I hate being uncomfortable. I’m the girl who immediately changes out of her cute clothes as soon as I get home and into my comfy T-shirt.

Yet, as believers, we aren’t promised a comfortable life.

In fact, Jesus warns us in John 16:33, “Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows.” The good news is found at the end of that same verse, when He says, “But, take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Friends, we already know the ending. We know that Jesus wins and we will spend eternity with Him.

However, it is the here and now that leaves us struggling as we face our troubles.

It is so much easier to turn to something physical for comfort than to God. But that comfort will not last.

When I was in college, I frequently turned to porn to numb any of my negative feelings. I left awkward social gatherings without any friends to go back to my dorm. I looked at porn and masturbated to escape the deep loneliness I felt.

Porn never cured my loneliness.

In fact, I felt more lonely afterwards because I was craving deep intimacy with God and others. If you feel discomfort, you may also turn to porn. Or you might instead become numb by binge-watching TV shows, mindlessly scrolling on social media or comfort eating.

Here are two practical ways you can turn to God in your discomfort:

1) Learn to sit in your discomfort. Sitting in this way is an important muscle to develop. One way is to journal ALL of your thoughts and feelings.

Give yourself permission to cry and to admit feeling overwhelmed, lonely, or anxious. Instead of denying your feelings, turn them over God. Write them down as a prayer to God, or pray them out loud.

2) Worship God with music and prayer.

Listening to worship music often gives you a fresh perspective. It focuses you more on the beauty of God and less on your pain and suffering.

Worship also allows you to express affection for your Savior. It is how you show Him admiration, love, thankfulness, and praise. When you make worshiping God a daily priority, your relationship with God will grow in intimacy. When you feel close to God, you tend to focus less on your troubles. When your God is big, your worries feel small.

A close friend once encouraged me, “I can choose to wallow in my suffering and feel sad, isolated, and hurt. But when I choose to rise above, it is amazing the strength I receive from my Lord. I put on worship music. I sing, pray, and memorize Scripture. The choice is yours. God will give you the strength you need.”

As we practice this act of daily surrender and learn to sit in our discomfort, we will exercise this much-needed muscle. This action may feel difficult now, but over time, it will get easier as we grow in intimacy and trust with the Lord.

*For further reflection, listen to John 16 today.

  1. John 16

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Her new book Her Freedom Journey: A Guide Out Of Porn to Authentic Intimacy comes out this July.

We pray that you will take her advice and listen to our encouraging conversation.

I eagerly followed various schools of brightly colored fish as they darted in and out of coral reefs. That morning’s snorkeling adventure in Hawaii would definitely be remembered.

All of a sudden, I realized that I was tired. Incredibly tired. When I lifted my head from the water, I discovered I was much further from shore than I realized.

A second problem quickly emerged. I was all alone. While my friend had advised snorkeling with a buddy, I decided it was unnecessary. Now, I realized there was no one near to help.

As we emerge from the global crises of the past three years, many of us feel the same way. Adjusting to our new normal has left many of us weary and isolated.

Not only that, but when we do reach out to others for help, we often hear many voices all claiming to know how we should move forward.

We now wonder if truth is not accessible as we thought.  We’re  more skeptical, cynical, questioning and guarded.

 

The author of Hebrews writes, “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).

Increasingly, people are caught in the swift current of today’s spiritual drift. Scripture helps us not be carried away.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Be cautious of the drift toward accepting a promise of salvation whose author is not Jesus.

“Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Be cautious of the drift toward viewing Scripture as untrustworthy—a product of man instead of inspired and written by God.

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Be cautious of the drift toward elevating your ideas about God and drawing a picture of him that matches your likes and preferences.

We have a reliable Source!

Although the pandemic chaos led us to doubt whether we could know the truth, God encourages us to believe him: “And you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

*For further reflection, listen to John 14.

  1. John 14

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When I turned 50, I said to myself, “I am not THAT old.” When I turned 60, my friends told me, “Sixty is the new forty.” Finally, when I turned 70, I admitted, “Seventy is THAT old!”

Now I am almost a decade older. I’ve written a book on aging. But I am still surprised by the experience of getting older.

My soul is growing as my body is aging.

To grow means to change. Paul wrote, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” (Ephesians 4:23). As we age, we are invited to allow the Holy Spirit to change the thoughts and attitudes we have held for decades. Some perspectives and spiritual disciplines that helped me when I was younger are no longer life-giving.

As my body ages, I have less energy and fewer opportunities. The Holy Spirit is changing my expectations and priorities.

I need to unlearn some of the things that I used to believe.

I used to feel responsible for many things. Now that I can do less, God is inviting me to think about my days in terms of fruitfulness rather than productivity.

The list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23 reminds me that it is more important to love others than to finish my “to-do” list.

