God Has Not Forgotten You: A 31-Day Devotional

When life is turned upside down, learn how to turn to God.

by Leslie Barner

Facing tragedy, or life storms of any kind, can be extremely difficult. But in the midst of heartache and pain, you can find the hope and courage to go on. With God's help, the help of caring family members and friends, and the encouragement found in the Bible and other resources, you will receive the necessary strength to overcome.

You may be thinking, "I don't know how I could ever get through this." Or you may be battling powerful feelings of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger. These are all normal responses to tragedy.

But as difficult as this life storm may be, you are not alone. God is with you always. He loves you, and cares about what is going on in your life. He hears your cries and sees your pain. Moreover, He understands.

The Bible says, "And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God … For since He himself has now been through suffering … He knows what it is like when we suffer … and He is wonderfully able to help us" (Hebrews 2:17-18 TLB). Whatever we endure, His care is certain, His love is unfailing, and His promises are secure.

God Has Not Forgotten You includes 31 inspirational readings with life application steps to draw you closer to God and to encourage you to rely on Him to bring you safely through this present "storm" in your life. It can be read daily in 31 consecutive days, or at your own pace. We encourage you to work through this resource as a family to help you journey toward healing together, and to draw you closer to one another during this difficult time.

It is our prayer that this devotional will provide comfort, strength, encouragement, and healing for you and your family, and that through its pages you will discover extraordinary hope and the blessing of victory that only He can give. May God bless you and keep you always in His care, on this journey and beyond.

Day 1: You Are Not Alone

For He Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5c)

On the morning of October 29, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people in portions of the Caribbean and the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States faced their worst nightmare … “Superstorm Sandy.” This post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds and its unusual merge with a frontal system affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, leaving death, injuries, and utter destruction in its wake. Families everywhere, especially in hard hit New Jersey and New York, were jolted out of normalcy and the comfort and security of the homes and communities they once knew. They were thrust suddenly and unwillingly into the darkness and despair of loss.

If you and your family have ever been affected by a natural disaster like this, you may feel as if you've been abandoned by God. However, if trouble has hit your life in some other disaster, or form of tragedy—the death of a loved one, a dreaded medical diagnosis, the loss of home and property, or the loss of your job, you are experiencing your own superstorm. You may feel as if your whole world has been turned upside down, and wonder how you can possibly survive the loss. In times like these, you can feel very much alone.

But you are not alone. In the midst of unspeakable sorrow God is with you. Even if you do not feel Him near, God is there. He promises to never leave you alone. Therefore, wherever you are, God is. He is with you before, during, and after "the storm," never losing sight of you, or your suffering. Even as you ponder how you will begin picking up the pieces of your life, God is there … loving you beyond understanding, holding you up, and making a way where it seems there is no way. Reach out for Him today. He is a very present help in times of trouble (see Psalm 46:1).

Taking back your life …

  1. Psalm 139:7-10 says, "I can never be lost to Your Spirit! I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, You are there. If I ride the morning winds to the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, Your strength will support me" (TLB). What assurance can you find in these verses of Scripture when you are feeling as if God has forgotten you?
  2. In Psalm 23, David pictures the Lord as the Great Shepherd who provides for and protects His sheep (His children). In verse four, he says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." A shepherd uses his rod to protect his sheep (by using it to beat off wild beasts), and he uses his staff to guide them. What comfort can you find in knowing that God will protect and guide you during this difficult time?

  1. In addition to needing God's presence in our lives, we also need each other. Talk with your family or friends about the way you are feeling, so that you can share one another's burdens, and not feel so alone in your suffering. 

Additional Scripture reading:
  • Deuteronomy 31:8
  • Psalm 91:15-16 
  • Matthew 28:20

Day 2: He Sees and Understands Your Pain

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. (Psalm 34:15)

God knows in great detail the devastation caused by tragedy. He understands the pain and sorrow acquainted with grief and loss. He understands because He is all knowing. Furthermore, Jesus endured suffering (see Isaiah 53), and experienced pain, even the pain of feeling abandoned (see Matthew 27:46). And because God is with you always, He knows that you are hurting. He sees your pain, and hears the cries of your heart. You are not alone in your suffering; He is there for you.

God cares very deeply about you, and is attentive to every detail of your life—even those things that burden your heart. 1 Peter 5:7 says that you should cast "all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you." Isn't it comforting to know that God Almighty cares about you! It may seem like your life has been shaken to the core, but His love for you is never shaken. "'For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,' says the Lord who has compassion on you" (Isaiah 54:10).

