• Topic > When Life Hurts

    Grace for Trials

    Annie Johnson Flint was crippled by severe arthritis just a few years after high school. She never walked again and relied on others to help care for her needs. Because of her poetry and hymns, she received many visitors, including a deaconess who felt discouraged about her own ministry. When the visitor returned home, she wrote to Annie, wondering why God allowed such hard things in her life.  

    In response, Annie sent a poem: “God hath not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through. . . .” She knew from experience that suffering often occurred, but that…

    Drawn by Disaster

    In 1717, a devastating storm raged for days, leading to widespread flooding in northern Europe. Thousands of people lost their lives in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. History reveals an interesting and customary—for that time—response by at least one local government. The provincial authorities of the Dutch city of Groningen called for a “prayer day” in response to the disaster. A historian reports that the citizens gathered in churches and “listened to sermons, sang psalms, and prayed for hours.”

    The prophet Joel describes an overwhelming disaster faced by the people of Judah that also led to prayer. A massive swarm of…

    Dark Moments, Deep Prayers

    “I had a dark moment.” Those five words capture the internal agony of a popular female celebrity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adjusting to a new normal was part of her challenge, and in her turmoil, she acknowledged that she wrestled with thoughts of suicide. Pulling out of the downward spiral included sharing her struggle with a friend who cared.

    We’re all susceptible to tumultuous hours, days, and seasons. Valleys and hard places aren’t foreign but getting out of such places can be challenging. And seeking the assistance of mental health professionals is sometimes needed.

    In Psalm 143, we hear and are instructed…

    Trustworthy Love

    Why can’t I stop thinking about it? My emotions were a tangled mess of sadness, guilt, anger, and confusion.

    Years ago, I’d made the painful decision to cut ties with someone close to me, after attempts to address deeply hurtful behavior were merely met with dismissal and denial. Today, after hearing she was in town visiting, my thoughts had spiraled into hashing and rehashing the past.

    As I struggled to calm my thoughts, I heard a song playing on the radio. The song expressed not just the anguish of betrayal, but also a profound longing for change and healing in the person who’d…

    Divine Tenderness

    I once heard a businessman describe his years in college as a time when he often felt “helpless and hopeless” from bouts of depression. Sadly, he never talked to a doctor about these feelings, but instead started making more drastic plans—ordering a book on suicide from his local library, and setting a date to take his life.

    God cares for the helpless and hopeless. We see this in His treatment of biblical characters during their own dark times. When Jonah wanted to die, God engaged him in tender conversation (Jonah 4:3–10). When Elijah asked God to take his life (1 Kings…

    Spotting Rainbows of Hope

    During an October vacation, another battle with chronic pain forced me to spend the first few days recovering in our room. My mood became as overcast as the sky. When I finally ventured out to enjoy sightseeing at a nearby lighthouse with my husband, gray clouds blocked much of our view. Still, I snapped a few photos of the shadowy mountains and dull horizon.

    Later, disappointed because a downpour tucked us in for the night, I skimmed through our digital pictures. Gasping, I handed my husband the camera. “A rainbow!” Focused on the gloominess earlier, I’d missed out on God refreshing…

    Pulled to Safety

    A little girl waded in a shallow creek while her father watched. Her rubber boots reached her knees. As she sloshed downstream, the water deepened until it flowed over the top of her waders. When she couldn’t take another step, she yelled, “Daddy, I’m stuck!” In three strides, her father was at her side, pulling her to the grassy bank. She yanked her boots off and laughed as water poured onto the ground.

    After God rescued the psalmist David from his enemies, he took a moment to sit down, “pull off his boots,” and allow the relief to flood his soul.…

    Not So

    Today’s Our Daily Bread Devotional

    Revelation and Reassurance

    Baby gender reveals in 2019 were dramatic. A look back reveals that in July, a video showed a car emitting blue smoke to indicate “It’s a Boy!” In September, a crop-duster plane in Texas dumped hundreds of gallons of pink water to announce “It’s a Girl!” There was another “reveal” though that uncovered significant things about the world these children will grow up in. At the conclusion of 2019, YouVersion revealed that the most shared, highlighted, and bookmarked verse of the year on its online and mobile Bible app was Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in…

    Resilient Faith

    Towering dunes along the north shore of Silver Lake put nearby homes at risk of sinking into shifting sands. Though residents have tried moving mounds of sand in efforts to protect their homes, they have watched helplessly as well-built houses were buried right before their eyes. As a local sheriff oversaw the cleanup of a recently destroyed cottage, he affirmed the process couldn’t be opposed or prevented. No matter how hard homeowners try to avoid the dangers of these unsteady embankments, the dunes simply cannot provide a strong foundational support.

    Jesus knew the futility of building a house on sand. After…

    A Purpose in Suffering

    “So what you’re saying is, it may not be my fault.” The woman’s words took me by surprise. Having been a guest speaker at her church, we were now discussing what I’d shared that morning. “I have a chronic illness,” she explained, “and I have prayed, fasted, confessed my sins, and done everything else I was told to do to be healed. But I’m still sick, so I thought I was to blame.”

    I felt sad at the woman’s confession. Having been given a spiritual “formula” to fix her problem, she had blamed herself when the formula hadn’t worked. Even worse,…

    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…