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Facing Grief

Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” – Matthew 26:38, NIV

It was a mild August day when Amelia climbed into the passenger seat of her car. She and her husband were headed to the beach to celebrate her promotion. “We’d only been married five months at that point. We were newlyweds and I was still learning so much about him.”

But Amelia and her husband never made it to the beach that day. Instead, they were hit by a drunk driver who crossed into their lane. He hit their car, head-on.

Amelia’s husband was killed on impact and she was left with life-threatening injuries. She had broken her back in two places, needed stitches in her face, and had a serious concussion.

Her body began to heal but her spirit felt broken. “Everyone told me to just forgive the other driver. I got a lot of pressure to move on from other people. One person told me if I didn’t forgive, I was worse than the drunk driver.”

Then came the day Mary showed up in Amelia’s hospital room. She was a widow from a local church who often reaches out to other widows.

Amelia shared her story, crying through parts of it. “How am I supposed to forgive?” She whispered.

Mary squeezed the woman’s shoulder, “Right now, your only job is to grieve. You need to process what you’re feeling. All of the sadness, rage, and pain. Let it come.”

Sometimes, it can be tempting to tell someone going through an injustice to “just forgive” but that advice can stunt the grieving process.

“It only compounds loss,” Mary explains. “So now, we have someone who’s grieving and they feel this guilt and sense of isolation added with it. Many people don’t realize this but Jesus grieved in the Garden of Gethsemane. Grieving is an important part of the healing process.”

God, help me to grieve with those who grieve. Let me be a loyal friend who welcomes the broken into Your presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Love is Kind to You

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV

Ellie lived with her grandmother who regularly criticized her from the time she was small.

“Nana always seemed to have a list of reasons why things didn’t work out for me. In junior high, she told me I didn’t make the cheerleading team because I wasn’t pretty enough. In high school, she said no one asked me to prom because I was too fat.”

Ellie spent years accepting her grandmother’s painful words. Like many kids and teenagers, she simply believed that when an adult tells you something it must be the truth. She never thought to question it.

Then she shared with a college friend the painful things her grandmother would say during their daily phone calls. 

“I still remember his face when I told him about it. He turned to look at me and there was such compassion in his eyes. He said that’s abuse. Love is kind, Ellie, and you deserve love.”

For Ellie, it was the first time anyone had ever stood up for her. She’d never had that validation and it made her think there could be people who loved her simply for being herself.

“I started working with a counselor not long after that. She helped me see myself as a precious child of God. It took years to work through all of the verbal abuse but I eventually forgave my grandmother. I didn’t want to carry those wounds with me for the rest of my life.”

God, when the people in my life aren’t kind, help me to remember that You speak love over me. Let me feel the warm embrace of Your love every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Choosing Compassion

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32, NIV

Andy lived in a small farming community in Idaho. When he was fifteen, he took a gun to school. He showed it off to his friends, who crowded around him at the lunch table.

But while he was handling the gun, Andy accidentally discharged the weapon. Another student, seventeen-year-old Larry was shot. Paramedics were called and Larry was taken to a local hospital.

After several days, Larry woke up to the news that he was paralyzed. Overnight, his baseball scholarships disappeared and his girlfriend dumped him. But he couldn’t stop thinking about Andy.

“I know most people would think I hated him. But I didn’t. All I could think about was my younger brother. He’s done some dumb stuff and I couldn’t imagine how he’d feel if he seriously hurt somebody.”

When Andy was brought to trial, Larry was there. He testified on the other boy’s behalf and begged the jury to show mercy. “He’s already changed my life forever….he knows that and I know it. I don’t want his life to be messed up, too.” Larry explained.

Because of Larry’s compassion, Andy was sentenced to only a year in a juvenile detention center. After that, he’ll be on probation for a few years. 

