Broken Down on Every Side

I found this in my files last week; I had started writing it a while back, but hadn’t finished. The content was incredibly timely for me, and I pray it will be useful to you:

[God] has stripped from me my glory and taken the crown from my head. He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, and my hope has he pulled up like a tree. (Job 19:10-11)

Stripped, broken, uprooted. These are difficult words to read, though they’re a strange comfort to those enduring such pains. Job’s confession resonated with me, as he put into words what I failed to speak, not by choice, but because I simply did not know how.

In the darkness of suffering, which looks different for everyone, we are faced with the uneasy, painful reality of having to die to ourselves. My confession: I still don’t fully understand what that means. Yet, day by day, God is teaching me.

Most recently, this dying-to-self has come from feeling that God is far away when I need him most, and that there is nothing I can do but keep believing that he will help me trust him.

We lean on earthly glories, and we boast in our crowns—until they are stripped from us. We then realize that they were crummy gods, unable to give us life, meaning, or joy. They couldn’t bear the weight of our soul’s greatest need, which is to be satisfied in Jesus alone, forever. They couldn’t provide what we were searching for—and it is good when they are “gone.”

God strips earthly glories from us so we will learn to treasure him.

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Don’t Miss the “Hope When It Hurts” Ministry Pack Giveaway!

To walk with others through suffering is a wonderful gift from God.

That’s why we’ve created a special giveaway for you. The Ministry Pack contains two books: one to keep, and one to give to a friend. Whether you’re the one hurting, your friend is struggling, or you’re both enduring a difficult time, walk together through Hope When It Hurts and discover how Jesus is our eternal hope.

In honor of Hope When It Hurts’ launch month, we’re giving away three (3) Ministry Pack Giveaways!

Enter to win a giveaway package when you leave a comment below.

We’ll announce the winners on April 27, 2017.

Thank you for your support, prayers, and ministry to one another!



9 Ways to Miss the Point of Small Group

Thursday night. Bibles open. Six men from the local church pray together. One of them reads Psalm 31 and applies it to his brother. A strong sense of God-dependence fills the room.

Sunday post-lunch. The church is quiet after a busy morning. Kids play in the next room, while five couples gather to discuss the sermon. They hunger and thirst together for God’s truth.

Small group. Missional community. Home group. Life group. Whatever you call the gathering of an intimate number of believers outside of worship services, the goal is the same: fellowship and encouragement around God’s Word.

9 Ways to Miss the Point of Small Group

Yet we can easily miss this. Despite our best intentions, we get sidetracked and forget the goal. Sometimes, despite this goal, we’d rather pursue what’s easier and more comfortable for people—but this lacks transforming power to draw us nearer to God and each other.

Small group has a point, and we’d do well not to miss it. Here are nine ways this can happen:

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What the Cross Means When You’re Feeling Crushed

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed. (2 Corinthians 4:8)

Suffering can be so painful and dark that normalcy can seem like a distant memory from another life—an easier one, a happier one.

Like a dead weight bearing down upon our hearts, pain puts pressure on our faith and stirs up emotions that we find hard to confront or push back. “I don’t know how much more of this I can handle,” I’ve thought to myself. “Could my circumstances get any worse? I just want things to be normal again.”

Even if we know the hope of the gospel and believe it with all of our hearts, we still feel this pressure. Pain and suffering were never meant to be a part of our everyday experience and so they feel wrong; but, because sin entered the world, it is part of normal life to feel, from time to time or all the time, “afflicted in every way,” just as Paul described to the Corinthian church.

When Paul says “in every way,” he means it. He was one hard-pressed man:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Cor. 11:24-28)

Danger. Exposure. Violence. Pressure. My guess is that you can resonate with Paul’s words, not because you’ve gone through similar struggles but because of the overwhelming pressure of the struggles you have known. What affliction is threatening to crush you right now? What suffering is testing your faith?

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Three Takeaways from TGC17

Don’t leave grace! What is there outside of grace?!

With this powerful exhortation, John Piper concluded the opening message of TGC17, drawn from the first chapter of Galatians. 8,500 people gathered in Indianapolis this week to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation at “No Other Gospel,” the plenary hall resounding with voices raised in singing. It was a small picture of what eternity will be like when the nations are gathered before Christ, exalting his name forever.

Here are three things I’m taking away from this excellent, biblical conference:

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{Bonus Chapter} What to Do When You’re Not Suffering

Here’s another bonus chapter from Hope When It Hurts. You can download more from The Good Book Company.

In the strangest of strange moments, I find myself wishing for suffering.

Over the years, I’ve seen and known suffering’s ability to bring me near to God. A tool in his hands, chronic pain has taught me dependence on Christ’s strength, and dashed dreams, confidence in resurrection hope. It’s been the soil in which I’ve grown most, and it’s brought me closer to the only One who can give hope.

I’m not saying it’s right to wish for suffering. The opposite is true—we should never wish for something brought about by sin’s entrance into the world. We shouldn’t desire pain, loss, or grief. These are the sorrowful, unfortunate fruits of the fall.

But still, there’s something unique about what suffering does to us, as we walk with Jesus and seek to know and love him more: It accelerates us toward this goal. Author Rankin Wilbourne calls it “the necessary path of abiding,” saying, “Suffering is the extraordinary means God has provided for us to move toward communion with him.”

