When I moved to LA, I was starry-eyed with excitement. I saw the mountains in the distance, felt the perfect weather every day, and was excited to be in a new city in an attempt to accomplish my dreams.

From the people to the food, weather, activities, fashion, and lifestyle, it couldn’t have been be more different than my hometown. People loved to dress up every day in their newest outfit, work out in the trendiest classes, and do anything and everything to look and feel good.

Look, I’m not trying to judge anyone, because I quickly noticed I was doing the same. Within the first year of living there, I changed my diet, dyed my hair, got lash extensions, and joined the trendy gym, trying to fit in.

Now, while I don’t think there is anything wrong with any of these choices, it quickly became a self-obsession. It wasn’t until I sought out a counselor and nutritionist that I realized I was draining myself.


I made these choices from a place of hating my body and keeping up with people.I wasn’t genuinely trying to be healthy, working out because I loved it, but I was just doing things for my present self and not for my future self.

Digging into the why behind what we are doing is so important. What is your intention or your motivation?

Perhaps you relate to my story. What I’ve learned is that in pursuing a long, healthy life, bringing people and God into the process helps keep our motives and intentions pure.

Sometimes our desires aren’t wrong, but the reason behind them is.

The more we take care of the internal, the more it positively affects the external.

God wants us to take care of ourselves. He says in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 that our bodies are a temple, which means that our bodies are to be treated with care like a holy place. If God compares our bodies to a holy temple, it must mean that He wants us to treat them as such.

But to care for my body, I also had to attend to my soul. I like to think that your soul is what makes you come alive. It’s what responds to the things that bring you joy, immense exhilaration, and peace. It’s those moments that make me go, “Wow, I feel so alive! I want to do more of that!”


Think of a time when you felt so happy and overwhelmed by God’s goodness. Can you channel that again or—even better—re-create that situation? Was it maybe after you hiked somewhere and got to the top of the mountain and saw the view? Whatever it is, do that more often! As long as the things are God-honoring and good, do them!

Even though life will have its inevitable challenges, rejoice, pray, and give thanks to God through the storms.

I’ve seen my joy and mood improve significantly, and I believe it can be the same for you!

For more insights, watch our conversation with Jeanine and Hannah here.

*For further reflection, listen to 1 Corinthians 6 today.

  1. 1 Corinthians 6

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Adapted from Becoming Happy and Healthy by Jeanine Amapola, Bethany House, a division of Baker Published Group, 2024. Used by Permission.

Too often, I end up in front of a computer screen, a TV screen, or the screen on my phone.

While waiting for my kids to come out of practice, I scroll.

When the day has sucked my energy and I’m counting the minutes till I can shut my eyes, I scroll. At the dentist’s office, in order to avoid eye contact with other strangers in the room, I scroll.

And after all that scrolling, I am still tired, worn, sapped, and empty.

What if we quit mindless scrolling?

I decided to give it a try recently. Here’s what I started doing:

After the kids get on the bus in the morning, I check my email, respond to messages, and then I quit scrolling, so I am ready for my date with God before heading to work. In a short time, I’ve read through almost half of the New Testament. As I read, I underlined what I think are the main points. I put a box around words that stick out. I pray.

Instead of scrolling while waiting for one of my kids to come out of practice or work, I pray for that particular child. I pray for his or her health. I pray the Lord helps them stand strong in the culture. I pray they walk with God all their days. I pray God molds and fashions that child into an instrument used for His glory.

At the end of the day, instead of scrolling, I go to my room and read. Not only do I get time with good books, but sometimes my husband and teenage children seek me out. In the quietness of zero screens, we talk and laugh.

And when I stopped scrolling, I noticed how many people still were.

We scroll at red lights. We scroll while shopping with our daughter, who is only ten, and ask if this dress is better than this one. We scroll while the old lady in the waiting room, who is alone all day, watches, wishing someone would notice and talk to her.

While we scroll, time passes that we can’t get back.

Conversations that would have encouraged and blessed us don’t happen. Relationships deteriorate. Prayers we haven’t murmured aren’t answered. Spiritual growth that would have helped us navigate what is ahead hasn’t happened.

There’s a better way. It’s totally doable, and the payoff is substantial. Scroll less, and live more starting today.

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3

*For further information, listen to Jeremiah 33.

  1. Jeremiah 33

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Whether you’re caring for a new baby, a sick child, an aging parent, or you’re nurturing the work you love, some days can feel like the work is never done.

