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.

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

10 Ways Disappointment Can Strengthen Your Faith

Disappointment exercises our faith.

Like a good resistance band, it pushes back at us, putting on the pressure and testing our endurance. We can either succumb to its force or return the push. We can give way to what disappointment naturally produces—discontentment and doubt—or we can let it grow us.

We can let it stretch and strengthen our faith.

When Disappointment Comes

I’ve felt disappointed lately. In a few realms, the resistance band has gone to work, exercising my faith in Jesus:

  • When a situation is blurred in confusion (push), do I trust his perfect knowledge and wisdom (pull)?
  • If an outcome isn’t what I’d hoped it would be (push), will I receive God’s will or get angry (pull)?
  • If God takes away a good gift (push), do I demand an explanation, or submit to him what I may not understand (pull)?

Continue reading

The God Who Heals

She trails behind the crowd, uncertain if she should approach. The mass of people surrounding him overwhelms her; she can’t see what he’s doing, where he’s going, let alone hear him speak.

She’d heard the reports about Jesus, amazing reports. Of healing, demon-expulsion, miracles. And Lord, did she need a miracle. It had been 12 years—12 long years of the incessant flow, of her very lifeblood draining from her. And not only that, but her savings, her possessions, her strength, her hope that anything would ever change.

Here, standing before her, was the man they said was a miracle-worker, a change-maker, the one who could cause impossible things to happen—and stop them from happening. This was Jesus of Nazareth.

Continue reading

When You’re in the Pit

Joseph had dreams. Big, God-given dreams about ruling over his family, being exalted to a high position of respect and power. Dreams that made his brothers angry and jealous.

So they tossed him in a pit.

Genesis 37:24 tells us the pit was empty and without water, as Joseph went from dreams to the depths. His circumstances changed in an instant, and would for years to come. I wonder how often he thought about his dreams. Was God lying? Did he perceive things wrong? Or did the dreams stand, regardless of what he could (or couldn’t) see?

When we’re in the pit, we wonder the same. No, we may not dream literal dreams like Joseph did, but we have “our dreams,” don’t we? We dream of the pleasant vacation away from routine, the career track to success and comfort, the prospering marriage, and the pursuit of a generally happy life.

These are our dreams, but are they God’s dreams for us?

Continue reading

A Prayer for the Hurting This Christmas

Heavenly Father,

You are Immanuel, God With Us. This brings me such comfort, as I am hurting badly and need to know that you are near. This time of year is filled with gifts and the blessing of Christ coming into the world—but I can’t help but grieve. I can’t help but wish that all was well, or that I could run from the pain. All is not well. I am hurting.

My great comfort is that you see me and have provided for my deepest need; you’ve forgiven my sin and washed me white as snow. The grave offense that once kept me from you has been dealt with in Christ. Thank you, Father, that there is now no condemnation for me because of your Son, my Savior. I want to preach to my soul your salvation because this reminds me that you will not leave me or forsake me in my pain. You are with me, Immanuel. Even when it hurts. Help me to know this, to believe you.

Give me eyes to see you this Christmas in ways that I wouldn’t apart from the pain…

Continue reading

No. 2 | Christ Came into Hostility

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (John 15:18)

A world of hostility toward truth, a world infatuated with sin, a world full of broken people who want to rule themselves—Jesus was born into this world. And if Jesus was received in this way, with hatred, should we expect to be received any differently?

For some of us, Christmas carries with it a suffering and hardship rooted in hostility. Perhaps a close friend, relative, or spouse has betrayed you, leaving behind wakes of bitterness and confusion that make it difficult to rejoice in this season. Perhaps the political climate and culture wars harshly remind you that all isn’t right with the world, that total justice has yet to be served, that our nation teems with lost souls who need the rule of Christ the King.

Perhaps this Christmas, rather than joy and peace flourishing in your relationships, tensions are high and truth is a battle to be fought. Christ came into this world, freely and joyfully, and he walks closely with you in yours.

