God Is with You
Have you ever used a GPS in your car on a long trip? At first it’s a little unnerving as the voice of an unseen individual starts telling you what lane to merge into, where to turn, and how far you need to go. But as you venture into unfamiliar territory, locked in traffic on an unknown road, that voice soon becomes very comforting. You don’t have to worry about an unexpected road sign. No need to fret over a sudden lane change. The voice of “one who knows” is guiding you.
The road of life is also filled with unknown surprises and difficult turns. And sometimes the path leaves us feeling confused and distraught. There is perhaps no better example than when we experience a painful loss. A loved one is taken unexpectedly. A relationship breaks, leaving us alone and afraid. A promising career is derailed by a sudden layoff. In those times, it’s nice to hear the voice of One who has promised to be with us every step of the way. Listen to the promise the Lord gave Isaiah in 41:10...
Fear is a natural reaction when loss suddenly visits us. These kinds of crises plunge us into an ocean of uncertainty, turmoil, or grief. But we need not face these challenges alone. God has assured us that when we seek Him, He will empower us with strength, stamina, and—best of all—His presence.
Perhaps you’re facing a difficult time of loss today. If not, it’s likely you’ll experience such a crisis in the future. That’s the nature of life. Whatever the case, you need not walk through that valley alone. Seek out the support of fellow believers. And give your burden to the Lord. He has promised to be your provider, your comfort, and your strength. Then rest in the promise that wherever you go, God will be with you.
The media recently reported a tragic story from Philadelphia in which a confrontation over noise in a movie theater escalated into a violent shooting. Frustrated with a talkative father and son seated near him, the shooter threw popcorn at the son. After an angry exchange of words, he got up to approach the father, who rose to meet him. At that point, the man pulled out a pistol, shot the father, then calmly resumed watching the movie until police arrived. For his impulsive act, the man faced six felony charges, including attempted murder and aggravated assault.
It’s startling what destruction a moment of anger can cause. Too often it leads to words and actions that we soon regret... and that carry long-lasting consequences.
Yet anger is also a very common response to a number of situations. There is perhaps no greater example of this than when we’ve suffered a devastating loss in our lives. Broken relationships can provoke anger toward those we’ve held closest in our lives. Loss of a job can leave us angry at coworkers, supervisors, or institutions. This anger will only lead to bitterness and pain if it remains unresolved and is allowed to fester.
With all the negative consequences of anger, it’s no surprise that the apostle Paul gave us this sober warning in Ephesians 4:26,27.
Perhaps the most destructive kind of anger occurs when we focus our emotion at God. “Why did God allow this to happen to me? Has He forgotten about me?” These are not uncommon questions when people are visited by a devastating loss. Perhaps you’ve asked such questions yourself. But if we allow our questions to build into anger, doubt, and bitterness toward God, our very relationship with Him will suffer.
Are you hurting today? Have you suffered loss? Don’t let anger toward God or others consume you. Instead, give your burden to the Lord. He knows you’re hurting. He understands your loss. As you cling to Him through the pain, He will bring healing and restore your life in ways you cannot yet imagine.
Why is anger, whether directed at God or others, so destructive to our Christian faith and commitment?
Have you allowed anger over a loss to fester in your heart? What steps can you take, both now and in the future, to put anger behind you as you heal from the pain of a loss?
These may be the two most paralyzing words in the English language. Yet they’re words we’ve all spoken; some of us may speak them quite often. One of the most common times we fall into the trap of regret that this phrase represents is when we’ve experienced a difficult loss. We become estranged from a friend, then wonder, “If only I’d been more supportive or encouraging.” Our job is cut and we lament, “If only I’d taken that other job instead.” A precious loved one falls ill and passes away, and we ask ourselves, “What if I’d just seen the symptoms earlier?”
Regrets like these can form a vicious, destructive cycle. Our focus on what we wish we’d done differently leaves us hesitant to face the challenges of today. And the weight of our remorse makes it difficult to recognize all the great things God has in store for us in the future.
The Psalmist had the right perspective in Psalm 37:5,6, when he encouraged God’s people with a simple exhortation of trust in the Lord.