Abundance and Dependence

If this is true, then what do we make of seasons when we’re not suffering? Are the easier times, the more comfortable times, ineffective? Useless? Less valuable than the difficult ones? What if we forget what we discovered of God in the hurting times?

This has been my fear, and it’s why, when the chronic pain lessens and I seem to be getting stronger, healthier, I have those strange moments of wishing to suffer again.

But this isn’t the answer. 

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“Hope When It Hurts” Launch Day Giveaway!

It’s launch day!

Sarah and I are overjoyed and flabbergasted that it’s finally here. Hope When It Hurts releases everywhere today, and we’ve already been incredibly encouraged by you. Thanks for all the photos, stories, and prayers, and please keep sending them; we love getting your notes!

In honor of Hope When It Hurts’ birthday, we’re giving away three giveaway packages (includes one book, one set of note cards, and one pen)!

Enter to win a giveaway package when you leave a comment below.

We’ll announce the winners on April 7, 2017.

Again, we cannot thank you enough for your love and support!

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Rachel’s Story of Hope When It Hurts

My dear friend, Rachel, and I met less than one year ago, but I feel like I’ve known her for much longer because of our shared struggle with chronic pain and the shared hope we have in Christ. Here’s Rachel’s story:

Physical pain abruptly invaded my life nearly two and a half years ago. Scared out my mind that first night in the hospital, I cried out for the first time, “God, in your mercy, please heal me.”

Daily Desperation

For many months, this became my daily prayer of desperation, but God seemed to allow everything except healing. I relentlessly sought medical answers, but my symptoms only compounded as every treatment I endured left me worse off than before. When it became evident that my condition would be chronic, shame and guilt engulfed my spirit as I struggled to comprehend that I may never get better. All I wanted to do was hide. I did not even know who I was anymore. God felt anything but merciful.

Over time, God in His mercy has relieved some of my physical pain and renewed me spiritually and emotionally as well. I am grateful to have regained a semblance of a normal life in many ways, though pain is not a distant memory. I recently experienced a new symptom that was debilitating and unleashed renewed fear in my spirit. There is something about a pain flare or a new symptom that sends my mind racing back to memories of the darkest and most traumatic days of my illness.

Right Where I Need to Be

Late at night, as my swirling thoughts hindered sleep, I pulled out Hope When It Hurts and read Chapter 11, “Coming to the End of Yourself.” It pointed me to Psalm 13 and reminded me that God wants me near to Him and dependent on Him. If this new pain brings me toward that place of surrender and away from self-sufficiency, then I am right where I need to be. But I need not fear because God is endless and has everything I lack.

I recall many difficult days when I did not know where to turn in my Bible or have any words left to pray. Though there were fragments of the hope of the gospel in my heart, they were often overpowered by the sting of pain and sorrow. Oh, how my heart would have benefited from a resource such as Hope When It Hurts on those days. It is full of scriptural truths that will encourage and challenge anyone whose hope is thwarted by sorrow or pain.

Months of frequenting doctors’ offices and online support groups opened my eyes to this world of chronic pain and illness. My heart aches for the many suffering people who readily admit to feeling misunderstood, lonely, and weary. This is why I am deeply grateful that Hope When It Hurts clearly and compassionately portrays the promise of hope in Christ in this very place of hopelessness.

I Am Not Alone

Sarah and Kristen write with a tenderness and vulnerability that is uniquely powerful because they know weakness and pain all too well. I hear my own cries echoed throughout these pages and this gives me the priceless gift of knowing that I am not alone in the battle.

I know I will repeatedly come back to the words in this book because I need the constant reminder that no matter how I feel or what happens to me, Jesus is enough. He has been faithful before, and He will be faithful again. As much as I hope there is more physical healing ahead for me, I rest assured in my eternal hope that God, in His mercy, saved me.

We can easily be defined by our pain and view everything else, including the mercy God gives us, through its dim prism; rather than defining ourselves by God’s mercy, and seeing all else in that glorious light. (Page 97)

Learn more about Hope When It Hurtsreleasing April 1!


{Bonus Chapter} Don’t Let Me Give Way to Despair

Sarah and I wrote four bonus chapters to Hope When It Hurts that you can download on the publisher’s website! They’re formatted beautifully like the rest of the book. 

My new bike is still sitting here. Tags and all.

My husband bought me the shiny cruiser for my birthday, which was a celebration of progress for us. Until recently, I hadn’t ridden a bike in a year because of physical pain resulting from Lyme disease. But lately I had improved enough that some easy exercise on the bike seemed within my grasp—until I proceeded to roll my ankle on a stupid crack in the road a few weeks ago.

These days, the ongoing pain in my body has felt…ridiculous. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. If it’s not my “normal,” chronic pain, it’s the disorder in my jaw. If it’s not my jaw acting up, it’s my ankle, because of my stupid misstep. And if it’s not my ankle, it’s the screaming pain of costochondritis attacks, an inflammation of chest cartilage that comes on without notice, which feels like a boulder is sitting over my heart.

And so the bike is still sitting here, unused.

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A Prayer for When the Pain Returns

Old pains have made new appearances lately. The jaw pain I thought was almost gone is back with a vengeance, and my knee has decided to act up again. I’ve felt discouraged, set back, and weary, unsure how to process this.

Why would God remove certain pains, after much prayer, only to return them? How am I supposed to understand these recurrences? Why does it seem like I can never get ahead of the pain and discomfort?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. I’m at a loss for words when the pain returns and presses upon me with its fearful weight.

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