Archives For Pain

Me & Cassie, our oldest or 4 girls

Me & Cassie, our oldest of 4 girls

Listen, I know you may see me and think, “Joe smiles a lot. His life must be pretty easy, pretty happy-go-lucky for him to be so happy all the time.”

Not quite.
Yes, I love life.
  • Jesus is a never-ending Source of blessing.
  • My wife and children are a great joy.
  • I love what I get to do for a living.

But I assure you that there is more to this story.

Please do not mistake my deep joy for happiness.

Kelcy and I have been through quite a bit of pain throughout the process of saying “yes” to God.

I’ll save you the sob story. But just take my word that there have been painful periods that left us on the ropes, dodging punches and trying desperately to stay on our feet. And there have been times when life laid me so low I literally could not get myself off the floor. We’ve walked through seasons where it seemed as though God had forgotten about us, and we’ve lived to see the other side of those seasons.

The daily and weekly ordeal of laying our will down to His does not get easier as life goes on.

The stakes of following Jesus become higher and higher as the years progress. The level of trust required to say the next “yes” grows instead of diminishes. Over and over, writing Him the “blank check”, saying, “whatever, wherever, whenever” has and continues to come at a high cost to us in many ways.

Throughout whole seasons of my life I have questioned God’s plan and direction for my life.

But every once in a while He gives me a glimpse of how He is weaving a tapestry of testimony all through my life. My God, my Father in Heaven, who called me into relationship with Him through His Son Jesus, is crafting a good work in and through my life.

Do you know what the coolest part is?

He’s not using just the biggest, brightest, shiniest parts of my walk to point the way into His preferred future for my life. He is redeeming the darkest, most depressing episodes of my life in order to point me in the continued direction of obedience for me, my family and my ministry.
Today I had yet another conversation in which God displayed to me His presence in my life. I could not explain it to you in an hour if I tried. You’ll just have to take my word when I tell you that God is redeeming some painful episodes of our life, ones that left us questioning His will but saying “yes” the best we knew how each step of the way. And He is in fact taking the sum of all those “little yeses” and adding them up to a trajectory that only He could fashion for our future.
  • Those years of my life that I battled a crippling sense of defeat and failure
  • The days when I was literally digging ditches for the Lord…
  • All the times I thought God’s plan for my life had been derailed
  • When I was convinced that He was done using my life for the sake of the Gospel…

Those dark times, when I could barely make my mouth say, “yes, Lord”, those are the times that God was forming me. And come to find out, those are the same times God has used, is using, and will use to shape the future of my continued, “yeses”.

Friend, can I convince you to do one thing today?

No matter what, say, “Yes” to Him.

No matter what darkness or uncertainty you are facing, make your mouth form the word, “yes” to the Lord.

Then take the next step He has revealed to you.

  • Are you disconnected from God? Say the “big yes” by inviting Jesus into your heart.
  • Is your life out of order? Do you need to get rid of something? Do it. Say “yes to holiness.”
  • Did you get off track with God? It’s time to step back in. Say, “yes” to Him again.
  • Do you have hurts that are keeping you away from church? God is bigger than those. Come back.

The “yeses” that are said in the midst of pain weigh more than those said on sunny days.

Say that next “yes”.

Joy, deep and lasting joy, comes on the other side, sometimes a long time after.

A Prayer for the People of Walmart - by Joe Wickman

A Prayer for the People of Walmart – by Joe Wickman

Three children are screaming at the top of their lungs. And I mean scream-ing!

Believe me. I have 4 kids. They have screamed in stores. It happens. I get it.

But here, in the checkout line of our local Walmart, I’m bombarded with these cries of frustration. So is everyone around me. I can feel the tension building in our collective shoulders.

  • One mother (Is she the mother? Dear God, I hope not.) lashes out in frustration.
  • Another family ignores their little guy. “Maybe the kid would stop screaming if they acknowledged his existence.”
  • The third screamer? I can’t even see them. But oh, I can hear them.

The cashier laments, “My head is killing me!” (I wonder why.)

I try to be compassionate, telling her I hope she feels better. She’s so sweet and helpful. But really I just want to get out of there. I feel like my own head’s going to explode, and I’ve only been there a half an hour.

