Last week we asked the question “Where is God when bad things happen?” and I shared with you some of the Bible verses that have helped me when life takes a turn for the worst. If you missed it, you can read it here…
Today I would like to continue our discussion by sharing with you the stories of the two hardest days of my life and the answer to prayer I received as a result.
Each and every one of us will be affected by the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives. When it happens, as it surely will, the pain can be devastating. I hope that by sharing my story, in some small way, it will help you to understand how much God truly loves you and wants to give you comfort when bad things happen.
My Granny was one of the most influential people in my life. Her immense joy and strength were always a source of encouragement for me. Most people saw Granny as a fun loving lady who lived life to the max. And a handful of people probably would’ve said she was a little intimidating. That always makes me laugh. Because even though Granny was fiercely independent and would always tell it like it was, she was also a big hearted woman who loved her family and friends and would do anything in the world for us.
Growing up, I wanted to be just like Granny in every way. And I think I got my wish, because the older I get, the more I act like her. Some would say that is a good thing and probably others might say I should rethink my life strategy. But either way you looked at it, Granny was a force to be reckoned with because she lived life on her terms.
When we heard the news that she was in the ICU on life support my world stopped turning. It’s as simple as that. It’s the one time in my life when I completely lost it. I fell to the floor crying and screaming. I’ve never been one for hysterics and usually I’m in control of my emotions. But that moment was different. The pain came from so deep down inside, bubbly up and spilling out of me. All I can say is that I felt like life would never be the same again. And to some degree it isn’t.
I remember the drive to Tulsa from our home in Arkansas very well. There had been a huge ice storm the day before. That two hour drive turned into three because the icy roads were so difficult to pass. The time ticked by so slowly and all I wanted was to be by her side. I prayed, for her, for us and I asked God, “Why?” Why did this have to happen and why did it have to happen now?
For a year and a half, my mom had been going through chemo treatments. We wondered if each day would be her last, never really having a grasp of what the future would hold. Our world was already extremely hard. The everyday had become unbearable, and now this. You see, Granny had been fine. It was my mom that we had been worried about. One day Granny was the picture of health, living vibrantly and fully. The next, she was in the hospital dying. It just wasn’t fair. But in the car on the way to see her, knowing it would be the last time, I prayed that prayer. “Why?” And God answered. His words were short and to the point but they have never left me. “I am still on My throne and all is right in the world”. That may not sound like the answer I was looking for but God’s words are always true. And there is comfort in knowing that.
Another year and a half after Granny passed away, my mom passed from the cancer that she so bravely fought for three years. Watching her suffer and die the way she did was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. Every day of those three years I prayed that God would heal her. On that final day sitting next to her bed, holding her hand and watching her struggle, my prayer changed. And I begin to pray, “Please God don’t let her suffer anymore. Take her home to be with You.” God heard my prayer, as He always does, and about an hour later she was in the presence of Jesus.
Those two days were the hardest of my life. Losing the two women I was closest too almost killed me. But each time God pulled me out of the pit of my despair. He didn’t leave there to sink all alone. He heard my prayers and answered them.
I will always love and miss these beautiful women who shaped my life in unexplainable ways. They meant more to me than I can ever tell. And my life will never be the same now that they are not in it. But I am so grateful that God let me have them for a little while.
So the question remains, “Where is God when bad things happen?” Simply put, God is still on His throne and all is right in the world.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
God is not a faraway being in a gilded cage. He is a loving Father who knows the pain we feel and sees every tear we shed. When our world falls apart and the pain is too deep to comprehend, this is our invitation to bring all of our brokenness directly to Him. It’s an open ended invitation to seek Him in every situation we face. Nothing is too big for Him to fix and nothing is too small for His attention. God wants us to confidently come to Him and lay our burdens at His feet so that we can receive mercy and grace to help us in our need.
My dear friend, if you have lost a loved one and are reeling from the pain it has caused, I pray that you will understand that God is still on His throne and He has you in the palm of His hand. He will not leave you to face this hurt alone. Take your burden to Him and be healed by His mercy and grace. May God bless you always!
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Every time we turn on the TV there is another terrible tragedy unfolding right before our eyes. Hurricanes, floods, wildfires and terrorist have suddenly become common news stories. But these things aren’t just stories, they are earth shattering events in someone’s life.
We truly feel for the people touched by these tragedies and we want to help any way we can, so we give to charities out of the goodness of our hearts. Yet, somehow the tragedy seems far away and removed from our own lives. And we always think these same things won’t happen to us.
