“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33
When I was a young teen, my father was critically ill with complications from a surgery. He asked the school to call me out of class and make him a poster saying, “Be of good cheer! I have overcome the world!”
At the time, I didn’t realize how sick my dad was, but I tried to make the most beautiful bubble letters ever and fill them with glitter. He survived, and that poster hung in his study for years afterward.
When Jesus was about to submit himself to death, he tried to prepare his disciples for the grief they would experience, and to encourage them with the final victory they would witness. Jesus would defeat sin and death, rise from the grave, return to the right hand of God the Father in heaven, and ultimately overcome this fallen world.
This verse comforted my father as his life hung on the edge. It comforts me today as I near the end of a three-year cancer-treatment plan, knowing that the doctors give me a 50-percent chance of making it to five years. But I have deep peace in my heart because God controls my life and this world. Until he calls me home, I will continue to love and serve him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. His prognosis is eternal life!
Lord, we don’t know what the future holds, but we know you hold the future. Thank you that you have overcome this world with its troubles and that we will reign with you forever. Amen.
God . . . comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Parents who have suffered the death of a child have a special understanding of one another’s pain. The same can be said of war veterans, chemotherapy patients, abuse survivors, and recovering addicts. Empathy is a tie that binds.
The apostle Paul explains that there can be a higher purpose in our suffering: we can pass along to others the comfort we have received from God. In a world where the focus is increasingly on our individual needs, God’s plan is that we would have compassion for one another. God wants us to look beyond ourselves to the needs of the people around us, being like Jesus to them.
The first time I was diagnosed with melanoma, I had to register with a large cancer center in Los Angeles. I felt sad and overwhelmed as I watched dozens of other patients in the waiting room—many had lost their hair, were pushing walkers, or appeared frail and weak. I was now a member of a club I had never sought to join.
But now I am better equipped to comfort cancer patients with the same comfort I have received from God. I can testify that I’ve “been there, done that”—and God has never left my side, despite a recurrence.
Our comfort abounds in Christ, and in his strength we can pass along God’s love and comfort to others.
Lord, you have been so good to us. In times of trouble, your Spirit comes near and comforts us. May we give generously of your comfort as we meet others who are hurting. Amen.
We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven. . . . —2 Corinthians 5:1
Generally the closest we come to realizing our human mortality is when we see the earthly remains of someone who has passed on to eternity.
The apostle Paul offers a fitting perspective on this passing. He points out that this life and body are temporary, and our whole being yearns for its permanent dwelling in heaven. When believers in Christ take their last breath, they are swallowed up by life and not death. Our camping adventure in these earthly tents is over, and we move into a new place that Jesus has prepared for us (John 14:2).
Life in these tents can be rich and full as God grants us joy in worship, relationships, work, and witness. But this is just a foretaste of the glory that awaits us, that the Spirit of God guarantees for our future.
My mother never much liked camping, and her earthly tent was often wracked with pain. As we gathered around her bedside in the days and hours before she passed away, we grieved for us but rejoiced for her. She would soon be taking up residence with God!
When we are faced with our own mortality, we naturally desire to stay with the people we love in this familiar world. But as Christians, we do not grieve as people without hope, for we believe the best is yet to come!
Lord, some of our tents are ripping at the seams and caving in. Prepare us for when you call us to be with you forever. Comfort us with that hope. Amen.
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” —Matthew 6:34
My 15-year-old grandson took a high school psychology class and began diagnosing each family member with a mental disorder. When I asked him about mine, he said, “Anxiety.” I laughed because I’m generally a glass-half-full kind of person. I trust God for the future.
Yet I admit that I do secretly worry about what will happen when my three-year cancer treatment plan ends. I worry about my children who have already lost their father to cancer. I worry about my husband having another heart attack. I worry about my dad’s grief and loneliness after losing my mom and then my stepmom.
What secret worries linger in the back of your mind?
We can imagine Jesus lovingly shaking his head at all of our what-ifs, and asking the rhetorical question “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Jesus teaches us not to waste time with such concerns but instead to “seek first the kingdom” of God. We can focus on living out the gospel, sharing it with others, and maximizing the time we are given.
Jesus challenges us to have faith and to trust that the Father knows exactly what we need. Rather than fret, we are invited to surrender our stress to Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” he says, “and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Lord, we worry when we should just pray. Help us to bring the concerns of each day to you in faith, and empower us to trust in your providential care to sustain us and our loved ones. Amen.
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears. . . . —Hebrews 5:7
Jesus’ life on earth was not easy, to put it mildly. He didn’t have a home; some people wanted him to be a king; others rejected him as a heretic; one friend betrayed him; another denied him; all his followers abandoned him; and he was publicly crucified as a criminal. What’s more, as he died for our sake, he took upon himself the punishment for all our sin.
Jesus understands our suffering. We read that Jesus prayed passionately “with fervent cries and tears,” which is something many of us have done when facing difficult circumstances. We have pleaded with God to heal our disease, to save our job, to bring our children to faith, to rescue us from imminent danger, to extend a loved one’s life.
How did Jesus pray in his time of need? With reverence and humble submission. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
Our suffering Savior, who had the divine power to remove himself from the cross, chose to die so that we would have eternal salvation. God answered his prayers by raising Jesus from the dead; his submission translated into our victory.
When we kneel before God—with cries and tears—he listens because of the perfect obedience and sacrifice of Jesus for our sake. And we can echo Jesus’ prayer to the Father: “Not what I will, but what you will.”
Dear Jesus, thank you. Help us to submit our will to your perfect will. Amen.
“When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” —Isaiah 43:2
Have you ever felt that you just couldn’t handle one more difficult thing? Have you wondered how you will get through the next days and months?