In the parking lot, people are cutting each other off, much like they were in the store, just now with cars, not carts. The collective angst spills out of the doors, past the smiley-face price tags, and into the world at large.

“I’ve got to get to my vehicle.”

There’s that angry mom again. Now she’s angrily buckling her toddler into the seat. I can’t quite make out her words. They’re somewhere between a curse and a grunt. My stomach turns.

  • Do I step in?
  • What would I even say?
  • How does a man, by himself, approach an angry Mom in a parking lot?

All this rushes through my head in 5 seconds as I walk toward my car.

Too late. She drives away first. Gone. Now I wonder what life is like for the little girl in her care.

I drive away.

I’m stunned. I can’t escape the thought, “That was awful!”

I’m not trying to be all “emo” here. But my heart is heavy. What was intended to be a casual stop at the store to pick up a few things turned into a deeply disturbing experience. I’m actually sad.

“What the heck just happened?”

It’s not Walmart’s fault.

As a pastor, I deal with broken people on a daily basis. I’m one of them.

But it seems like here, in the aisles of the discount store, we come face to face with the reality of who we are. At our modern day market, where prices are low enough to lure us in from every corner of our community, we come face-to-face with the unvarnished “us”.

A lot of times we don’t like what we see.

As a people, big picture, we are broken.

People don’t treat each other poorly for no reason. It’s a sign of a deep brokenness within that person. As the old saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.”

As I drive away from this brief encounter with the hurting people of my community, I think:

  • “How does Jesus love people like that?”
  • “Wait. That’s exactly what I’m like without Him.”
  • “Jesus, how can I love people like you do?”

As I pray, a Scripture flashes to my mind, a fragment of a verse.

“harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”

I look it up. It’s Matthew 9.

Jesus’ attitude toward deep brokenness is laid out here. Let’s see what we can learn:

Matthew 9:35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom.

When Jesus came to earth, He immersed Himself in the everyday. He descended into our brokenness and brought Good News!

35 And he healed every kind of disease and illness.

He didn’t just preach. He got his hands dirty. He healed. He reached into broken lives and changed them for the better. Jesus is capable. He is willing. He is able. Am I? Are you?

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

This is how Jesus sees the broken people. What right do I have to see people any differently?

37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Jesus came to earth. He laid down His life for broken us. Then He left. He returned to Heaven. Why?

Jesus wanted us, broken us, healed by Him, to carry on His work until He returns.

He sent His Holy Spirit to fill us, to equip us to love like He loved. He calls us to touch broken lives with the “Good News of the Kingdom”!

If you are a Christ follower…

  • How do you respond to brokenness when you see it?
  • Are you part of the solution?
  • Are you stepping into the harvest field?
  • Are you praying for the Lord of the harvest to send more workers?

Don’t let brokenness repulse you. Let it propel you.

Jesus sent His followers into this world to love people. So let’s get to it.

Compassion must be followed by action. It can start with a prayer.

Here is a prayer for the people of Walmart:

Lord, my heart is heavy when I encounter the ugliness of brokenness.

Help me understand that all people are broken, and in need of Your repair (including me).

Open my eyes so I can see like Jesus, instead of judging and complaining.

Turn my anger and sadness into deep compassion. Help me love like You do.

May the light of Christ shine through me, overcoming darkness wherever I go.

Make me a part of Jesus’ healing, transforming ministry in my home, through my church, and in my community.

In Jesus’ brilliant, healing, life-changing name I pray. Amen.

Double Vision - When Pain Blinds YouPain has a way of blurring our vision.

  • Friendships end.
  • Disappointments break our hopes.
  • Dreams die.

It feels permanent. Pain, when you’re in the middle of it, seems inescapable. It’s not. I know the way out.

Have you ever been so shattered by life that you couldn’t see straight?

Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ faithful follower, was broken in the wake of His death. It’s easy for us to say, “But the resurrection was coming.” That’s hindsight. For her, Jesus was dead, and He wasn’t coming back. Hope had evaporated.

We find this woman wracked with pain on Resurrection Sunday (John 20):

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

The thought that Jesus had risen from the dead did not occur to her. She was so wrapped up in grief that, even when angels asked her why she was weeping, she could only focus on her worst fears. Not only had Jesus died, but now she thought that even his body had been stolen.