I often find it hard to go to sleep when all my tasks haven’t been checked off my to-do list. It feels like I can only draw my day to a close when I’m able to shut the book on that list. But what is a life when it’s lived chasing after a list?

I hope you’ll take a deep breath and receive this blessing today:

May you give yourself a moment to take a few deep breaths.

May the Lord guide you to the reason you work as hard as you do.

May you acknowledge that God is working and watching out for you, bringing peace to your racing heart.

May you remember that life is more than lists.

Life is moments connected by time and love: a hand slipped slowly into yours on a walk, the joy of a puppy, bedtime prayers recited together.

May you never give yourself so wholeheartedly to your lists that you forget to live your life.

You are more than the sum of your check marks.

Consider tomorrow’s to-dos. What can you rearrange or move to make space for life to happen?

These are the moments that will fuel your energy and passion for the work you must do.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (Proverbs 17:22)

*For deeper reflection, listen to Proverbs 17 today.

  1. Proverbs 17

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Taken from Near in the Night by Emily Ley. Copyright © 2023 by Emily Ley. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.

I picked up my phone off the nightstand that morning and opened it with dread. I felt anxiety fill my body. On social media, I knew what I would find: other people enjoying their lives while I cried about mine.

Life felt so unfair. Hot tears filled my eyes, and I immediately tried to blink them back while I whispered a desperate prayer, “Lord, am I going to feel like this forever?”

As I poured my coffee, I made a mental list of what I felt like I could no longer handle.

For starters, I battled relentlessly with my mental health. And I also juggled two kids under five, my husband’s unforeseen job loss, the sudden passing of my father-in-law, and ongoing financial pressures, just to name a few.

I saw no relief in sight. It was hard not to feel frustrated, fed-up, and maybe even a little forgotten by God.

My soul was exhausted, and I was tired of trying. It seemed I had prayed every prayer I knew how to pray and read every Scripture I knew that pertained to my circumstances. Yet, nothing seemed to change.

Maybe you know this season all too well. Maybe you’ve been hurting so deeply and for so long. Maybe you expected to handle this better and to be stronger when everything came crashing down.

But it’s okay that you’re feeling weak and unsure. God wants us to let go of trying to figure it all out, and let him do what he does bestsave us.

When God commanded Moses to save his people from their slavery in Egypt, they never expected their journey to freedom to take so long or be so very hard.

But God had not taken them to the wilderness to simply punish them. Instead, he brought them there to both teach them dependence on him and bring them to the good land he had prepared for them.

In Jeremiah 31:2-3, we see the Lord say in reference to that time, “‘This is what the Lord says: ‘Those who survive the coming destruction will find blessings even in the barren land, for I will give rest to the people of Israel…I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.'”

God hears your cries for deliverance, and he has grace for you in your wilderness.

I continued to walk through my own wilderness. I realized God was using those things I thought were breaking me to make me more like Jesus.

I felt exhausted because I believed it was all up to me.

When I chose to trust him to hold my broken heart and receive his grace, he began to reveal the good plans he had all along.

Friend, will you dare to remember the heart of God when it is hard to understand why he is not fixing your most hurtful seasons?

Will you trust that, like the Israelites, you, too will find grace in our wilderness? Will you cling to the truth that he has rest for your worn-out souls and that he will never stop loving you?

Regardless of how you feel, you can stand in confidence that God will continue to be faithful.

Dear Lord, Thank you that you hear my prayers when my life feels like it is too much, and I am desperate for solutions. I pray you would help me to hold onto you in faith. Cause me to stand on the truth of who I know you to be; a good, faithful and loving Father. Thank you that you always have my best in mind. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*For further reflection, listen to Jeremiah 31 today.

  1. Jeremiah 39

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Enjoy further insights with Ashley Morgan Jackson in our interview with her here.

God understands what it means to feel alone. Mark writes this about Jesus, “Then everyone deserted him and fled” (Mark 14:48–50).

It’s kind of hard to believe this verse. At first, I read it and wondered, Is Mark talking about Jesus?

The one who died for us—that Jesus?

But yes, it was Jesus who was grieving. He knew that he was about to go to the Cross.

And yet everyone deserted him.

Jesus experienced one of the deepest grief moments of his human life, and those closest to him deserted him. They abandoned him, left him, let him down, and didn’t come through.

Abandonment and desertion can crush the spirit and be traumatic experiences themselves. But this happened to Jesus; everyone deserted him.

My mom used to say, “If it happened to Jesus, we are no better than him. So it could happen to us.”

