So, I haven’t been sleeping.

Most of the time, sleeping is my secret superpower, my favorite hobby, and my dearest friend. But no more. I felt restless. I tossed and turned, while tallying up our bank balance. I woke up fretting for an hour. Finally, I just prayed, “God, please help me.”

Thankfully, I read this verse. “Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Rest—the very thing I needed. Rest for my weary soul. Rest for my burdened mind. Rest from the crushing weight of getting it right. Rest in Christ’s arms—real rest.

Can I tell you this? Just reading that verse made me weep.

The dam broke, and I just poured out my soul to Jesus—all my burdens, all my weariness, all my fatigue, all of it. I gave Him my faithlessness, my lack of trust, and my desire to control.

God is the one who carries the weight of our family’s well-being. That’s on Him. He is perfectly capable and I can rest there.


What about you?

Have you ever felt completely burdened, exhausted, and worn down by life? Do you ever feel that the weight of all your negative thoughts and worries is too much for you to bear? Are you feeling that way right now?

Jesus is there calling you to lay it all down. But I want to give you more than my personal testimony. I also want you to understand the fullness of Jesus’s offer, so when you speak those words over yourself, you know their truth.

Let’s read our verse again in context, so we can see how Jesus sums up our problem and offers His solution.“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

Here’s our problem: We are weary and burdened by things that are too heavy for us. Did you see Jesus’s solution? We can come to Him and lay down our burdens. In exchange, He will give our souls genuine rest.

First off, soul rest? Yes! Whatever that is, I want it!

Rest is the thing we know we need. God made us long for rest so that we might find our ultimate rest—our soul rest—in Him. Soul rest is more than body rest. We’ve already discovered that our burden is a soul burden, and that burden is our sin. We are worn-out and weary from the effects of sin in the world and in our own hearts. We need more than a spa day to fix our problem.

I don’t have to have it all together to come to Jesus. I simply have to be willing to give God my worn-out weariness. I can lay down my burden right here and now. And so can you!

Oh, my weary and burdened friend, this rest is for you! Do you know you need it? That’s all you need to know.

*For further reflection, listen to Matthew 11 today.

  1. Matthew 11

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*Adapted from Dwell Differently: Overcome Negative Thinking with the Simple Practice of Memorizing God’s Truth, Bethany House, May 14, 2024

You can listen to our conversation with Natalie and hear her passion for helping people memorize God’s Word.

As a hospice nurse, my sister Beth cares for people at the end of their lives, ministering God’s grace as she tends to their bodily needs, shows care and empathy, and manages their pain.

In contrast, I couldn’t enter the nursing profession—for one thing, I don’t have Beth’s patience. Nor would Beth want to speak to groups of people about God’s love, like I enjoy doing.

We may be different, but we love each other. My sister is also my friend.

Probably the best-known sisters in the Bible also exemplify a loving friendship—Martha and Mary. Today they’ve been turned into types: “Are you a Martha or a Mary?” (Luke 10.) 

But as we read their three gospel accounts (also John 11 and 12), we understand that they are fully orbed characters—women who love and grieve and question and serve.

They support each other, and their friendship with Jesus transforms them. For instance, consider how Martha lovingly calls Mary to their friend Jesus after their brother dies, and how Jesus responds.

As background, Jesus delayed coming to the sisters after they sent word that their brother was sick. We know now that he did so to bring glory to God, demonstrating that he is the resurrection and the life by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43). But the sisters, as they wait for Jesus, feel betrayed and unseen by the One who loves them.

Forthright Martha, when she hears that Jesus has arrived outside the village, rushes to meet him. Through conversation he calls her out of her grief, affirming her statement of faith that he is the Messiah.

Martha then returns home to her grieving sister, who seems to have lost all hope. Drawing Mary aside from the other mourners, she gently shares that Jesus asks after her.

She’s deeply concerned for her, longing for her younger sister to enjoy the love that she’s received from Jesus.

Mary goes to him at once, throwing herself at his feet as she releases her deep sorrow over the death of her brother. And Jesus shares her grief in the shortest sentence in the Bible: “Jesus weeps” (John 11:35).

He then moves to the grave, where he raises Lazarus from the dead—an extreme act of love and restoration. In doing so, he fuels the anger of the religious leaders, who want him eliminated.

Jesus loves both the sisters and ministers to them differently in their grief. Just as he loves each of us individually, caring for us in the ways we need most.

I hope you can believe that Jesus will meet you where you are today, whatever your needs. Know that you can come to him with your most heart-wrenching statements, as the sisters did: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

You can dialog with him as Martha did (John 11:21–27). You can shower him with love like Mary did when she anointed him with pure nard (John 12:3).

In all the moments of your day, Jesus wants to be your friend.

As you consider your friendship with God, you might also want to ponder any sibling relationships you have. How could you pray for your sister or brother—or a beloved cousin or friend?