But then…

14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Jesus stood right in front of Mary, but she didn’t recognize Him. Her pain had blinded her.

  • Ever been there?
  • Have you ever been so wrapped up in the pain of your life that you did’t recognize God when He reached out to you?

Pain is unavoidable in this life. We live in a fallen world, and even followers of Christ are effected by the fallout. But just because we experience pain doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story. Even as Mary hurt, she stood in the presence of the resurrected Savior of the world.

Finally, Jesus breaks through her fog of confusion.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” 

He called her name. How personal. How just-like-Jesus. I imagine that the tone of His voice must have somehow cut through her pain, calling her back to clarity, pulling her out of the depths of despair.

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

  • Is it possible that pain has blurred your vision?
  • Is it possible that Jesus stands right in front of you, but you don’t even recognize Him?

Your God is not dead. He’s alive! And so is your hope, if your hope is in Him.

Jesus calls your name in the midst of your pain.

Turn to Him.


Feeling Empty?

This post also appeared on the blog of New Vine Media.

Grandma, Cassie & Christa

Grandma, Cassie & Christa

This morning my grandmother died.

We are hurting. But God’s words wash over our hearts and comfort us.

God is near.

God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

He has not left us or forsaken us. God’s own presence comforts us in our grief. We are not alone.

Jesus is our hope.

When Jesus encountered Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died, he asked her a crucial question.

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

We do believe this.

Doris Wickman believed this. She held Christ in her heart, and now he holds her.

That doesn’t mean this doesn’t hurt. And it doesn’t mean we don’t weep. However, there is a limitation to our grief. It is not stifled, yet it is not total. God’s promises hem it in. We grieve, but not forever.

Hope Limits Grief.

Paul put it this way:

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

Death does not get the final word with believers in Jesus Christ.

We believe that the spiritual rebirth we experience in Christ is just a foretaste of the bodily resurrection we will someday experience. It is in death that the realities of the resurrection are made real. The deposit of faith that my Grandmother made has now been redeemed. She is now in Heaven, where her Savior has been waiting for her.

We are confident in this.

My Grandfather, Richard, upon hearing of his dear wife’s departure, uttered these words first:

“away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

He knows where his wife is. For over 64 years, they were one. Now He continues to place His faith in the One who has made him new inside. Someday my Grandpa will also be made new forever. The body that is now frail and failing will be replaced, just as his Spirit has been made new in Christ.

I am blessed to be the grandson of such a man of faith.

When Jesus’ disciples were troubled about His pending bodily departure from this world, He looked ahead. He comforted them by pointing to the new home that they would someday inhabit with Him.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Someday I will go home.

I will take up residence in the eternal place my Lord is preparing for me. But for now I have the promises of God.

The Lord revealed a glimpse of our someday-home to the Apostle John. This is how he described what is to come:

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

I do not have that comfort yet. I have the promise of that comfort. But the promise is enough for now.

Now there are tears. Now there is pain. Now I hold onto my family as we weep.

But someday our Savior will end this suffering. The promises made real in Christ’s death and resurrection will be fully completed upon His return. He will gather those who have fled to Him for comfort, and we will make our eternal home with Him.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

Someday He will.


I also wrote about my Grandparents this past June. I hope my writing can, in some small way, honor their lives and the immeasurable impact they have had on mine.

Marriage Done Right

Life will present the opportunity to talk to your kids about tragedy.

  • Fluffy the cat will die.
  • Somebody will do something stupid and hurt a lot of people.
  • I wish it wasn’t true, but you are eventually going to be faced with this reality.

You decide who tells your child.

  • You? Or the kids on the school bus
  • Parents need to guide their kids through the process of understanding (not solving) tragedy.

Who is this most helpful for?

  • Kids who are old enough to be aware but young enough to need help understanding.
  • We’re not talking to our Pre Schooler or Kindergartner.
  • We let our 11 and 13 year-olds in on the news.

5 Tips to help you talk to your kids:

1)  Be honest. But filter the details.