I want to focus on the invitations God gives in my losses.

Jesus said,“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20). When I was younger, I had important jobs to do and places where I found significance. Now I am losing some of that sense of importance. Some days my spirit feels “poor” about all I have lost.

Jesus promises I will experience the Kingdom of God even as I experience this part of aging.

He said God’s Kingdom is like “a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.” (Mark 4:26-27)

What a comfort this is! I can toss seeds on the ground (when I have the energy!) and then go to bed. I don’t understand it, but whether I am asleep or awake, the seeds are growing.

I thank God for the fruit of this season of life.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Ephesians 4 today.

  1. Ephesians 4

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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!
***

My working philosophy of God was this: Following Jesus can feel brutal. Living a transformed and transforming life, though, is everything and more.

Scripture says, in Colossians 3:23, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” And I had taken “Work willingly at whatever you do” to heart.

So when I received a job offer to promote The Chosen television series worldwide as Angel Studio’s Head of Global Expansion, I threw myself at it wholeheartedly. Two weeks after moving to Rome, I was too sick to work or even fly home.

It felt as though my heart had been twisted like a rag with its vital contents wrung out.

The whole thing left me asking, “What if my definition of wholeheartedness was just an over-functioning, all-in and all-out mentality?”

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

When I was in Rome, I was operating with the broken belief that I needed to prove myself and showcase my value to those around me.

So when I entered rooms with my version of a whole heart, I stood heartless, mindless, and unaware.

I couldn’t hear what people were saying because the explosion of my neediness was ringing in my ears.

However, when God calls us to work at something with our whole hearts, he asks us to bring our wholeness into his presence. God calls us to be guardians of our hearts because they determine the course of our lives. Our ears must be open to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, who brings clarity and discernment.

With God, there is no burden of proof. God doesn’t require us to showcase our worthiness. Instead, he asks us to find our worthiness in him and then show up in the room——present, listening, clear, rooted, discerning, observant, and whole.

This is what it means to be “working willingly for the Lord.”

From this place of wholeness, the presence of God shines through and allows everything we do to flow.

*For further reflection, listen to Proverbs 4

  1. Proverbs 4

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May Cordila’s story encourage you in our interview with her (watch here).

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Ten years ago, I was in a season of life in which I was a shell of my former self. I had just gone through a breakup that had changed the course of my life. I didn’t know who I was as a woman. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, where I wanted to live, or who my friends were. I was lost. I wasn’t sleeping well. I cried constantly. I was a mess.

My offices were down the hall from E! (Media) at the time, and I often saw Jason in the small kitchen when I was heating up coffee or grabbing a snack. Jason and I weren’t yet friends beyond our casual run-ins in the kitchen or hallways. During this time, I had started to use the hallways as a place to collect myself when I didn’t want to cry in my office. And Jason noticed that I, the hallway girl, wasn’t well. My eyes were visibly puffy from all the tears. Jason didn’t owe me anything-we were basically strangers. He could have turned a blind eye and gone about his day.

Instead, he chose to talk to me and invite me to his Bible study! He didn’t ask me a single question about why I was upset; he simply extended his hand to me.

There, I was greeted with smiles and hugs and a discussion that was so relatable and relevant to my life. I felt like I was surrounded by like-minded people who were filled with hope and happiness. That night turned my life around, and I’ll never be able to thank Jason enough for what he did. At that Bible study I also met Raquelle, one of my best friends (and, the co-author of our new book). I finally found something that felt right, and that is where my relationship with God and my journey as a Christian truly began.

I Thessalonians 5:14 reminds us that ministry is not entirely up to spiritual leaders. We are all called to cheer up the disheartened, not give up on the idle, and encourage those who feel weak.

Go out of your way today to extend a hand to someone outside your circle.

Find someone who looks like they need a friend, invite them to your weekly game night, Bible study, or grab a quick cup of coffee. You never know how big of an impact a small gesture can make on someone’s life.

I encourage you to create your own safe haven for others. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but something weekly or bimonthly or even monthly can provide consistency, friendship, and a safe place for people in your life. Consistency is the key. Here are some ideas:

1. Taco Tuesdays. Creating an event for people to know that even if everything feels like it’s going wrong in their lives, they have a happy and safe space to be at least once a week.

2. Sunday picnics at the park. Potluck picnic with a speaker afterward.

3. Friday game nights. Play board games, card games, video games. Group together to attend sporting events—whatever your heart desires.

4. Bible Study. I had a couple of women’s Bible study groups that would meet at restaurants around town every other week. It was fun to get to know the girls and explore the restaurants in our city.

*For further reflection, listen to 1 Thessalonians 1 today.