Jesus, as he pours out his love on you, might also want to love someone through you today. Know that he delights in you and will never leave you.

He will be your best friend.

*For further reflection, listen to John 11.

  1. John 11

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Adapted from Transforming Love: How Friendship with Jesus Changes Us (Our Daily Bread Publishing, 2023).

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!
***

If you had just a few more days to live, what would you say to your closest family and friends?

This is a question I often ask myself. Sometimes I brainstorm what crazy deep words of wisdom or groundbreaking encouragement I would give. How would I leave my loved ones with a big mic drop moment before I died? In Jesus’ final days on earth, he took full advantage of the time he had left just to be with His disciples.

Serve them.

Love them.

Pray for them.

Speak over them.

Break bread with them.

And then speak to them.

Jesus could have said anything, and I mean anything, before ascending to heaven.

He could have told them details about the growth of the church over the next hundred years, and how they would flourish and prevail despite the persecution they would face. He could have spoken to each disciple individually, foretelling exactly what the rest of their lives would look like.

But instead of sharing that kind of information, he left them with a gift.

After washing his disciples’ feet and foreshadowing His impending betrayal by Judas, Jesus comforted his disciples.

He spoke encouragement into their lives, rallying them to continue believing and persevering in the faith.

At the end of his mini sermon, Jesus promised the ultimate form of comfort. The ultimate gift. The Holy Spirit.

I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. IF you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am” (John 14:25–28).

On the surface this was probably not the most reassuring sentiment—their Savior and best friend telling them He was going to leave. Right?

But in typical Jesus fashion, even though he was leaving, he still had a plan for providing the disciples with all the comfort and help they would need to live.

Jesus also gives us this same gift of the greatest power source we’ll ever know and ever need – His Holy Spirit.

*For further reflection, listen to John 14 today.

  1. John 14

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Adapted from Surrender Your Story: Ditch the Myth of Control and Discover Freedom in Trusting God© 2023 by Tara Sun. Published by Thomas Nelson.

Please enjoy our interview with Tara Sun here.

So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ (Romans 10:17).

When it comes to reading the Bible, we know it’s a great idea to do it daily to grow in Christ. But sometimes, life gets in the way, or we don’t make time for it. If you’re like me, you start strong with a plan to read the Bible every day, but something happens, and you miss a day—or two or three.

But don’t give up! It’s always possible to start again. In fact, why not start right now?

I’m going to share with you five tips for creating a Bible listening plan that has worked for me, and maybe it will work for you, too:

1. Pick a translation that you will understand. The her.BIBLE app is in the New Living Translation, which is very familiar and easy to understand.

2. Set aside time each day for listening. Whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, try to find a time each day to sit down and focus on meeting with God in His Word.

3. Find a comfortable place to listen. You may want to sit in your favorite chair or go on a peaceful walk. Wherever you choose to listen, make sure it’s somewhere you will be comfortable and won’t be distracted by other things going on around you.

4. Start small. If you’re starting, don’t try to listen to an entire book of the Bible in one sitting. Instead, you can start with one chapter or section. As you get more used to listening, you may increase your time each day.

5. Ask God to show you how to live out his truth. As you listen to the Bible, you may encounter some truths that challenge you to live differently to honor God.

When we seek to live out God’s Word, we experience his work in our lives.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves (James 1:22).

*For further reflection, listen to James 1:22 today.

  1. James 1

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What does fighting for our joy look like? We find an excellent example from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church at Philippi, written during a time of great uncertainty.

Paul wrote this letter in prison, unsure if he would live or die. The call on his life as an apostle has cost him everything; his comfort, prestige, and maybe even his life. However, he is not writing to the Philippians to complain about his situation. He is not asking for help.

Instead, he’s writing to gush over how joyful he is in Christ and his hope for them to experience this same joy. For every reason Paul has to be discouraged, he relentlessly finds more reasons to be joyful. He is so intentional and adamant about finding joy even in this situation. This letter is like a direct assault against any discouragement or doubt that may come his way.

Through the example of Paul, we learn that joy is a choice, and sometimes it is a choice we must fight for with thanksgiving and prayer (Philippians 1:3-4). Paul paints a clear picture for the Philippians to see beyond what is happening and to understand how everything “that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News” (Philippians 1:12) and complete God’s good purpose.

Although in chains, his imprisonment was the cause of the gospel’s advancement. This brought joy to Paul because he understood that God will often use the very thing meant to hold you back to complete his work in your life.

We see this truth throughout the Bible:

The very flames King Nebuchadnezzar used to try to kill Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are the same flames that destroyed the shackles meant to hold them hostage while not harming a single hair on their heads (Daniel 3:9-25).