But the truth is, all of us will be affected by a serious tragedy at some point in our lives. Our turn to experience hardship will surely come, whether it’s the death of a loved one, our home destroyed by a natural disaster or another unseen event so bad that we never could have imagined it in our worst nightmare.
When a tragic event strikes, it wreaks havoc on our already chaotic lives, turning everything we know upside down. The little bit of security we’ve worked so hard to create for ourselves is pulled out from underneath us. And the peace of mind that we strive for becomes a distant memory. As the pain wells up in our chest leaving us breathless, we realize just how fragile life really is. Then, we’re left to wonder “Where is God when bad things happen?”
My dear friend, I have felt your pain. I have experienced the torment of watching a loved one suffer and die an agonizing death. I have seen everything I once thought important taken from me. And in my despair, I have searched for an answer to this question. But I want you to know that waiting for you on the other side of the pain is hope. Hope that the situation you’re in won’t last forever and hope that tomorrow will be a better day. I would like to share with you some of the Bible verses that have helped me to get through the pain and see that hope of better days to come.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
It stands out in my mind that Jesus didn’t say trouble might come our way, or its possible bad things might happen to us. He said unequivocally you WILL have tribulation. I know that’s not a very comforting thought, but stick with me, I promise it gets better. Jesus backed that up by saying He has overcome the world! That’s a pretty amazing statement when you think about it. Jesus has overcome the pain and suffering we are currently facing. He has overcome every sin that separates us from Him and keeps us from the peace He offers. And He did it by dying in our place so that someday we will be with Him in heaven. Then, instead of sorrow and hardship we will have the unlimited joy and peace that only comes from knowing Jesus as our Savior.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
When we are grief stricken, words fail us. Nothing anyone can say will ever be enough to set things right again. In this moment, what we need most is to be in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. And that is exactly where we are. God has promised that in the midst of our pain, He is close to us. He understands our pain and all of the reasons we have a broken heart. And He wants to comfort us and give us a safe place to rest within His care.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
The pain we have today may feel like it goes on and on with no end in sight. But God promises that tomorrow will come and with it, hope for a brighter future. So, whatever you do, don’t give up, because morning is coming.
As you read this verses, I hope they will provide you with the same source of strength and courage to keep going that they have given me over the years. But if you are still wondering “Where is God when bad things happen?” the simple answer is this…He is exactly where He has always been. He hasn’t left and He hasn’t changed. He is still right next to you, ready to lift you up and see you through this tragedy you are facing. So, I pray that you will feel the closeness with God that you are longing for. And that you will know, your hope for a better tomorrow is waiting just around the corner. May God bless you greatly!
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Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt.
Jeremiah was in a pickle. God had given him the unenviable task of telling the people that they had failed God and He was about to unleash His wrath upon them. Ouch!
Judah was in a covenant relationship with God. They were His chosen people, yet they chose to worship the pagan god Baal. The king of Judah had been defeated in battle and now the people were the subject of Egypt. Soon, God would allow brutal Babylon to rule over them for seventy years. Yes, tough times were on the horizon for the people of Judah. But instead of turning to God for help, they chose to continue worshiping their false gods and idols.
So, God sent Jeremiah to call Judah out on their wicked ways and tell them to turn back to Him before it was too late. But they ignored Jeremiah’s warning of God’s coming judgement.
Faced with the people’s indifference to his message, Jeremiah had his own choice to make. He could go with the flow and follow the people’s lead, or he could remain faithful to God and His will. In the face of adversity and a growing defiance from the people, Jeremiah chose faith over popularity.
God remained faithful to Judah, in spite of their disobedience. He remembered His promise to restore His blessing. And because of His everlasting love, God showed His mercy on a faithless people and gave them a new covenant.
This story from Jeremiah isn’t just a piece of history from long ago. It is meant for us right here, right now! Just like Judah, sometimes we find ourselves facing tough times. And just like Jeremiah we might be in a pickle.
When tragedy strikes us close to home, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The pain is too close and the struggle is too difficult. It’s almost impossible to see how anything in our lives can ever be right again. We’re at the crossroads and we have a choice to make. We can decide to turn our backs on God like the people of Judah. Or we can turn to God for help and rely on His promises during the tough times to come.
The Bible is filled with so many blessings and promises from God! Each one of them meant to give us hope for a better tomorrow. Within Jeremiah 31:3-4, there are three promises from God to help us in our time of need. Once we understand them, we can face any hardship with a new perspective and resolve.
#1 An everlasting love…
God loved us before time began and He still loves us now in the midst of the storm we are facing. God’s love for us is an everlasting love. It has no beginning and it has no end.