Feelings of regret and guilt are common when we’ve experienced a difficult loss in our lives. In fact, working through these feelings is often necessary in dealing with the crisis. But we must never lose sight of this one marvelous truth, this perfect hope: We can trust God; we can trust Him enough to commit even the most difficult and painful experiences of our lives to His care.
Life is filled with “what if’s.” It’s always easy to assume that the road unseen must somehow be better than the hard road we’ve travelled. But when we’ve placed our lives in God’s hands, we can rest assured that the path He lays before us will be filled with blessings beyond what we could ever experience on our own. It may seem dark now, but as we rest in the Lord, the day is coming when our “righteousness [will] shine like the dawn” (verse 5).
Are you ever haunted by feelings of regret over a loss you’ve experienced in the past? Explain?
Why will committing your ways to the Lord, as described in Psalm 37, help you overcome the burden and consequences of this regret?
What steps do you need to take, if any, to commit this burden of regret completely to the Lord?
Conquer Your Fear
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
These immortal words were uttered by President Franklin Roosevelt during his first inaugural address in 1933. He spoke as the nation faced some of the darkest days of the Great Depression. Unemployment was rampant. And as jobs were lost, so were homes, possessions, and life savings. Meanwhile, a drought had impacted a good portion of the nation, leaving farmers and ranchers in danger of losing their livelihood, if they hadn’t already.
Roosevelt’s message was clear: In spite of all the struggles and crises the people had faced, and would face in the future, no enemy would be more dangerous to the nation than the paralyzing effects of fear. This pervasive emotion had the power to crush the soul and destroy hope. In order for the nation to move forward, fear would have to be conquered.
Roosevelt’s words ring true still today. And perhaps nowhere is fear more common—and more devastating—than when we’ve suffered the painful crisis of a loss in our lives. The hurt of past circumstances leave us feeling hesitant and filled with doubt. In an effort to avoid repeating the hurt, we struggle to move forward, whether it be in our relationships, our plans, or our hopes. Sadly, even our passion to stretch our faith and trust in the Lord can be challenged. It’s in those times that we need to remember the strong promise of Scripture found in Proverbs 16:3.
It’s hard to move forward when we’ve suffered a painful loss of something, or someone, dear to our lives. We may find ourselves hesitant to look to the future, to step out and pursue what God has for us in the future. The risks can feel daunting. We don’t want to be hurt again. Yet we can cling to those precious words, that promise of the Lord. Yes, life is very difficult at times. But God does have great things in store for those who take courage, and commit their ways to Him.
What are some ways that hurts of the past can hinder our future? What would life be like if we allow the fear of those hurts to control how we live in the future?
Are you burdened by hurts over losses you’ve suffered in the past? How can you regain the courage to pursue all that God has for you in the future?
You Can Go On
Have you ever watched the Olympic marathon on television? It can be quite a sight as some of the greatest runners in the world cover the 26.2 miles in just over 2 hours. Often their relaxed smiles as they cross the finish line might leave us wondering if the race took much out of them at all—it seems to come so naturally to them. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Experts say that the most challenging part of a marathon occurs at around the 20-mile mark, a point in the race often called “the wall.” It happens when the body has used most of its readily-available energy, and has to begin functioning on the energy that’s been stored. As a result, muscles become extremely tired and sore; it can be a chore to simply continue putting one foot in front of the other. For that reason, it’s said that in order for champion runners to be successful, he or she first must learn how to endure and conquer the wall.
For some who experience the devastating pain of a loss, it can seem as if their life has hit “the wall.” All strength is gone. In their souls they feel weak and tired. Some may even wonder how they’ll ever be able to go on. But there’s hope in those desperate circumstances. Listen to the powerful promise spoken by Isaiah to all those who place their trust in the Lord, found in Isaiah 40:29,31.
If you’ve suffered loss in your life, you may know all too well how it can rob you of even the strength and will to go on. For you, these are incredible words of promise. When your own strength is gone, you can find hope in knowing God offers aid from His own, unlimited supply. If the pain of life’s circumstances seems overwhelming, you can surrender to the Lord, who will renew you and give you hope beyond what you could ever find in yourself.
Times of loss can leave us feeling discouraged, even crushed. But be assured—God still has a marvelous road set before us. In Him we can find the strength to move ahead today, follow His perfect plan, and experience the great reward He has in store for all those who’ve committed their ways to Him.