No matter how bad things may seem God is in control. Nothing happens without His knowledge. Matthew 10:29-31 says, "Not one sparrow (What do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall without your Father knowing it. … So don't worry! You are more valuable to Him than many sparrows." If God's eye is on the sparrow, He's most certainly watching you. In the midst of sadness and uncertainty, His hand is there to guide you; His strength is there to support you. You are never out of His reach.

Taking back your life …
  1. Look again at Isaiah 54:10 (above). How does this scripture apply to you and help to make your current circumstances bearable? 
  2. The writer of Psalm 121 says this of God in verse 8, " He keeps His eye upon you as you come and go and always guards you" (TLB). How does it feel to know that God keeps watch over you and is attentive to every detail of your life?
  3. In Psalm 138:8, the writer, offering thanksgiving and praise to God said confidently, "The Lord will work out His plans for my life—for Your loving-kindness, Lord, continues forever." (TLB). Why not take a few moments to express to God your confidence in Him to work out His plans for your life. 

Additional Scripture reading:
  • Psalm 41:1 
  • Psalm 121:3 
  • Psalm 139:7-12,17,18

Day 3: Pouring Out Your Heart

The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17)

One of the most difficult things we can face in life is loss, and in the aftermath of a tragedy, the pain of loss can be very difficult to cope with. At times, it may even seem unbearable. Because God made us with feelings, there are many other difficult emotions we may experience when grieving or facing tough circumstances. We can feel hopeless, helpless, confused, fearful, anxious, and even angry. Recognizing these emotions, and releasing them in healthy ways, is extremely important in the journey toward healing and wellness. Ignoring or suppressing them can be very destructive, crippling to say the least.

What emotions do you feel in your heart? Heartache and pain are undoubtedly among them. You're probably hurting so badly that all you really want to do is cry. And that's okay! Even the Lord Jesus Christ wept when faced with the tragedy and sorrow of death (see John 11:35). He was so deeply moved within because of the sorrow resulting from Lazarus' death that He began to weep.

Sure, it's good to be strong in the midst of difficult circumstances, but it is also important to acknowledge the emotions that pain, suffering, and loss can bring. Think about it. How can your heart truly heal, if you don't acknowledge that you're hurting? So take the first step. Get alone with God, and tell Him honestly how badly you are hurting. Cry if you want to. Cry out to Him, "God, help me!" You will find that as you pour out your heart to the Lord, you'll begin to feel the burdens of your soul roll away.

Taking back your life …
  1. In Psalm 56:8 (TLB), David says of God, "You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book." How does it make you feel to know how important your tears are to God?
  2. Consider what you have lost in the aftermath of tragedy. As you pour out your heart and acknowledge the emotions you are working through, you can find comfort in the following Scriptures for …
  • The death of a loved one: Matthew 5:4; Psalm 116:15; 2 Corinthians 5:8
  • Facing a terrible illness: Psalm 103:3; Isaiah 53:5; Jeremiah 17:14; Matthew 26:39
  • The separation of family members: Ephesians 3:20
  • The loss of your job, home, and other possessions: Philippians 4:19; Matthew 6:31-34
  • Financial troubles: Psalm 34:10; Joshua 1:8; Luke 6:38
  • The fear of all you have yet to deal with: Isaiah 41:10
  • The destruction of your beloved city or community: Isaiah 58:12

Additional Scripture reading:

  • 2 Kings 20:5b 
  • Psalm 34:6 
  • 1 Peter 5:7

Day 4: Passing Through Deep Waters 

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and though the rivers, they will not overflow you. … For I am the Lord your God ..." (Isaiah 43:2-3a)

In a desperate fight for survival many people passed through the floodwaters left by Hurricane Katrina in a frantic search for higher ground. It had to be a frightening experience to wade, and in some areas, swim, through the murky, contaminated waters to save self, family members, neighbors, family pets, and in some cases, total strangers. But in the midst of fear, desperation, and uncertainty many passed through the deep waters courageously, and were eventually rescued and taken to safety.

As you pass through the deep waters of your circumstances, you may be wondering, "Who can rescue me from this?" Be encouraged! Even in the deepest of waters, God promises to be with the one who trusts in Him. He alone can truly rescue you and keep you from drowning. Just as Jesus rescued Peter when He invited him to walk on water in the midst of a storm (see Matthew 14:22-33). At first, Peter trusted Jesus and joined Him on the water, but as soon as he began to focus on the storm, and give in to the fear of it, he began to sink. Still, when he cried out, "Lord, save me!" (Matthew 12:30) Jesus stretched out His hand and rescued Peter.