But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…
God showed His mercy and demonstrated His great love for us by sending His Son to save us and give us everlasting life. Through the sacrifice of Jesus we have the ability to experience this everlasting and unending love of God.
#2 I have drawn you…
Because of God’s lovingkindness, He stretches out His hand to us and draws us to Himself. Even when trouble surrounds us and all seems lost, God has not forgotten us. He draws close to us in our need.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
#3 Again I will build you…
Whatever hardship we have endured, whatever sin we have committed, God has promised to rebuild our relationship with Him.
You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Christ Jesus. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no
means be put to shame.
1 Peter 2:5-6
As Christians, we are the building project of God. He is the contractor, building a spiritual house for us to dwell in. Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the building, keeping our spiritual house from crumbling and falling to pieces. God has formed us into “living stones” to be set upon the cornerstone of Christ. Each stone is carefully and deliberately placed, making us the walls of the house firmly set on the foundation of our faith. But our sin tears down the house God is building for us. So, He forgives our sins and builds the house back up again. We are imperfect so, the building goes on and on. It is a continually building and rebuilding of our lives. And it will only be completed once we are in heaven with Him.
Jeremiah’s story is a testament of a faithful servant who endured many hardships yet followed God anyway. Today, his story stands as a reminder to us that tough times will come, but we have a loving Father who is always faithful to the end. We may make bad choices or get knocked down, but when we make Jesus the cornerstone and main focus of our lives, we will never fail. God will honor His promises to us. He will show us everlasting love, draw us with lovingkindness and pick us up and build us again.
If you are facing tough times, I pray that you will turn to God and be encouraged by these promises. God loves you, He will draw you to Himself and He will build you again.
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Does God seem far away from you? Do you feel like your prayers aren’t being heard? Is your heart overwhelmed by sadness and pain? We’ve all felt like the closeness we long to have with God is elusive. But we’re in good company because even David, a man after God’s own heart, felt the same way we do.
Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
There will be times in our lives when God seems far away. We may be discouraged and feel that God has abandoned us in our time of need. But David’s psalm is a reminder to all believers that in our despair God is faithful. So, let’s dig deeper into what God has to say to us today.
Hear my cry… Attend to my prayer…
David’s longing to hear from God is echoed in our own lives. He asked God to hear his prayer and to answer him. But for some reason, David didn’t feel like God was listening. I have experienced times in my life, where it seemed like God was very silent. During these silent times I want more than anything to hear from God. I pray “just tell me what to do and I’ll do it”, and the response I get back is crickets. The silence is deafening and seems to go on forever. But we can rest assured that God will not remain silent forever. We are His children and our pain does not go unnoticed. He hears us when we pray and He sees us when we cry.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
From the end of the earth…
David may have been a little overly dramatic when he wrote these words, but haven’t we all stretched the truth a time or two. I think we can all relate to David feeling like God was far away from him at the end of the earth. Sometimes it feels like God’s just out of our reach and no matter how far we travel we can’t get to Him. We wonder where He has gone to and why He has left us all alone. But God has not moved and He has not changed. He is exactly the same as He was when we felt the closest to Him. Our perception of our closeness with God is the only thing that has changed. But our emotions can play tricks on us. They can cause us to twist the truth in our minds to fit what we are feeling at the time. Just because we don’t “feel” close to God doesn’t mean that we aren’t. Thankfully God has given us insight, through His word, into who He is and the promise that He will never change and He will never leave us. When we feel like God is far away from us, all we have to do is read His word. If we search for Him, we will find Him.
And you will seek Me, and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
When my heart is overwhelmed…
When my mom died, I learned what it means to be truly heartbroken. She was not only my mom but also my best friend. David described this feeling perfectly when he said his heart was overwhelmed. It’s a feeling of total hopelessness and grief, that nothing will ever be okay again. It completely consumes you from the inside out leaving you empty. For a while after my mom’s death, I was so overcome by emotion that I didn’t know what to do with it all. The flood of tears from deep down inside of me just wouldn’t stop. The grief left me feeling overwhelmed and worn down. Have you felt this way too? Maybe you’ve lost a loved one, or you’re in the midst of a crisis that seems impossible to get through. If your heart is broken and overwhelmed, here is God’s promise to you.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart…
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I…
Trying to get from one side of a raging river to the other side all alone is an impossible task. You just can’t do it by yourself. The waters are too strong and you will be pulled under in no time at all. So, you have to look for something to help you cross the river, like a huge rock to stand on. Every day, we are faced with a world full of metaphorical raging rivers to cross. And just like we can’t face a real river on our own, we can’t face life’s rivers alone either. God is our rock and firm ground. He is our safe place to stand when life becomes too much to handle. He will get us through the raging waters ahead.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you…
We will have struggles and disappointments in life and sometimes God may seem far away. But He is exactly where He has always been, right next to us, listening to our prayers, comforting us in our grief and helping us through the raging rivers of life. Seek Him with your whole heart and you will find Him.