  • Kids have a vivid imagination, and are extremely sensitive.
  • Help them by not giving them frightening mental images.
  • Choose your words carefully.
  • Your goal is to inoculate them from the shock of hearing this for the first time. When offered information on the school bus, your child will be able to say, “Yes, I know. Isn’t that sad?” instead of, “What? Tell me more.”

2)  Don’t make stuff up.

  • Fluffy did not go to heaven. Children do not become angels.
  • Don’t be harsh. But don’t attempt to whisk away the painful truth by supplementing it with make-believe feel-good stuff.
  • I’ve often seen adults squirm when the pressure is on. Kids know whey you’re faking it. Love them enough to be honest and direct. Adding some kind of spin to “make it better” won’t do anyone any favors.

3)  Express appropriate emotions. But keep it together.

  • Your body language is incredibly important. They will hear your emotions more than your words.
  • They will either draw confidence or a sense of insecurity from you. Your tone matters.
  • Don’t be fake. But be strong. Be the adult.

4)  Give them something to do.

  • Children may need to take action in response to hearing bad news.
  • Pray with them for the families who are hurting. Doing this will direct real help to hurting families. It will also comfort your child. They will draw strength knowing that God is our “ever present help in times of trouble”.
  • You could also get more creative. Color a picture or make a craft that you can send to the families who are hurting. Whatever helps.

5)  Ensure them of their own safety.

  • The last thing you want is for your children to feel unsafe.
  • Plan some together time afterwards. Some kids will want to curl up in your arms. Others will want to play. Whatever makes them feel secure and safe is what you should do.

God bless you as you have difficult but necessary conversations with your children.

May He give you every word you need.


For More Help:

Comfort - Help for the Hurting

Comfort – Help for the Hurting

Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to remove the pain we’re experiencing. Circumstances beyond our control find us hurting and in need of help.

Instead of trying to understand or diminish the hurt, embrace the One who is called, “The God of all comfort…” (2 Corinthians 1:3)

Read through these verses. Click on the links to read further. Meditate on God’s goodness, even in the middle of your pain. Receive the comfort He has to offer.

  • Comfort is sometimes hard to find.

Job 7:13-14 13 When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, 14 even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions,

Psalm 119:82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?”

Psalm 86:17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

  • Those closest to us are often best equipped to comfort us.

Job 2:11When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him andcomfort him.

Job 42:11
All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

  • Whatever we face, our Heavenly Father’s presence and promises are comforting.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 119:50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119:52 I remember, LORD, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them.

Psalm 119:76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

Isaiah 12:1 In that day you will say: “I will praise you, LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.

Isaiah 49:13 Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Isaiah 51:3 The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

Isaiah 51:12 “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass,

Isaiah 57:18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,

Isaiah 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Jeremiah 8:18 You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.

Jeremiah 31:13 Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

The New Testament offers our ultimate comfort: Jesus

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God ; believe also in me.

2 Corinthians 1:5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

The comfort we receive isn’t just for us. Get it. Then give it.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…

2 Corinthians 1:4 …who 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 1:7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Isaiah 40:1 Comfortcomfort my people, says your God.


God will not be silent forever.

Even in times of incredible pain, questioning and heartache, He will be found. Seek Him. Find Him. Then share the comfort you have received with others who are hurting.

Also Read: “HOPE – 29 Reasons to Hope

and “Hope for the Hurting

Tragedy in Connecticut: Why?

December 14, 2012 — 8 Comments
Tragedy in Connecticut: Why?

Tragedy in Connecticut: Why?

I am seething.

As a father of four, everything in me wants to wrap my hands around the neck of this man who harmed those innocents today.

Anger may be my first response. When kids are hurt, anger is appropriate. But then we begin to walk through a whole range of emotions and responses.

  • I am enraged at the thought of one man’s actions tearing apart the lives of so many. I don’t care what factors contributed to his state of mind. No one gets to hurt kids. Ever.
  • I am crushed at the thought of what those families are going through. I cannot begin to understand the agony they are facing. The thought is too much to bear.
  • I’m confused. How could God be God in this world soaked in senseless violence? It just doesn’t make sense.

Senseless tragedy causes us to ask some heavy-duty questions.

Why did this happen?