He can rescue you too. All you need do is take a deep breath of faith, reach out, and take hold of the mighty hand of God. Do not fear the deep, murky waters of uncertainty surrounding you. Though the way seems difficult, and at times impossible, you can be confident in this, "Nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

Taking back your life …
  1. Jeremiah 32:17 says, "Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You." What encouragement can you find in this Scripture, when your situation seems too difficult?
  2. Write down everything that seems impossible about your situation. Next to each item write, "Nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). Spend a few minutes in prayer about the items on your list, and be sure to thank God that none of those things are too big or too hard for Him to handle. 
  3. Commit Luke 1:37 to memory, and every time your situation seems too difficult or impossible, speak it to yourself, as a reminder that God can handle whatever is troubling you. As opportunities arise, you can encourage others using this verse as well. 

Additional Scripture reading:
  • Psalm 9:9-10 
  • Psalm 37:40 
  • Isaiah 26:3

Day 5: Finding Hope in God   

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

"Take from a man his wealth, and you hinder him; take from him his purpose, and you slow him down. But take from man his hope, and you stop him. He can go on without wealth, and even without purpose, for a while. But he will not go on without hope."—C. Neil Strait.(1) As you think about your own circumstances, you may feel completely discouraged. The reality of what you are facing can seem so overwhelming, you might feel like giving up. But don't give up. The circumstances may be too difficult in human terms, but in Christ there is always hope. "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11 TLB).

When you consider all that you are facing, ask yourself, "Is there anything too hard for God?" (See Jeremiah 32:17). Absolutely nothing! No matter what is going on in your life, you can trust that He is in control, and is working everything out for your good (see Romans 8:28). When you wake up in the morning and wonder how you will face the day, God is working it out. When you wonder how you can get through and overcome this difficult time, God is working it out. And when you lay down at night, wondering how you will face the challenges of tomorrow, whatever they may be, God is already working it out. God knows intimately the concerns of your heart (see Psalm 139:1-3), and can provide all the peace, strength, and courage you need. So don't give up! Confidently hope in Him. Hope … and persevere!  

Taking back your life …

  1. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." What hope does this Scripture give you in the midst of tragedy, loss, and uncertainty? 
  2. Discuss as a family (or with a friend) how God has worked things out for your good in past times of difficulty. 
  3. Pray with someone else who shares your sorrow. Take turns praying for one another that God will encourage your hearts and give you hope. 
Additional Scripture reading:
  • Psalm 31:24 
  • Romans 15:13 
  • Ephesians 3:20-21

Day 6: A Constant Place of Refuge

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents found themselves taking refuge in shelters all over the United States. Three weeks later, Hurricane Rita, cut a new path of destruction through the Gulf Coast, forcing those who found refuge in Houston, and other areas near the coast to participate in yet another evacuation. Then on the heels of Rita came the wildfires in Southern California, the earthquake in Pakistan, and the mudslides in Guatemala, displacing even more families.

If you and your family have been displaced as a result of tragedy you may be experiencing feelings of anxiety, insecurity, uncertainty, and more. Or if you are facing death or disease you may feel like running for shelter … a place to hide. There is a place where anyone facing tragedy can go—a place that provides our spirits never-ending shelter from danger, and offers powerful strength to weather any storm life may bring our way. That place is in God. In Psalm 32:7, David says this of God, "You are my hiding place; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance."

Though life is sometimes difficult and painful, when we take shelter in Him, His help is always ready, has been proven time and time again, and is completely reliable. In Psalm 62:7-8 (TLB), David wrote, "He is my refuge, a Rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust Him all the time. Pour out your longings before Him, for He can help!" Like David, you can take shelter in His protective presence. There you will find peace for today, strength for tomorrow, and hope for a brighter future.