God, when someone else’s decisions impact my life, let me be forgiving and gracious. Not because of me, but because of Jesus and the forgiveness He’s granted me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Faithful to God

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” – 1 Samuel 1:10-11, NIV

Hannah was the beloved wife of Elkanah despite being barren. Elkanah had a second wife, a woman named Peninnah who had several children of her own.

Each year when it was time for their family to attend the annual feast, Peninnah would taunt Hannah. She would bring up her lack of children and keep tormenting her until Hannah would begin crying.

As the feast was ending one year, Hannah went to the temple (church). There she prayed that God would grant her a child. She promised that if God would do this for her, she would not consider the child hers but the Lord’s.

Later when God gave her a beautiful baby boy, Hannah held him close. She was with him, night and day. She never wanted him to leave her arms. She treasured each smile, coo, and kiss.

Then when her son was weaned, Hannah took him to the temple. She introduced the boy to the priest and explained that he was to be a servant of the Lord all of his days.

Hannah was faithful to God’s plan for her son’s life, even though it broke her heart to send him away. Sometimes, a mother must make a difficult sacrifice to raise godly children. But those sacrifices are never in vain, for God sees your faithfulness.

God, help me to be faithful like Hannah was. I want to raise godly kids who seek You. Please give me the strength to do that. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Discovering Her Identity

Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” – Genesis 29:32, NIV

Leah watched as her sister, Rachel, flirted with Jacob. She watched as they courted, the secret glances they stole at each other when they thought no one else was looking. She admired the way Jacob worked for seven years so that he could marry Rachel.

Then her father came, just hours before her sister’s wedding. He shoved the bridal clothes at her, demanding she slip into them and wed Jacob in her sister’s place.

The next morning, she could hear Jacob shouting at her uncle, demanding to know why he’d been betrayed. Then seven days later, Jacob married Rachel, the sister he truly loved.

Leah was trapped in a loveless marriage but God saw her misery. He sent her a son, and she named him Reuben. She was certain that now her husband would love her and in doing so, made the mistake of placing her worth in her husband and her children rather than God. That’s why she’d spent years feeling so empty and chasing Jacob.

But somewhere along the way, Leah accepted her true identity as a favored daughter of God. She understood that God loved her unconditionally and let that love fill her with peace and joy.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. – Genesis 29:35, NIV

God, help me to remember my worth comes not from my relationships. Like Leah, let me rest in You, content with the knowledge that I am Your beloved child. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The Mother Who Doubted

“Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.” – Genesis 21:2-3, NIV

Sarah had once imagined sticky handprints on the walls, bedtime cuddles, and Saturday mornings spent with a child. But the years had slowly turned into decades and there was no baby.

She had cried more tears than there were in the sea. Eventually, she reached a place of painful acceptance. She let go of the dream and accepted that a child would never come from her womb.

But one day, she overheard her husband, Abraham, talking to two strangers. Angels the Lord had sent who promised that she would bear a son.

Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (Genesis 18:11-12)

Sarah’s laughter revealed her inner doubt. She smoothed her hand over her flat belly and sighed. Nearly ninety, her youth had faded. Yet her doubt didn’t stop God from giving her a son.

Sarah’s story proves that God can still work a miracle even when we struggle with doubts. His miracles are not dependent on you or what you do, for He is the Eternal God.

God, forgive me for my doubts. I’m trusting You to redeem this situation in Your way and in Your timing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Daughter for a Season

Carrie had spent years longing for children of her own. But an auto-immune disease had robbed her of the ability to have kids. So, she and her husband decided to adopt a child instead.

But twice the adoptions fell through. Each failed adoption only added to her hurt. She often found herself asking, “Why God? I long to be a mother and You keep shutting down every avenue. I don’t understand.”

A few weeks later, a single mom with three daughters moved into the apartment next door. She struggled to pay for child care, so Carrie opened up her apartment to the young girls.

She kept cookies and other snacks for them, let them play in her home office as she worked, and taught them how to do girly activities like paint their nails.