God knows the struggles of his people. Through Isaiah, God assured Israel as they were oppressed in exile. God reminded them of his power in the past, and God pointed to his sure presence for the future. The Red Sea had not swept over them as they left Egypt (Exodus 14), and in Babylon a fiery furnace would not burn Daniel’s friends (Daniel 3). God promised, “You are mine,” and “I will be with you.”
The comfort in this passage—that God never lets go as we face all kinds of dangers and struggles—is for God’s people both as a group and as individuals. Nothing can destroy the people whom God has called, so we need not be afraid.
In the summer of 2013 I was shocked and saddened by the death of my youngest sister. Two weeks later, I was diagnosed with melanoma that required surgery, followed by numerous complications. For a while it felt as though the waves of grief and flames of fear were too big to handle. But God did not allow me to be swept away or burned.
The almighty God personally promises to be our shield of protection as we navigate the fiery darts of the devil.
Great I am, help me to trust you when life feels overwhelming and I am pummeled with problems. Thank you that I am precious to you and that your love is eternal. Amen.
He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” —2 Corinthians 12:9
Mental illness is often discussed in hushed tones, along with the request “Please don’t tell anyone.” Yet an estimated one in four people suffers from a mental health issue, according to a 2018 World Health Organization report.
My family knows firsthand the struggle of depression, as it was my mother’s “thorn in the flesh” for much of her life. This was not easy for her, and it was often heartbreaking to live with her. At her memorial service, my father preached on the power of God’s grace that was evident in their 60-year marriage.
Paul writes of his “thorn” that was obviously painful and permanent, even though he pleaded with God to take it away. In spite of this burden, Paul was still blessed with a powerful ministry and a rich legacy. Christ-followers are not exempt from suffering, but God promises that his perfect power is more than sufficient to carry us through.
This was my father’s testimony as he walked with my mom through her many health crises and rollercoasters of emotions. When they were at the end of their ropes, the resurrection power of God gave them strength to take yet another step—until she no longer could, and then God lovingly took her home with “Hallelujah” on her lips.
When we are weak, God shows up in full force.
Lord, I am weak, but you are strong. Help me not to fear weakness but instead to lean into you as my source of power and grace. I need you every hour. Amen.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. —Psalm 23:4
When I help young people prepare to profess their faith, I try to instill in them the importance of learning Scripture. For example, we have them memorize Psalm 23 because we want it stored deep in their souls for times of trouble.
Everyone will eventually experience a dark valley in which they will especially sense the need for Jesus, the good shepherd. This psalm speaks of the shepherd who leads us to comfortable places, refreshes our souls, and lavishes us with love and blessings. And when we face times of suffering caused by disappointments or devastating blows, our protector comes to help and comfort us.
Our friend Sid had a massive heart attack recently after running with his granddaughter. A security guard revived his dormant heart with CPR. For weeks, Sid was in an induced coma on the brink of death, but by the grace of God and two heart surgeries, he recovered. Sid’s testimony is that reciting Psalm 23 in the midst of pain and sleeplessness brought healing to his soul.
When we enter the darkest valleys amid serious illness, stress, loss, worry, and other struggles, we can find much comfort in the prayer of Psalm 23. We have the blessed assurance that God is with us and cares for us. We have no need to fear.
Lord, you know how fear can grip us when we face the shadows and dark valleys of life. Assure us of your presence that leads us and protects us when we can’t see an escape route. Amen.
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. —Romans 8:28
Christians sometimes have the best intentions but say the wrong things. In attempts to comfort someone who is grieving the death of a loved one, we have been known to offer platitudes like “God had a plan” or “She’s in a better place” or “His suffering is over.” All true, but perhaps we should simply imitate the Spirit with “wordless groans,” offering a hug and ongoing prayers.
The greater the degree of suffering on this earth, the more we long for the day when we will be with Christ in heaven, free from the tyranny of sickness and sorrow.
In this passage, the apostle Paul seeks to encourage God’s people with both strength to get through today and a glorious vision of the future. He tells us that in all things God works for our ultimate good and his purpose. This does not mean all things are inherently good but that God redeems the pain and blesses us.
My Uncle Leon quotes Romans 8:28 as a text that has comforted him and his wife, Shirley, since losing both of their sons in early adulthood. Through tears and a shattered heart, he still expresses confidence that God will use his scars to bless others in similar circumstances. This verse is more than a platitude; it’s a promise based on God’s enduring love.
Lord, in the midst of our deep suffering and crippling grief, may your Spirit begin to heal our hearts and translate our tears into something that is ultimately good. Amen
[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:39
Have you ever watched a movie in which a prisoner is being tortured at increasingly horrible levels of pain until they either give up a secret or give in to death? This is what comes to mind when reading the apostle Paul’s dread-list of the worst things that could happen to God’s people. Which of these might cause them to doubt God’s love?
In this passage Paul was naming some of his own hardships and then confirming to his own soul, and to ours, “No, not persecution. No, not famine. No, not that, or that, or that.” Why? Because God’s love is unshakable, and God gives us the strength not only to face but also to conquer the enemy’s attacks. How? Through the finished work of Christ’s victorious death and resurrection.
Paul says neither the present nor the future shall threaten our confidence in God’s loving grip on us. This passage has been a stronghold for my Uncle Ivan over the past 45 years since his wife, Ruth, woke up one day and was unable to move. Her increasing paralysis changed their future dramatically, but they have trusted in God every step of the way.
Is there anything in your life that feels too overwhelming to handle? The power of the living God guarantees a strong grip on you as you face your hardship head-on. Never give up.
Lord, we are weak, but you are strong. When the troubles of life pummel us, help us to find comfort in your love that never lets go. Help us to keep looking to you. In Jesus, Amen.