True, but thanks be to God, Jesus has already walked in all our shoes to truly understand what we feel, sense, and struggle through.

And the best part is that he knows how to help us, heal us, comfort us, and give us peace.

Further, in understanding how God understands our grief, the prophet Isaiah prophesied this of Jesus, “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

God, in the bodily form of Jesus, bore our sorrow, our grief, and our pain on the Cross. Not that we wouldn’t experience them, but instead he would know how to comfort us. Knowing someone knows what you are going through provides a sense of comfort all by itself.

It comforts us when we meet someone with a similar shared experience. It excites us even. I become super excited when I find out someone is creative or loves art because I am a low-key art fan. I have been since I was single digits.

And it is the same with our grief. Think about it, how relieved would you become if you met someone who had experienced—even remotely—what you have or even slightly understood your grief? Wouldn’t it make you feel less alone?

I know it would make me feel better. Well, guess what? God knows fully what you are experiencing or have experienced in the past, and he understands.

In his humanity, Jesus even wept.

Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus’s, was sick. Jesus heard this news, and instead of going to see him, he remained where he was for a few more days. And Lazarus died.

Before leaving for Bethany, Jesus was already aware of the fact that Lazarus had died. He told his disciples that Lazarus was instead sleeping, but he would go to wake him. When Jesus arrived, Martha confronted him, saying that if he had been there, her brother would not have died.

As described by John, Jesus was “deeply troubled” (John 11:33). Then the story goes on to say, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

Jesus seems to embody the words of Paul, who wrote, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Jesus saw their grief, and he had compassion for them. He grieved with them.

In fact, when Jesus heard about the death of John the Baptist, he also grieved. John was Jesus’s cousin. We first hear of this relationship when Jesus’s mother, Mary, went to see her cousin Elizabeth. They were both pregnant. There was already a kindred connection between Jesus and John while they were still in their mothers’ wombs.

Then this same John later prepares the way for Jesus. In the end, John becomes a martyr in the name of Jesus.

So, when Jesus hears about the death of John the Baptist, Matthew wrote, he “left in a boat to a remote area to be alone” (Matthew 14:13).

Jesus took time to grieve and honor John the Baptist.

I think as believers, we often forget this. Maybe we think about how strong and powerful God is; we think about how nothing moves God or hurts God.

I believe we forget how God became flesh and felt every single thing that happened to him. When people hear of your loss and immediately say, “I can’t imagine.” know that Jesus can imagine and knows your pain.

In the same way that people would become much more thoughtful and compassionate by trying to put themselves where you are, if we were to put ourselves in Jesus’ shoes (I know, big shoes to fill), we would have such a better perspective.

A better view. A lens of what it may have felt like while Jesus was praying in the garden. We would have a better understanding of the loving way Jesus understands us. Just as Jesus grieved, he understands that all people grieve, and he understands your grief. As he felt alone, he understands how you feel alone. He knew and he knows.

He knew one day you and I would grieve, and so God made a way for us to come to him for comfort and to obtain peace, simply through the name of Jesus.

So, no matter where you find yourself right now in your grief journey, God is asking, “Can you just sit with me?”

For further reflection, listen to Mark 14.

  1. Mark 14

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*Adapted from Can You Just Sit with Me? by Natasha Smith. ©2023 by Natasha Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com.

My husband, Steve, had been a daily source of joy for me for more than 50 years.

Daily, he made me coffee, shared that he loved me, praised my cooking, told me I was beautiful, assured me that I could do anything God gave me to do, and always believed in me.

Such a source of joy!

Six months ago, Steve left me. It was not his choice, but God’s. Complications from a cancer treatment ended his earthly life, but he joyfully moved to his new heavenly life.

I miss him terribly, but how can I not rejoice that he is with Jesus and free from the growing troubles his body was facing?

Did I say rejoice? Indeed. As great a loss as this has been for me, my children, and grandchildren, and as often as tears come, I can still rejoice.

And that’s one reason why I believe God can give us joy—abundant joy—even as we navigate the hard journey of loving a prodigal and other difficult challenges.

What gives you joy? For most of us, joy and happiness are synonyms.

The things that make us happy often provide joy in our lives.

What often brings us joy are the loving relationships we have: family, a spouse, children, grandchildren, neighbors, church friends, co-workers. The people in our lives can be the happiest parts of our lives.

Other sources of happiness might be a sense of purpose, meaningful work, a nice home, good health, fun and refreshing activities.

And even when your team wins the championship.