The thorn in Paul’s side meant to weaken him was the very thing that caused the power of God to rest on him (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The crucifixion meant to humiliate and kill Jesus was the very situation that afforded eternal life to all who would believe in him and gave Christ all authority in heaven and earth (Ephesians 1:20-21, Matthew 28:18).

Sometimes the opposition, failure, lack, weakness, hurt, suffering, detours, and disappointment we face are not signs of doing something wrong, as we are commonly led to believe. Instead, God works all things out for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28).

This is why Paul rejoices. We can as well, even in hardships. Paul wants the Philippians to know his imprisonment is not failure but victory.

So in Philippians 1:18, he doesn’t say, “I might rejoice,” “I want to rejoice,” or “I’m thinking about rejoicing.”

Instead, he says, “I will rejoice.”

“…The message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:18‬‬‬).

I love that Paul tells himself what he will do. I also love that he can look past this difficulty to see the greater work that God is doing. This ability truly leads to joy because joy is a choice.

Choosing joy may be challenging, but joy is always worth the fight.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Philippians 1 today.

God, through his Spirit, inspired and wrote the most epic love story of all. Isn’t it startling how easily we forget this? His story contains the universe’s origin, a tragic fall, and a heroic rescue that restores shattered souls and hurting hearts.


In the book of 1 John, readers are invited on their own journey towards love, light, and transformation. Jesus invites us to partner with him in the work of reconciling a broken world. In 1 John, we see elements of what classic writers call ‘the hero’s journey’.

In our quest towards being reconcilers, we will face our own imperfect heroic story in which there is a departure from the ways of God, an invitation into his family, and the return of our spirits to light and life.

Departure
We were born to a story already in progress—our souls already in danger. Every sin we commit is a further departure from the ways of God. John tells us, “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” (1 John 2:16)


Invitation
The good news of the gospel tells us Jesus is the Shepherd drawing us back from our departure. “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a).

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Return

Finally, we are drawn back to the kingdom of God, and there will be a day when the earth and all its creatures return to perfection. “…And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.” (1 John 5:20b)

Want more of the story? Listen to the wisdom, warnings and wooing of I John.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. (Psalm 23:1)

The Twenty-Third Psalm offers us a real picture of our life’s journey, in light of our relationship with God as Father, Son, and Spirit.

The Psalmist David came to know the Lord while spending time in the fields, tending his father’s flock. In the stillness of time spent alone with God, he learned how to guide the sheep, provide for their daily needs, and keep them safe from harm.

David’s experiences taught him to declare the Lord as his Shepherd. We must also know the Lord and declare Him to be our Shepherd who cares for us and provides for our every need.

God wants us to rest in His peace. The green meadows are symbolic of how God nourishes us, while the peaceful streams reveal the calmness we can experience from the inside out as we cease from fretting, worrying, and being anxious about the cares of this world.

The Lord comforts our hurting hearts and heals the emotional wounds we carry. He restores our minds and stabilizes and strengthens us emotionally.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. (Psalm 23:4)

God wants us to learn to trust Him. These paths may appear dark and hopeless, but we don’t have to fear because the Lord walks close beside us.

His rod protects us. His Shepherd’s staff guides us along our journey.

God rewards us for our suffering. It’s as if He prepares a beautifully decorated table with the most delicious spread of our favorite things. He anoints us with the oil of gladness and fills our cup until it overflows.

God is a good and loving Father.

May we stay close to God, spending our days in His presence here on earth and throughout eternity.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Psalm 23.

There are few things sweeter than watching a baby take her first few steps. No one expects the infant to stay on her feet.

Who doesn’t smile as the baby wobbles on unsteady legs or reaches out her arms when she tips forward? When the baby falls, no one is surprised. Yet, everyone rushes to see if she’s okay.

There’s always a pair of strong, loving arms to pick her up, brush away the tears and set her feet back on the ground again.

And again. And again. God does the same for us.

As the prophet Jeremiah witnesses the fall of Jerusalem into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586-587 BC, he writes the book of Lamentations, capturing the pain, suffering and the hope of a God who lovingly picks up His children, even after they fall again and again.

At one point, Jeremiah fell into despair. Yet, in Lamentations 3:21 he writes when he dared to hope and remember God, his attitude changed. Then, he writes verses 22 and 23 as a beautiful declaration of God’s character and attitude toward us:

The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.

While Israel worshipped idols and shamelessly sinned with no remorse, God remained true to His character. Their falls and failures did not diminish God’s faithfulness. Neither do ours.

Like a loving father picks up his child, God picks us up, too.

Yes, we do fall. Our wobbles and stumbles in life happen because we love to follow our own way. Yet, God’s mercies pick us up each day, if we let Him.

Today, dare yourself to hope in God’s faithfulness. If you feel like you’ve fallen, God’s waiting to pick you up.

His mercy is for you today.

*For further reflection, listen to Lamentations 3 today.