• Topic > When Life Hurts > Suffering & Tragedy >

    Facing the Battle

    Not long ago I met up with a group of friends. As I listened to the conversation, it seemed like everyone in the room was facing some significant battle. Two of us had parents fighting cancer, one had a child with an eating disorder, another friend was experiencing chronic pain, and another was facing major surgery. It seemed a lot for a bunch of people in their thirties and forties.

    First Chronicles 16 recounts a key moment in Israel’s history when the ark of the covenant was brought into the City of David (Jerusalem). Samuel tells us it happened in a moment…

    Sticks, Bricks, and God

    After praying about what God was calling them to do in the next phase of their lives, Mark and Nina determined that moving to the urban core of the city was what they needed to do. They purchased a vacant house and renovation was well underway—then came the storm. Mark wrote in a text message to me: “We had a surprise this morning. The tornado that came through Jeff[erson] City, took out our renovation—down to sticks and bricks. God is up to something.”

    Uncontrollable storms are not the only things that surprise us and create confusion in our lives. Not losing…

    Golden Scars

    In the Netherlands, a group of fashion designers offer a “Golden Joinery” workshop. Inspired by the Japanese technique Kintsugi, where broken porcelain is visibly repaired with gold, participants collaborate in mending clothes in ways that highlight the mending work rather than trying to mask it. Those who are invited bring “a dear but broken garment and mend it with gold.” As they remake their clothes, the repair becomes ornament, a “golden scar.”

    Articles of clothing are transformed in ways that highlight the places where they were torn or frayed. Perhaps this is something like what Paul meant when he said that…

    Strange Comfort

    The verse on the card Lisa received didn’t seem to match her situation: “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). I have cancer! she thought in confusion. I’ve just lost a baby! A verse about angel soldiers does not apply.

    Then the “angels” began to show up. Cancer survivors gave her their time and a listening ear. Her husband got released early from an overseas military assignment. Friends prayed with her. But the moment she most felt God’s love was when…

    How Did I Get Here?

    Tiffani awoke in the pitch-black darkness of an Air Canada jet. Still belted into her seat, she had slept while the other passengers exited and the plane was parked. Why didn’t anyone wake her? How did she get here? She shook the cobwebs from her brain and tried to remember.

    Have you found yourself in a place you never expected? You’re too young to have this disease, and there’s no cure. Your last review was excellent; why is your position being eliminated? You were enjoying the best years of your marriage. Now you’re starting over, as a single parent with a…

    Refined in the Fire

    Twenty-four karat gold is 100 percent gold with no impurities. But that percentage is difficult to achieve. Refiners most commonly use one of two methods for the purification process. The Miller method is the quickest and least expensive, but the resulting gold is only about 99.95 percent pure. The Wohlwill process takes a little more time and costs more, but the gold produced is 99.99 percent pure.

    In Bible times, refiners used fire as a gold purifier. Fire caused impurities to rise to the surface for easier removal. In his first letter to Christians throughout Asia Minor (northern Turkey), the apostle…

    Hope Blossoms

    In the city of Philadelphia, when weedy vacant lots were cleaned up and brightened with beautiful flowers and trees, nearby residents also brightened—in overall mental health. This proved especially true for those who struggled economically.

    “There’s a growing body of evidence that green space can have an impact on mental health,” said Dr. Eugenia South, “and that’s particularly important for people living in poorer neighborhoods.” South, a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, is coauthor of a study on the subject.

    The downtrodden people of Israel and Judah found fresh hope in the prophet Isaiah’s vision of…

    Why Me?

    The Book of Odds says that one in a million people are struck by lightning. One in 25,000 experience a medical condition called “broken heart syndrome” in the face of overwhelming shock or loss. In page after page the odds of experiencing specific problems pile up without answering: What if we’re the one?

    Job defied all odds. God said of him, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Yet Job was chosen to suffer a series of losses that defied all odds. Of all people on…

    Doubt and Faith

    MingTeck woke up with a severe headache and thought it was another migraine. But when he got out of bed, he collapsed onto the floor. He was admitted to the hospital where the doctors informed him he’d had a stroke. After four months of rehabilitation, he recovered his ability to think and talk, but still walks with a painful limp. He often struggles with despair, but he finds great comfort from the book of Job.

     

    Job lost all his wealth and his children overnight. Despite the harrowing news, he at first looked to God in hope and praised Him for being…

    Through the Waters

    The movie The Free State of Jones tells the US Civil War story of Newton Knight and some Confederate deserters and slaves who aided the Union Army and then resisted slaveholders after the war. Many herald Newton as the hero, but two slaves first saved his life after his desertion. They carried Knight deep into a secluded swampland and tended a leg wound he suffered while fleeing Confederate forces. If they’d abandoned him, he would have died.

    The people of Judah were wounded and desperate, facing enemies and feeling helpless. Israel had been overtaken by Assyria, and Isaiah prophesied that one day…

    Death Row Joy

    In 1985 Anthony Ray Hinton was charged with the murders of two restaurant managers. It was a set up—he’d been miles away when the crimes happened—but he was found guilty and sentenced to death. At the trial, Ray forgave those who lied about him, adding that he still had joy despite this injustice. “After my death, I’m going to heaven,” he said. “Where are you going?”

    Life on death row was hard for Ray. Prison lights flickered whenever the electric chair was used for others, a grim reminder of what lay ahead. Ray passed a lie detector test but the…

    “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.…

    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…

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