For two years, she poured into the girls until their mom was in a better place. She had re-married and was re-locating to another state to be with her new husband. But she thanked Carrie for all she’d done.

When the girls left, Carrie felt the same aching emptiness. Then she woke up two days later to a voicemail on her phone. A social worker was looking to place a baby with a family immediately and wanted to know if Carrie and her husband would be interested.

A year later, after the adoption had been completed, Carrie looked back on all the failed adoptions. “God wanted me to minister to those girls. I just didn’t realize it at the time. God was preparing my heart to love on them before I ever even met them.”

God, when it looks like You’re closing every door, grant me patience and faith. Help me to hang onto You even when it feels like all of my dreams are shattered. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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God's Favor

“Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.” – Luke 1:13-14, NIV

Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah followed all of God’s commands. He was a priest in the temple (church) and they were active in their community. They didn’t just love God, they served Him with great reverence.

But still, Elizabeth lacked one gift—a baby of her own. She lived in a time when a woman’s worth was determined by how many healthy babies she could deliver. Since she had none, others judged her.

Some suggested the infertility was caused by a hidden sin in Elizabeth or Zechariah’s past. Others seemed to think God had pronounced judgement against Elizabeth for unbelief or another perceived flaw.

After she realizes she’s pregnant, Elizabeth says, “The Lord has done this for me. He’s shown me His favor!” (Luke 1:25, paraphrased)

When you’re going through a difficult time, you may be tempted to believe that God doesn’t care about you. Perhaps you worry that God is angry at you or fear that He has given up on you.

But have faith, dear one. Elizabeth’s late in life pregnancy wasn’t because God didn’t love her or was angry with her. He hadn’t given up on her.

It was a matter of Divine timing and this might be true in your situation, too. Perhaps God still intends to save your marriage or heal your daughter from her addiction. But He plans to do it in His timing, rather than yours.

God, thank You for Your favor! You have blessed me richly! When I’m tempted to focus on what You haven’t given me, let me be patient and remember that Your timing is always perfect. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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A Shining Example

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” – Ruth 1:16, NIV

Naomi had suffered three horrible losses. She lost her husband and both of her grown sons also died. Now, Naomi is a widow without a means of providing for herself or her two daughters-in-law.

“When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there.” – Ruth 1:6, NIV

Naomi urges both daughters to leave her side and seek husbands since they’re still young. One daughter listens and tearfully departs. But Ruth promises to stand by her mother-in-law.

She calls her mother-in-law’s God her own and her mother-in-law’s people her own. Ruth was a foreigner, a woman from Moabite. Yet, she pledges to her allegiance to her mother-in-law’s God.

Most likely, Naomi had greatly influenced Ruth during their time together. The older woman was a shining example of faith and grace to the younger, resulting in her conversion.

Some days, it can be tempting to believe that you’re not influencing anyone. But Ruth’s bold confession shows that others are watching how you live. You can have a tremendous impact on the people living in your household by simply being faithful to God and relying on Him.

God, let me be a shining example of Your goodness and faithfulness within my own home. I want to impact my family and friends for Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The Next Generation

“You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” – Judges 13:5, NIV

Jamie was pregnant with her first child. While she was excited for the birth, she was also scared. When Liz, an older woman from her church reached out to her, Jamie shared her fears.

“My mother was addicted to drugs and my father was in and out of prison for most of my childhood. I’m afraid that what happened in one generation will keep repeating in the next. How can I raise a child when I’ve never had a good example of how to do it?”

Liz shared the story of Samson’s mother. “An angel visited Manoah’s wife and told her she would become pregnant with a son who would later be called Samson.”

“When her husband, Manoah wanted to know how to raise the boy, the angel came to the couple and shared God’s instructions again. God will give you wisdom and reveal how to parent your child if you only ask.”

God, let me remember that the sins, mistakes, and problems with the previous generation don’t have to be my child’s story. Show me how to be a wise and loving parent, just like You are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.