But then there are realities that seem to steal our joy away: loss of a job, financial challenges, a scary diagnosis, betrayal by friends, and interpersonal conflicts.

And—the pain and challenge of a prodigal, of a loved one making destructive life choices or causing chaos for the family or rejecting a relationship with you.

Our God tells us we can have joy in all those bad events I just mentioned, even when my husband dies or your loved one breaks your heart.

Consider it Joy

My theme verse is James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

James calls us to make a choice—to consider, that is, to acknowledge, recognize, and regard the trials of our lives as pure joy.

Seriously? Pure joy? Not just grudging joy?

So James goes on to remind us of gifts we receive from those trials: “…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4).

Most likely, perseverance hasn’t been on your list of desired gifts. Though, we must admit, it helps us get through hard times. I think perseverance has been one of my most important gifts.

Just look at the result of growing in perseverance: to be mature and complete, lacking nothing! We have all we need.

Ask the Questions

Yet, even as God calls us to perseverance—and joy on a hard journey—he also invites us to be honest with him, to express our fears and feelings, to ask challenging questions, to lament.

What is lament? A lament is a prayer expressing sorrow, pain, or confusion. Lament could be the chief way Christians process grief in God’s presence.

Almost a third of the Psalms and the entire book of Lamentations are concerned with lament.

Like he does every other emotion, God wants to hear about our pain. God wants us to lament.

Listen to these words from Psalm 42:

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night,

while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him my Savior and my God.”

As you can see, God welcomes our praise, but also our pain. He receives our gratitude, and also our questions.

Sometimes God Answers Questions

After Steve’s death, I had a lot of questions. Answers included scriptural promises and reminders, and also “trust Me” and “wait” and “persevere.”

But God was also kind to give me almost audible answers to some of my questions. These two have been the most important and helpful:

“How will I live without him?”

God’s response, repeatedly: “I will be with you.”

“Why did he have to leave now?”

This response has been an ongoing source of joy for me: “I wanted to be kind to him.”

How can I argue with that?

God calls us to consider it pure joy when the journey is hard, and as we do, we will find valuable life-giving gifts. But he also invites us to tell him how hard it is, how much it hurts, how confused we are, and to ask our deep and honest questions.

And in the process, he will give us joy!

*For further reflection today, listen to James 1 and Psalm 42.

  1. James 1
  2. Psalm 42

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~This is the first of four devotional studies on “Joy in the Hard Journey.”

***Please enjoy a meaningful and insighfut interview with Judy Douglass here!
***

The song “New Wine” begins

“In the crushing…In the pressing…You are making new wine.”

My early elementary report cards showed “outstanding” rankings, except for one “needs improvement” blot on my second-grade report card. The category described how I “handle disappointment.” Many were my youthful tears—whether shed behind a textbook, on the sidelines of lacrosse, or upon my bed. From my early days, I did not handle disappointment well.

Jesus talked about the need for “new wineskins” with new wines. (Matthew 9:17) The old wineskins would no longer suffice because the new wine would bust them wide open.

In the same way, as an adult, I needed to learn to let go of what I thought my life was supposed to be—the old wineskins—and embrace the reality of entirely new wineskins and the new wines they would hold.

Crushing and pressing are involved in making new wine. On the heels of two very crushing experiences, I faced a continual need to surrender in order to fully produce this new wine, and it all felt so disappointing.

Disappointment never crushed me more than when we had to leave our life in Hungary after I experienced my first mental health crisis.

However, amid all the horrible lies I heard during my manic episode in Orlando, God whispered more fervently, “Endure, beloved, endure.”

I didn’t know what this message meant except that I needed to hold tightly and remember that God was real despite all the lies.

All I could do was seek to hang on to the overarching truth of Christ’s redemption.Christ’s remarkable story would win in my life and in all things.

Sometimes, dear reader, this is all we can do.

With something like mental illness, when our minds are sponges for deception, we have to trust the greater truth of God. He is present beyond every crushing experience, making new wine for us and within us. And not just any wine, but full-bodied, rich, exquisite wine that will one day be served at the great feast of God in the new heaven and new Earth.

As we walk this long road home, there may be many times God calls us to endure. Every one of our beliefs may be tested, but our deepest truths can come to life in this pressing time.

We are made for God, and he will have us forever, basking in his love’s beauty and heavens’ fullness. Moreover, this new wine he makes of us will bear the stunning story of his beauty replacing the ashes of our sorrow.

*For further reflection, listen to Matthew 9.