  1. 1 Thessalonians 1

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Adapted from THE SUNSHINE MIND by TANYA RAD & RAQUELLE STEVENS. Copyright @ JANUARY 31, 2022 BY TANYA RAD & RAQUELLE STEVENS. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

To listen to Tanya Rad’s interview with Jenny Steinbach on “How Tanya Rad’s Relationship with God Began” click here.

Some days, life feels relentless, and God feels distant. Yet, as soon as I pull away from Him, Psalm 43 pulls me back.

Like the psalmist, I cry out, “For you are God, my only safe haven. Why have you tossed me aside?” (Psalm 43:2a)

Darkness falls quickly, and the walls of the psalmist’s life close in. He has known the Lord intimately and experienced God’s steadfast love and presence, but now he feels rejected.

So what does the psalmist do? Rather than continuing to listen to himself and spiral downward, he starts talking to God. He says to the Lord, “Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me.” (Psalm 43:3a)

The psalmist knows that God’s light and truth can lead him out of his darkness and lies.

This kind of darkness seems impossible to penetrate, and the lies that the enemy loves to whisper sound like the truth. Nevertheless, the psalmist knows the power of God, so he looks past his circumstances, asking God for what seems impossible. He begs for God’s light and truth to guide him.

After the psalmist talks to God, he then asks himself: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” (Psalm 43:5a) These are essential and revealing questions, because often, we can’t articulate our fears in a place of darkness.

But as soon as we articulate and face our fears, we can take hold of God’s vast promises that the Lord will walk with us through dark valleys (Psalm 23:4), will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5), and will ensure the waves do not overwhelm us. (Is 43:2).

Lastly, the psalmist exhorts himself “to hope in God” (Psalm 43:5b). He trusts that God will bring him to a place of praise.

He chooses to tell himself the truth, based on who God is, rather than listen to himself, based on his fears.

So today, when life feels overwhelming, will you let God’s Word have the last word?

*For deeper reflection, listen to Psalm 43 today.

I just turned 64, but I’m not asking what the Beatles asked: “Will you still need me? Will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” I am asking something else.

It started when I hit 40. That day I went for a walk on the loop of our gravel road, my husband and our kids. I had just started to color my hair, which was greying around my face. When I was eighty, I decided, I would go shopping in a purple jogging suit. I would wear bright red lipstick until I died. I would be kind and generous but feisty and wear whatever I like.

When I turned 50, my husband threw me a party. A houseful of friends came for lunch. Ten years older than me, Sue gave me the best present of all: “I loved my fifties. It was the best decade ever.” Our mothers and fathers died suddenly. I scattered stones. I mourned. I wondered how to live with such losses.

Then I turned 60. My sons and then my daughter got married. I spent my days locked in closets wrestling with God, writing books. I traveled. I taught. I wore bright lipstick every day, even to the gym, where I tortured my muscles and felt glad to be alive.

At 64 now, I am working harder with more joy. I no longer feel alone. I have people who come alongside me and beloved learners all over the globe. I’m a grandmother twice over, soon three. Even when I feel unworthy and inadequate, I no longer let that stop me from doing everything God puts in my heart.

But I know that someday I will lay it all down. I will arrive where the writer of Ecclesiastes arrives at the end of the book in chapter 12:3, at the door of the house of the bent old woman looking through the windows—seeing dimly. Soon, my “dust will return to the earth,” and my “spirit will return to God who gave it.”

I’m closer now to that house than I’ve ever been before. We all are. We’re standing on the porch before that cracked door. I don’t want to be afraid. Because the one who has filled my empty cup every day of my 64 years, he’ll still be there. Listen to what Isaiah says:

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (Is. 46:4)

Dear ones, please don’t resist Him any longer. Let him carry you—all the way through that door.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Isaiah 46 today.

From my desk, I see our swimming pool. On humid Orlando days, I love floating in that pool. I know I can relax and drift. I can’t get lost or go too far. No wave will overwhelm me. It’s comfortable and predictable.

We like it when life is like that swimming pool: manageable, contained, safe.

Any transition, even positive ones – getting married, becoming a parent, changing jobs, kids leaving home, moving across town – is like being lifted out of that pool and being dropped into the ocean. We can feel lost, overwhelmed, disoriented, and alone.

We long for the edges, the boundaries, the things that make us feel secure, known, and in control. We seek affirmation, acknowledgment, value, and a way to feel solid again.

But while it may feel like we’ve been thrown into the deepest end of the ocean, remember: He is the God of the ocean. Whatever is changing in our lives, He isn’t.

He is our anchor and our rock.

Consider these words from Psalm 18:16-18: “He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at the moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me.”

He knows us by heart. He sees us. He is with us always. He will rescue us. Nothing will come into our lives that is beyond His grace. May He be the solid place we cling to in the midst of every change.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Psalm 18.