common across humanity. He includes such things as toys, jokes, dances, and proverbs, wariness of snakes, and tying things with string! Likewise, he believes all cultures have concepts of right and wrong, where generosity is praised, promises valued, and things like meanness and murder understood to be wrong. We all have a sense of conscience, wherever we’re from.

    The apostle Paul made a similar point many centuries ago. While God gave the Jewish people the Ten Commandments to clarify right from wrong, Paul noted that…

    Heavy but Hopeful

    In a Peanuts comic strip, the very enterprising character Lucy advertised “psychiatric help” for five cents. Linus found his way to her office and acknowledged his “deep feelings of depression.” When he asked her what he could do about his condition, Lucy’s quick reply was, “Snap out of it! Five cents, please.”

    While such light-hearted entertainment brings a momentary smile, the sadness and gloom that can grip us when real life happens is not that easily dismissed. Feelings of hopelessness and despair are real, and sometimes professional attention is needed.

    Lucy’s advice wasn’t helpful in addressing real anguish. However, the writer of…

    Hard Ground and Tender Mercy

    When James was just six years old, his older brother David died tragically in an ice-skating accident. It was the day before David’s fourteenth birthday. In the years that followed, James tried his best to console his mother, Margaret, who in her deep grief sometimes reminded herself that her elder son would never have to face the challenges of growing up. In James Barrie’s fertile imagination, decades later that same idea would burgeon into inspiration for a much-loved children’s story character who never aged: Peter Pan. Like a flower pushing its way through pavement, good emerged even from the hard…

    A Strong Heart

    In his book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, co-authored with Philip Yancey, Dr. Paul Brand observed, “A hummingbird heart weighs a fraction of an ounce and beats eight hundred times a minute; a blue whale’s heart weighs half a ton, beats only ten times per minute, and can be heard two miles away. In contrast to either, the human heart seems dully functional, yet it does its job, beating 100,000 times a day [65–70 times a minute] with no time off for rest, to get most of us through seventy years or more.”

    The amazing heart so thoroughly powers us through life that…

    Storms of Fear

    In a TV commercial I saw recently, a woman casually asks someone in a group watching TV, “What are you searching for, Mark?” “A version of myself that doesn’t make decisions based on fear,” he responds soberly—not realizing that she was just asking what he liked to watch on TV! 

    Whoa, I thought. I wasn’t expecting a TV commercial to hit me so profoundly! But I related to poor Mark: sometimes I too feel embarrassed by the way fear sometimes seems to direct my life. 

    Jesus’ disciples also experienced the profound power of fear. Once, as they headed across the Sea of…

    To Be Human

    “Mr. Singerman, why are you crying?” asked twelve-year-old Albert as he watched the master craftsman construct a wooden box.

    “I cry,” said Isaac, “because my father cried, and because my grandfather cried.” The woodworker’s answer to his young apprentice provides a tender moment in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. “Tears,” explained Mr. Singerman, “come with the making of a coffin.”

    “Some men don’t cry because they fear it is a sign of weakness,” he said. “I was taught that a man is a man because he can cry.”

    Emotion must have welled up in the eyes of Jesus as he compared…

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