  1. Matthew 9

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Adapted from A Million Skies: Secure in God’s Strength When Your Mind Can’t Rest © Abigail Alleman, 2022.

Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

“Well,” they replied, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” (Matthew 16:13–14).

Jesus then asked one of the simplest yet most profound questions in Scripture: “Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15).

The twelve disciples had spent almost every waking moment with Jesus for a couple of years at that point. They had witnessed him heal people, perform countless miracles, and teach with authority in the presence of the Pharisees and Sadducees. If anyone should’ve known who Jesus was, it should have been them, right?

They saw his power with their own eyes and heard his words with their own ears.

And yet when Peter rightly responded, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being” (Matthew 16:16–17).

Here is why Jesus’s statement is so profound: The people who saw and heard Jesus identified him as John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah because they compared Jesus’s ministry and teaching to that of these men.They identified Jesus based on who he reminded them of, and we do something similar when we identify people based on who they remind us of.

We say our daughter is cheerful like Aunt Sally, or our boss is mean and gruff like our old volleyball coach. We tend to identify people based on our sensory experience—what we see, hear, touch, or smell—and how it reminds us of someone else. This is part of what makes Jesus’s question significant.

He wanted to share this truth: people’s experience of you is not who you are.

Just as Jesus wasn’t John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets, you aren’t who other people say you are.

Jesus essentially said, “I am more than what you see me do. I am more than what you hear me say. I am more than what you feel when I’m around. I am who the Father says I am—and so are you.”

*For Further Reflection, listen to Matthew 16 today.

  1. Matthew 16

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Taken from KILLING COMPARISON by Nona Jones. Copyright © September 27, 2022 by Nona Jones. Used by permission of Zondervan.com.

“Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry” (Luke 4:1-2).

Hungry Son,

The Father called you Beloved

and then the Spirit

led you like a lamb

out into the scorching sun

where you

chose trust

in your Father

over proving

your own power.

Lead us to landscapes

we would not choose

to feed us with trust we cannot lose.

Because for far too long

we’ve been fed sugar

by shepherds on stages

in words that say fame

and power

and the removal of pain

are the proof

of bearing your name.

But your sonship reveals

what no stage can show:

it is into vulnerability

that you choose

to go.

Amen.

Show me a shepherd who listens long, who is not afraid of being seen as wrong.

Show me a shepherd who will sit on your couch, who asks how you’re doing when you’ve dropped off the earth.

Show me a shepherd who cries when you weep, whose heart is still moved by every hurt sheep.

Show me a shepherd who gives up their time, who counts not the minutes they’re falling behind.

Show me a shepherd whose kindness can preach louder than any sermon could reach.

Show me a shepherd who studies the language of hearts as much as Hebrew or Greek, who conjugates the verbs of being meek.

Show me a shepherd who dares to believe stories whose truths might make people leave.

Show me a shepherd who reports abuse, who respects people for more than their use.

Show me a shepherd who assumes there’s no stage as important as sitting with sheep in their pain.

*For further reflection, listen to Luke 4.

  1. Luke 4

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To enjoy our interview K.J, listen here!

Have you ever wanted something so badly you would do anything to get it? If you are old enough to remember the eighties, you may remember some television shows that dared people to do crazy things for big money. And they did! But right now, that ‘thing’ you really want? There is not enough money in the world that can buy it for you. There is no game show you can get onto that will help you win it.

Until along comes an extraordinary man who can give you this ‘thing.’

‘Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand.’ (Mark 3:1). He notices your hand! He can give you anything you want, and he doesn’t want your money! But there is a glitch. People are watching, and some influential leaders are in the audience.

On top of this, today is the Sabbath! Work is forbidden on the Sabbath, including healing someone to make them whole.

“Then he [Jesus] turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.’ (v.4).

Here you stand. You realize that to receive this gift, you would have to accept it in front of these people. ‘Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” (v.3)

What do you do? Stand in front of everyone and suffer the consequences? Or do you continue to suffer in silence?

That’s what the man with the withered hand had to decide.

Fortunately for him, he decided he wanted healing more than he feared the opinion of the leaders. So when Jesus called him, he went to him. He had lived his entire life without the use of this hand.

The man vulnerably stood in front of Jesus. ‘Then he [Jesus] said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So, the man held out his hand, and it was restored!’ (v.5).

Jesus wants our restoration and wholeness for us even to the point of dying on the cross to give us that wholeness.

We need only to stand in front of him and hold our hand to receive it.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Mark 3 today.