Have you ever felt as if you didn’t have the strength to simply go on in life? How did you respond?
What are some ways God can renew our strength, our perspective, and even our ability to rise above hard circumstances when we place our trust in Him?
A Steadfast Mind
A man who had just suffered the sudden loss of his wife shared this story: Soon after she passed away, he was visited by a friend who spoke to him for an hour. It was a virtual monologue focused on the nature of life, hope beyond the grave, and various reasons why such a tragedy might come. The grieving man found himself wishing he would go away, and finally he did.
Then another man visited this new widower. He simply sat beside him. He didn’t ask leading questions or sermonize about the nature of God or the meaning of life. He just listened, prayed, listened, and prayed some more. This time the sorrowful man was comforted. He hated to see this friend go.
It’s a common reaction in times of grief to try to understand why things happen, to grapple with what it all means. Yet as we go through the process of dealing with that loss, we eventually come to grips with the fact that lofty words and profound thoughts won’t bring peace or fulfillment. True, healing peace is found in simple times spent with God, trusting Him and reflecting on the joy of a close relationship dwelling in His presence. The prophet Isaiah said it this way in Isaiah 26:3.
It’s interesting that we’re encouraged to keep our minds “steadfast” as we plod through difficult days. That word doesn’t relate to our knowledge or understanding, though we’re always wise to search God’s Word in hard times. No, steadfast points toward a commitment of the will, to focus on God, relying on His goodness and strength to help us move ahead. That kind of trust will carry us through the darkest hours of grief, sorrow, remorse, and struggle.
Do you know someone near who’s going through a difficult time of loss? The first reaction might be to formulate answers, to help them make some kind of sense from what they’ve experienced. Instead, try taking the time to simply pray with that one, and for that one, asking God to be their peace, strength, and consolation.
If you’re struggling through a time of grief today, rest in the Lord. Answers may not come. Understanding might elude you, but God is always there. He will keep you in perfect peace as you place your trust in Him.
Why can it be difficult to keep our minds “steadfast” on the Lord in times of grief?
Why will it often be necessary for us to move ahead in times of grief, even if we haven’t yet found the kind of answers or understanding we desire?
God Still Has a Plan
Romans 8:28, 29
“I don’t think life can ever be good again.”
We’ve all probably experienced valleys of grief or loss that left us saying—or at least thinking—these very words. And such a reaction is understandable. Some things in life are irreplaceable. The grieving widow, or the father who just lost his child, can only think of how good it was to have that loved one near. Life will never be the same. And that aspiring professional who just lost the career she worked a quarter century to build can’t help but wonder where she could possibly go from here.
The pain of loss is very real. That’s because the value we place on who or what was lost is very real, and very precious. But there is hope. The apostle Paul offered this reminder in Romans 8:28.
If uttered by mere humans, these words could come across as trite. “Don’t worry; it will all work out in the end,” can ring hollow when the storm is raging around us. That’s when we need to stop and reflect on what these words really say, what truth they actually offer us in the midst of life’s darkest hours.
Note that God never minimizes or dismisses our pain. This verse doesn’t say, “In the end, you’ll find that what you’re experiencing was actually something good.” No, the times of hurt are indeed very real. Our Lord knows that. And because He, too, walked this earth, He can empathize with the struggle.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, we’re reminded that God is still at work in our lives, even when we feel we’re at a standstill. It isn’t up to us, then, to find the way toward a bright, hopeful future. Even as we hurt, our souls crying out for the loss we’ve suffered, God has an eye toward something good. We may not see it now; we may not be able to see it. But He still has plans for us. And in spite of all that has happened, those plans are still in effect.
Are you hurting from a loss today? Take the time necessary to grieve and mourn, knowing that God is there with you. And even in the hurt, don’t allow yourself to lose sight of the fact that somewhere in the future, in a time that may seem quite far away, God is still working on a marvelous plan for your life. He sees beyond the pain, even when we never could.
Have you ever suffered a loss that left you wondering if life would ever really be good again? How did you respond?
Why is it important to recognize that God still has good plans for us, even when we can’t imagine what those plans might be?
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International
Nothing's Too Hard For God |
Forgiveness | Loneliness
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