  • We live in a fallen world. Sin is ugly, and sometimes it makes an unfiltered appearance in our world. Make no mistake about it, the devil’s plan for this world is to tear us apart.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy… (John 10:10)

The devil’s plan is to steal, kill and destroy those who God loves. He is good at it. Sometimes he finds a willing accomplice to carry out his will.

In this time of grace, lodged between the resurrection and the return of Christ, we experience the results of both limitless love and of utter, unthinkable selfishness. We know, however, that this time is limited. Some day the window of choice will be shut. The age of grace will be over. We will spend the rest of eternity with the consequences of the decisions we have made here on earth.

Today we are reeling from the reality of sin, which has reared its head in senseless violence.

Someday we will fully know the reality of the second part of John 10:10.

…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Today it is hard to believe.

Why didn’t God stop it?

  • I don’t know.
  • I wish I did.
  • I might never find out why.

I won’t give you some nicely wrapped answer. I understand that God has granted us a great degree of choice, free will, in this world in which we live. This allows us to ascend to the heights of faith and love, as well as descend into the very pit of hell.

However, when I’m freshly confronted with horrors of this nature, I find it difficult to reconcile in my mind. I think, “If I were God, I would have stopped it.” This, and a million other reasons, are why I am not God. I do not fully comprehend His ways. I do know, however, that the presence of evil in this world does not diminish His goodness.

What happened to those children?

  • They are in the arms of the One who created them.

They are experiencing no pain right now. Instead, they are receiving the perfect comfort of their Father in Heaven. They lack nothing. They do not want. They are not afraid. They are at perfect peace.

How do we know children go to heaven?

God’s Word is clear regarding children and eternity.

In a culture that viewed children as more of a nuisance than a treasure, Jesus welcomed them into his presence.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3)

The innocence of children, as well as God’s love for them, is featured here and multiple other places in Scripture.

There is a biblical concept called, “the age of accountability”. While all children are born with a sinful nature, and are born into a world of sin, they are also considered blameless by God until they reach a certain age. (Deuteronomy 1:39) When children are born, they do not fully perceive the difference to make right and wrong. Eventually, each person arrives at an age where we do understand, and we are morally “of age”. We understand our actions and are culpable for the consequences. Kindergartners are certainly under that age.

God is perfectly just, and does not allow the innocent to go to hell any more than he allows the guilty to go to heaven.

Weep for these children. But realize that the trauma has ended for them. Pray for their families, and for those precious little ones who survived. Pray that God will help them bear and heal from this trauma.

What happened to the shooter?

  • Nothing good.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” (Matthew 19:14) Jesus advocated for the weak and defenseless his entire ministry. He had words of warning for those who would render harm to others. Speaking of those who cause others to stray in their young faith, he said,

“Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:2)

Jesus said that it’s better to face certain, unpleasant death than to lead a new believer astray. I would not want to have to stand before this God of ours after hurting a child.

All throughout Scripture we are assured of God’s goodness and His justice.

The shooter did not escape the consequences of his actions by death. He escaped his chance to accept grace and forgiveness for his awful acts. He stepped from the scene of the crime into the throne room of God. He will face judgment.

“God can not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)

We’re also told in Psalms:

The Lord reigns forever;
    he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
    and judges the peoples with equity.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

(Psalm 9:7-10)

Even in the face of senseless tragedy, God is still God. Although it appears He is not present, He is. He is the One who knew the number of every hair on those victims’ heads. He is aware of every ounce of pain they experienced, and what their families are going through now. In fact, He even knows what it is like to know that your child is suffering.

This God we serve is not aloof. He is not callous. He is actively comforting and consoling those families whose lives have been torn apart by the temporary victory of the evil one.

In the end, the devil will not win. He has already been defeated. For now he will wound all he can. But there will come a day when he will cease from his work.

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

(Genesis 3:15)

The devil will cause as much pain as he can in this world. Christ has already defeated him. The cross and the empty tomb ensured it. God has allowed a time of opportunity for people to either accept or reject him. While the devil, “strikes the heel” for now, someday his “head will be crushed” upon the return of Christ.

Are you troubled by this tragedy? You should be. Sin should never make sense.