Continue reading

God Knows When You Don’t

Right now, there’s a lot I don’t know.

I don’t know what today will bring. Or tomorrow, for that matter. I don’t know how long I will live, or when I will die. I don’t know how many kids my husband and I will raise, or if we’ll be able to have them at all. I don’t know where we’ll be living in a year, five years, 10 years. I don’t know when this season of pain will end—or if it ever will.

I don’t know a lot of things. But regardless of what I don’t know, God does.

God knows.

Continue reading

Join Me in #MakingMercyGreat

May I make a request of you?

Yesterday, our pastor wrapped up his series on contentment in the Christian life. (It is nothing short of excellent, so please listen if you have the time!) Of all the sermons and points he preached, I found myself continually going back to one application in particular: “the rhetoric of the Spirit.” It has already proven in these past three weeks to be an enormous grace during times of hardship, pain, and suffering.

Here is what Pastor Colin preached:

Make more of your joys than you do of your sorrows. Make more of your gains than you do of your losses. Do this in your thinking, in your speaking, and even in your praying, and you will grow in contentment. I’ve included praying here because of what Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). If you do this, “the peace of God… will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7).

So bring your requests to God. But if your prayers are only a long list of requests, your praying will not bring you peace. All you are doing is filling your mind with problems in the presence of God. Don’t let your prayers become an exercise in worrying on your knees! Bring to mind the blessings of God in your life. Give thanks for all Christ has done for you and for all that you are in him. Bring your requests to God, with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will guard your heart and mind.

Luther has a wonderful comment about “the rhetoric of the Spirit.” (Rhetoric relates to speaking, and so “the rhetoric of the Spirit” is Luther’s way of describing how the Holy Spirit speaks.) “If a cross comes, to make the cross but little, but if there is a mercy, to make the mercy great.”¹

The Devil has a different way of speaking, “If there is a cross, the Devil makes it greater than it is, and so brings discontent. And if there is a mercy, it is the rhetoric of the devil to make the mercy less. ‘Aye, indeed,’ [the Devil] says, ‘the thing is a good thing, but what is it? It is no big deal.’”²

When you are listening to music, you have some choices as to how it will sound. You can turn up the treble or you can turn up the bass. The music is the same, but it will sound quite different depending on the settings that you choose.

Turn up the ‘mercies’ in the music of your life. The rhetoric of the Spirit magnifies your mercies! A person who is filled with the Holy Spirit makes more of their blessings than they make of their sorrows.

[1] Cited in Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, p. 155, Banner of Truth, 1964. [2] Ibid., p. 156.

Let’s Start Something

Brothers and sisters, can we start something here today? Can we resolve to make more of our joys than we do of our sorrows? I’m envisioning a wave of mercy-filled thanksgiving that proclaims the greatness of God’s mercy, so that our struggles, sufferings, and pains become smaller in comparison.

So many of you are suffering. So this is for you, and for the body of Christ as a whole. Do this in the privacy of prayer, or add it to your social media feeds. Make the crosses in your life but little, but if there is a mercy, make the mercy great!

Here’s mine to start:

A great mercy is going shopping at the big grocery store, and making it through without pain! #MakingMercyGreat

A few practical ideas:

1. Pray

Take Pastor Colin’s suggestion, and don’t let your prayers become an exercise in worrying on your knees! Make God’s mercies great, especially as you commune with God in prayer.

2. Post on Social Media (#MakingMercyGreat)

For the sake of being encouraged by each other’s mercies, let’s call it #MakingMercyGreat on social media. Any time you see God’s mercy and desire to “turn up the ‘mercies’ in the music of your life,” use the hashtag to tell us what you are thankful for!

3. Send Me an Email

really want to hear about how God’s mercies are making your crosses but little. Send me an email: kleighwetherell@gmail.com. (If I can use your “mercy” on this blog, let me know. I might put together an article with a bunch of them listed.)

Take one of these actions right now. Ready, set, go!