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We celebrate our friendships. Especially those with our sisters in Christ. We feel that we have a special bond with our Christian girlfriends that we just don’t share with other people. We can open up about the hardships we face in life and share how our faith gets us through it.
But as much as we cherish these friendships, the truth is that sometimes they end. One day your relationship is thriving and the next thing you know, it’s over. I’m not talking about a casual friendship or someone that you see in passing, but rather that one girlfriend that you shared a deep and intimate friendship with. You told each other everything and you felt that you were closer than sisters. This is the girlfriend that you thought would be there for you until the bitter end. The one girlfriend that you thought you would never be unfriended by.
Maybe you had a falling out, or maybe you have no idea what went wrong. Either way, they’ve left you in the dust and moved on. Their life seems to be moving forward and you are standing still wondering what happened. The pain is real and somehow the idea that it was another Christian who hurt you makes it so much worse. You feel alone and betrayed.
The words of David speak so well in a time like this. He too knew the pain of being abandoned by a close friend.
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me;
Then I could bear it.
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted
Himself against me;
Then I could hide from him.
But it was you, a man my equal,
My companion and my acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together,
And walked to the house of God in the throng…
Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He will sustain you.
Psalm 55:12-14; 55:22
David was in terrible pain. It was not an enemy who had betrayed him. It was his companion and confidant, someone who David had worshipped God with. But in his grief, he was reminded to cast his burden on God, his one true friend. So what do you do when a friend hurts you? How can you find comfort and strength to move on?
Find closure if you can. Go to this friend and ask them what happened. Why are they shunning you? Let them know that you want to work it out. Maybe your relationship can be saved, maybe it can’t. But at least you will know that you tried to fix the problem.
Realize that God has a plan for your life and for theirs. God brings people together for a reason and sometimes He pulls them apart for another. It’s hard for us to understand this because we can’t see the future, but God has a reason for everything He does. Pray and ask God what His reason is. You may be surprised by the answer.
Wish your friend well and move on. Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend loves at all times.” Love and forgiveness may seem like an impossible feat at a time like this, but God can give you the heart to do it. Give it some time and try to move forward with your life. Forgiveness will come.
One of the most painful things we can go through is the breakup of a close friendship. It’s easy to become jaded and think you’ll never find another friend that close again. But if we turn to God we will find the comfort and strength that we are looking for. Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to give us wonderful blessings.
Dear Heavenly Father, I’ve been hurt by a close friend. I come to You now asking for the comfort that only You can provide. Please fill my heart with love and acceptance. Please help me to forgive and move forward with Your plan for my life, and please be with my friend as she moves on as well. I know that You have our best interest in mind and that you will take care of both of us. Thank you for Your gentleness in guiding me back to where I need to be. In Jesus name, Amen.
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I love lists! I love them so much, I make one almost every day. And I love the feeling of accomplishment I have when I can cross out that “big” thing on my list. Usually my to-do list includes ordinary things like grocery shopping, returning phone calls, answering emails, running errands, etc. with a few occasional “big ticket” items thrown in for good measure. But there’s one thing that lately hasn’t made its way onto my list, a quiet time with God.
Okay, so I admit it, I’m not perfect. But I’m such a perfectionist! Still, I struggle. Probably with the same things you struggle with too. Recently that struggle has been a lack of motivation to spend time with God every day. My heart just hasn’t been in it. There’s an ebb and flow in life where things are good for a while and then all of a sudden everything seems hard. Right now, I’m going through one of those hard times. I’m still recovering from a low back injury and in a lot of pain. Even the smallest task seems difficult. My house is a total wreck. Everything that could break is broken and everything that could go wrong has. I’m falling so far behind on everything, that my to-do list makes me want to freak out. Plus a million other excuses that don’t mean much, because that’s all they are, excuses.
Knowing God and His will for our lives is the only way we can ever truly get ahead. And spending time with Him and applying His Word to our daily lives is what grows our faith. God doesn’t ask much from us. And He promises to give us so much in return.
In every relationship there are ups and downs. But we can’t have a relationship with someone we never spend time with. It takes commitment and follow through on our part to make it happen.