  • Seek Him as your refuge.
  • Cry out to Him for comfort.
  • Don’t forget to lift up these hurting families in prayer. They need it.

Need comfort & hope?

Here’s “Comfort – Help for the Hurting

Here’s “29 Reasons to Hope

Keep Moving Forward

Keep Moving Forward

While staying up late to write this post, Kelcy (my wife) asked me, “What’cha writing?”

“A blog post on feeling like a failure.” I replied.

Her immediate response? “You’re not (a failure).”

“I know” I assured her. “That’s why I’m writing it.”

Even now, after 15 years of her assuring and reassuring me, she is still aware that I need the occasional reminder that I am not, in fact, a failure.

When I tell people I’ve felt like a failure before, they often say, “Come on, you? You’re such a positive guy. You’ve always got a smile on you face. How could you think that you’re a failure?”

It’s easy. After suffering one setback after another (I’ll save you the sob story), I let my negative circumstances get me down. I had believed the lie that each setback was a failure, and that I, somehow was and always would be a failure.

I’ve learned a lot since then.

Here’s 5 helps for when you’re feeling like a failure:

1) What you do is not who you are.

You are not the job you lost. You are not your failed business. You are not your last relationship. You are you.

So who are you?

Chances are, if you can’t answer that question apart from “I (insert verb)” then you’re identifying with what you do rather than who you truly are. We’re human beings, not human doings, remember? The truth is that, rather than tying our identity to the things we do, or even to other people, we should begin establishing our identity as God defines it.

He tells us we’re created in His own image. That’s right. He created you, and He doesn’t create junk. The living God, who created everything from nothing, created you with all of your unique traits. He loves who He created you to be. So if you’ve spent too much of your life drawing your identity from sources other than the Source, I suggest you take steps toward discovering who you truly are.

To help you discover who you are, I highly recommend two books by Neil T. Anderson:

Victory Over The Darkness by Neil T. Anderson

Victory Over The Darkness by Neil T. Anderson

Victory Over The Darkness  

Who I Am in Christ by Neil T. Anderson

Who I Am in Christ by Neil T. Anderson

Who I Am in Christ

These books will take you on an in-depth journey of experiencing who God designed you to be.

2) Experience is an expensive education.

Everybody makes mistakes. Some of those mistakes are monumental. They’re costly. But even though we’d never go back and make them over again, we can still squeeze a great deal of value out of them.

If you are willing to learn from your mistakes, you can benefit from them. Consider this: Many of the mistakes you have made in the past can inform your future decisions. I tell people that the number of mistakes I’ve made, and what they’ve taught me, is part of why I’m writing now. At this point in my life, I have amassed a wealth of mistakes. I’ve paid dearly for each and every one of them. Don’t think for a second that I’m going to forget the sting of pain that came with each one. And don’t think that I’m going to make the same mistake twice.

This book by John Maxwell helped me turn the page on a difficult chapter in my life. After years of ups and downs, I sincerely thought I had failed beyond repair. This book helped me begin moving out of despair and into a newfound hope. It helped me begin to leverage my mistakes as a valuable set of resources.

Failing Forward by John Maxwell

Failing Forward by John Maxwell

Failing Forward

3) Failure isn’t final. (unless you let it be)

There are two ways you can make failure final.

  1. You make the same mistake over and over again, never learning or improving.
  2. You quit.

If you’d rather live to fight another day rather than resign to the finality of failure, you’ve got to do two things.

  • Learn from your mistakes. You’ve paid your tuition, now show up for class. The difference between the wise person and the fool is that the wise person learns from their mistakes. “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12) How do you see danger coming? You remember the last time you were in that situation, and you adjust your response! Learn from life, and life will get better as you go.
  • Keep moving forward. You do not get to quit. Sorry. I just won’t let you off the hook. Sure, you have been hurt. I understand your pain is real. I would never minimize the suffering you have experienced as a result of failures in your life. But that does not mean your life is over. Keep moving forward. Do NOT stop. You’ve got too much to lose by throwing in the towel. Need some inspiration? Take a look at this post. Watch the video of soccer player Lionel Messi. He’s a true inspiration.

4) God has a plan for you that’s good.