Taking back your life …
  1. In Psalm 57:1-2 David prayed, "Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. I will cry to God most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me." How can you use or apply this prayer to your circumstances today?
  2. How does it feel to know that you can find permanent shelter in God, where everything you need (peace, joy, strength, protection, hope, etc.) is provided?
  3.  When you have some time. Open a Bible and read Psalm 91 to learn more about the blessings of taking refuge in God.
Additional Scripture reading:
  • Deuteronomy 33:27 
  • 2 Samuel 22:2-3 
  • Psalm 32:7 
  • Psalm 61:3-4

Day 7: Tapping into the Power of Prayer 

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. … This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of al his troubles. (Psalm 34:4,6)

Throughout the Bible God makes it clear that our prayers are very important to Him. He loves for us to talk with Him, just as we would our closest friend, and promises to be there for us whenever we call. He says, "Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

He wants you to tell Him about your burdens, and to give Him all your cares, so that He can bring hope to your heart, peace to your soul, and strength to your life (see 1 Peter 5:7). But even when you're at a loss for words, and don't know what to pray, the Holy Spirit Himself speaks on your behalf (see Romans 8:26). Yet God is not only interested in your struggles. He wants you to talk with Him about everything, from your smallest victories to your greatest fears and all things in between.

Isn't it good to know that you have a direct line to God? That He is available to talk to you anytime, day or night? In fact, you can talk to Him right now. Tell Him how you're feeling; that you're hurting. Tell Him about your disappointment. Talk to Him about your anger and your pain. Tell Him how you love Him and need Him so. He hears your weeping, your requests, your praise, and thanksgiving. Prayer moves God. And when He moves in your life, you will feel His presence, experience His peace, and draw from His strength in ways you never thought possible! (2)

Taking back your life …

1. Hebrews 4:16 says, "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." God actually invites us to spend time in His presence to communicate with Him. Will you accept His invitation?

2. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to "Pray without ceasing." How can you stay in constant communication with God? Why is this communication so important?

3. Start a prayer journal today. You don't have to use a fancy notebook. Any paper that you can find will work. Use the journal to write down your feelings, emotions, and struggles as if you are writing letters to God. List your specific requests at the end of each page, and as God answers your prayers, be sure to write down the date and the way in which He answered you.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 61:1-4
Psalm 138:3
1 John 5:14-15

 

 

Day 8: Trusting God Completely 

Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. (Romans 4:20-21)

Have you ever noticed the depth of a little child's trust? Maybe you've seen it with your own child, or observed another child trust his parents without thought or doubt. For instance, when a child, who doesn't know how to swim, stands at the edge of a pool; and his dad, in the water with hands lifted, says to the child, "Jump, I'll catch you." The child jumps without a thought, worry, or care. His actions say to his father, "I trust you." But if in the same scenario the child appears to be worried and refuses to jump into his father's arms, he is struggling with fear and doubt. It is safe to say that this father may have proven himself to be untrustworthy.

But God is not a man that He should lie, or deceive, or change his mind. He does not have limitations or possess human failings. God never fails. He is completely trustworthy. Unlike an earthly father, your Heavenly Father never makes mistakes. No matter how grim or intimidating your situation may seem, He is in control and you can trust that He will guide you safely through it.

Referring to His sheep, Jesus says, "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one" (John 10:29-30). Is Jesus your Shepherd? Then you are safe in God's hands. Be as a little child—without fear or doubt—and trust. (3)

Taking back your life …

1. Proverbs 3:5-6 says "Trust the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." In what areas do you need to stop leaning on your own understanding and trust God instead?

2. Once you identify the areas in which you need to trust God more, give those areas to Him in prayer, one by one. A sure way to tell if you have truly given a concern to Him, and are trusting Him to handle it, is if you are no longer burdened with fear, worry, or doubt regarding that concern.

3. Why not add those concerns or issues to your prayer journal? Be sure to write down the date that you entered your concerns, and leave enough empty space so that you can come back to that page and write down the ways in which God helped you to resolve each issue.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 55:22
Psalm 62:8
Isaiah 12:2


 

Day 9: Experiencing His Peace 
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He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! (Isaiah 26:3 TLB)

While traveling by boat on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples encountered a violent storm. The waves were crashing over the boat so much it was beginning to fill up with water. Nevertheless, Jesus was at peace. He was fast asleep. But the disciples, seeing the storm, became overwhelmed. They woke Jesus up saying, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Hush, be still.' And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, 'Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?'" (Mark 4:38-40). He was really asking, "Why are you afraid? Don't you know who's in the boat with you?"

When tragedy hits, it's easy to look at the bigness of our circumstances and become overwhelmed. But like the disciples, focusing on the bigness of our circumstances can keep us from seeing the bigness of our God, and His ability to calm "the storm." You see, even the strongest natural disaster, or most devastating tragedy is no match for the power of God. Isn't it encouraging to know that Jesus is in the boat with you as you navigate the rough waters of life's storms? He's with you right now. You are safe and secure in His Hands. What's more, He promised you His peace. He said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:27). Amid difficulties you can experience the peace of God—a peace that rises above our understanding (see Philippians 4:7). So, refrain from worrying, and allow His peace to comfort you.