The great thing is, God hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s exactly where He was before. He doesn’t change. He is constant. He is faithful. Even when I am not.
Psalm 1:2-3 says.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
I want to be like that tree, firmly planted by the river. And I want to be firmly planted in God’s Word. So, I am committed to growing my relationship with a God who loves me and wants to see me prosper in His ways. I know the only way to get there is to “delight in His law” (the Word of God) and make my time with God a priority every day.
So, I began by praying and asking God to return the joy of reading His Word to me. At the same time, I also began searching for a Bible study that would speak to my heart as I started my devotions again.
Slowly, God has restored my love of His Word to me. The more time I spend reading the Bible and listening to His wisdom, the more I understand who God is and how much He loves me. And the more time I spend praying and seeking His face, the closer I feel to Him.
I love God more than anything and I know that He loves me even more. So, I am fully committed to making my time with God the most important thing on my to-do list from now on! And I hope that you are too.
If you are struggling to spend time with God every day, then I want to encourage you. The investment you put in today will be repaid tenfold. When you began to spend time with God you will see His blessings in your life the same way that I have. You will become like a tree firmly planted by the rivers water. And everything you do will prosper.
You can begin the same way I did, by praying and asking God to give you joy and knowledge. Then find a Bible study that speaks to your heart or just start reading the Bible. Any book in it is a great place to start. I think you will be surprised by all of the wonderful things God has in store for you. God Bless!
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Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
1 John 4:4
This past Spring I went for a walk in the park with a friend. She wanted to get out into the sunshine and I wanted to take pictures of the tulips that were in full bloom. We had a lovely time together, chatting about silly TV shows and snapping pictures. Later that night, the pain started. It was radiating from my low back down my leg. Every time I moved it felt like electricity shooting down to my foot. Now, I’ve injured my back a couple of times before so I knew the drill, rest, ice, heat, stretching and strengthening. I did it all and slowly the pain subsided. Just a few days ago I was amazed to discover that I could walk and sit without pain and the strengthening exercises were getting much easier.
Then I woke up with my allergies going haywire. I should have gone to the doctor right then, but I didn’t. I thought I was tough and I could get through it on my own. Oh, how wrong I was! I had a terrible sneezing fit and I felt my back go out immediately. I knew I was in big trouble when I couldn’t get out of bed the next morning and I was dragging my foot as I walked again.
I don’t write this so you’ll feel sorry for me. By the grace of God, I’m going to be okay. I write this with the hope that you will be encouraged. We all have setbacks in life. They usually come at the must inconvenient times. But it’s just a setback, not a permanent destination. No matter what obstacle we face God is greater than it. For me the obstacle is an old back injury rearing its ugly head. For you, maybe it’s different, a divorce or bad breakup, the loss of a loved one, problems at work or a feeling of despair that you can’t put into words. Whatever you’re facing I want you to know that God has you covered! He loves you, He will see you through it and He is definitely greater than any setback we face!
Isaiah 43:2 says:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overtake you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
I love this verse and I come back to it often. The meaning is simple but the words are so powerful. We are going to have trials in our lives. But God doesn’t take us into a trial just to drop us off and leave us there. He promises that He will be right there with us. He knows that we will emerge from the flames stronger and better equipped for whatever the next obstacle may be.
Are you facing a setback right now? If so, then I pray that you will be encouraged by knowing that God is with you. He will use this time in your life to lift you up and show you His love and compassion. You may not be able to see it now, but you will emerge on the other side of this trial stronger and with more resolve to live for Him.
Setbacks will always come and go, but our loving Father will be with us through it all because He is greater! Until next time, God bless!
P.S. A little update on my back injury just in case you were wondering…
It’s been almost a year since I reinjured my back and I’m finally feeling better. God has used this time to teach me a few lessons, patience which is an ongoing journey for me and also humility. (Oh, humility! I’ll write a post about that one soon.) As I reread this post I was struck by one thing. “But it’s just a setback, not a permanent destination.” When I wrote these words it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it felt like my setback would be permanent. It’s been a long, painful road both physically and spiritually. But God has shown me just how great He is! He didn’t take me into the trial and drop me off, He stayed there in the fire with me the whole way. And I’m exceedingly grateful for His presence in my life! He got me this trial, now on to the next one! ;)
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Connie Rowland is the Artist and Blogger behind Master's Hand Collection, a series of Christian artwork that depicts God's hand in our lives. Each picture features an inspirational word spelled out in American Sign Language with a corresponding Bible verse. Check out the About page for more info on Master's Hand Collection and Connie.
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