God once said to Israel, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11) Today we can be just as assured that God works for our good. In fact, He even sent His Son to this world to give His own life for us. Then He sent his Holy Spirit to fill His followers. That’s right, the God of all creation values you, and your future, so much that He spared no expense to reconcile you to Himself. He wants you to experience all of the good He has designed you for, and He has moved heaven and earth to make that a reality.

If you don’t believe that, I’m sorry. I’m sure you have good reasons to believe otherwise. I myself have questioned, once or twice, whether or not God’s plan for my life was really good. In the middle of painful circumstances, it’s easy to question God. Is He good? Is he just? If so, how could he allow bad things to enter my life?

  • Sometimes we fail by making bad decisions, and we suffer the consequences.
  • Sometimes other people fail us, and we pay those consequences too.
  • Sometimes failure is just part of living in a world that’s fallen and broken.

Regardless of their source, there is no failure that God can’t redeem.

5) Even a devastating loss can lead to a great comeback.

Did you go see that movie this Summer about that guy who had a nice life, and then it gradually got better and better? No? Me either. It sounded boring and predictable.

Every story worth telling involves a comeback. God is in the business of writing those stories.

  • God anoints a shepherd boy as king. He faces opposition on his way to the throne. Then, after fighting for years to take what God had given him, he rules as king over a period of expansion and security. Then he blows it. He sleeps with another man’s wife, then has her husband killed to cover it up. But then he realizes he’s made a mess of his life. He hangs on through the consequences, and turns his life back around. Generations later, Jesus Christ is born through his blood line. I’d say David’s life, although interrupted by his and others’ failures, turned out to leave a lasting legacy.

That’s just one example. Those are stories I read over and over again. I wouldn’t be surprised if He’s in the process of writing a comeback story with your life right now.

Just imagine what your life could look like if you let God have the last say with your failures. It’s a process. It takes time. But if you discover who you really are, learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward, you’ll discover that His plan for you is good. Considering all you’ve been through, that would be a great comeback story.

For more encouragement:

11 Years Ago Today

September 11, 2012 — Leave a comment
Remembering September 11

Remembering September 11

It was a crisp, clear Tuesday morning. My girls, then ages 2 and 3 months, were at home with Kelcy. If anything, it was my favorite type of morning. Sunny and comfortable, this kind of weather always makes me optimistic. I could not have imagined how the day would turn out.

I was at work at New Life. At the time I was a Staff pastor there, responsible for a number of things including Children’s Ministry and Young Adults. The building was in the final stages of the remodeling project we had undertaken when we moved in. Painters lined the main hallway, making the sheetrock smooth and presentable.

Then we heard there was something happening. We weren’t sure what. An accident? A plane crash?

The TVs in the lounge area were turned on. We watched in bewilderment as we tried to wrap our brains around what we saw. I gathered the workers. “There’s something happening. You might want to come watch.” Work stopped. Life stopped. Our breath itself nearly stopped. We counted up who we knew that was anywhere near NYC. Phone lines lit up as all experienced the urge to connect with loved ones.

Then, before we could even regain our bearings, we had to respond. What was next? What could we do? How could we help our community make sense of this senseless act of violence?

We did what we know how to do. We gathered together, worshiped and prayed. In the midst of unimaginable tragedy, we pointed people to the hope of eternity, and the immediate help available from the Lord.

Today, I’m taking some time to pray for those families who were forever impacted by the events of that day. I have been able to move forward with my life and loved ones intact. Please join me in lifting up those who were not as fortunate, who are hurting today, still living with the pain of loss. Pray that the God of all comfort will be especially close to them.

“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who 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)

Please take a moment and pray for those who are hurting. Then make it a point to encourage them. It may be the most tangible way God works through you today.

For more hope and encouragement:

Need Hope?

Need Hope?

Is your hope stretched thin? Think you’ve got problems?

  • We all have hurt.
  • We all have pain.

Nick is here to tell you, “If you don’t get a miracle, become one.”

If Nick’s story doesn’t inspire you, you may want to check your pulse.

For More Hopeful Videos:

  1. Walk: Take A Step Toward Your Goal

  2. Stuck? 5 Steps to Get 4×4 Traction for Your Life!

  3. 63 Seconds of Unstoppable Motivation