Taking back your life …

1. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Therefore, challenge yourself not to worry about anything, but instead, pray about everything. Take a few minutes right now to tell God what you're worried about. Tell Him what your needs are. Then thank Him in advance for meeting those needs. And allow His peace, which cannot be explained, to keep you in these difficult times.

2. How can experiencing God's peace in the midst of this tragedy help you to better work through your situation and all that you are facing?

3. Discuss your feelings of being worried, anxious, or distressed with your spouse (or friend) then pray together for God's peace. Make a commitment to hold each other accountable to not worry about anything but to instead pray about everything, so that you can continually experience the peace of God during this difficult time.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 29:11
John 16:33
Philippians 4:4-9

 

 

Day 10: Reaching Out for Help 

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow … (Psalm 31:9-10a)

Living through a tragedy of any kind can be a traumatic experience. You can feel as if your life has been shattered—that nothing will ever be the same—that peace and joy could never again be possible. You may battle powerful feelings of shock, hurt, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger. This is a normal and necessary response to tragedy and loss, a part of the process toward healing. However, for some, grief can become complicated, and if left unchecked, can turn into depression. One of the warning signs is when a person finds it too difficult to face, or even make it through the day. That's when you know that they are not coping well at all.

How about you? How are you coping? Are you feeling depressed? Experiencing panic attacks? Having trouble sleeping? Lashing out in anger? Isolating yourself from family and friends? Any or all of these symptoms may be a normal first step in the healing process for you. But if you are having difficulty moving beyond this step, pastoral, or professional counseling may be necessary to move forward. Otherwise, you may begin to respond in unhealthy ways that can have lifelong effects such as becoming bitter, giving up on life, turning to drugs or alcohol, or even considering suicide.

Don't hesitate to reach out for help. Your family and friends are depending on you, just as you are undoubtedly looking to them for encouragement and support. Start by setting up some time with a pastor or counselor to guide your spirit toward wellness. Above all, don't give up! With God's help, and your willingness, YOU CAN MAKE IT!

Taking back your life …

1. Does it seem as if you just can't be comforted or relieved from your despair? If so, pray to God and tell Him what you need. Be completely honest about the way you are feeling, and ask Him to guide you in finding the help you need. But don't stop there. Tell someone you trust that you need help to overcome your grief. Perhaps God will use that person or someone else to guide you to a pastor or godly counselor that can help.

2. Be sure to talk to a doctor about any physical symptoms (severe headaches, dizziness, chest pain, etc.) you may be experiencing as a result of this tragedy and the stress related to it. It is important to care of your physical body as you journey toward complete wellness.

3. Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." What encouragement does this Scripture give you as you think about the journey to wellness that is before you?

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 34:18
Proverbs 13:12a
John 16:33

 

 

Day 11: Receiving His Strength

He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. (Isaiah 40:29)

It takes a great deal of strength to face the devastating affects tragedy and loss can have on your life. The pain of all that you are facing not only weakens your heart, it weakens your body. It may take all the strength you have, to take care of your physical needs, such as eating, grooming, and interacting with others; let alone dealing with insurance claims, financial troubles, and the many decisions needing to be made about the immediate future. There may be days when you feel as if you don't have the strength to go on.

But God has not called you to face this tragedy in your own strength. In your own strength you can lose heart and become discouraged. But in your weakness, you can find strength in Him, just as Paul did when he asked the Lord to heal him of a physical condition, and God said No, but I am with you. He said, "My grace is sufficient for you; for power is perfected in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Likewise, no matter how challenging things get, or how weary you become, He is with you, and you can rely on His all-powerful strength to get you through. He never grows weary (see Isaiah 40:28).

Are you carrying a burden that seems too heavy to bear? Tell Him so. Then ask Him to show His strength in your time of weakness. Isaiah 40:31 says, "Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." Receive His strength today! He can give you strength of mind, strength of body, strength of spirit, and all the power you need to rise above your circumstances and overcome! (4)

Taking back your life …

1. Look again at Isaiah 40:31 (above). What encouragement does this verse give to you in your weariness? How can you apply this verse to your life?

2. Talk with your spouse, a close friend, or relative about your weariness and about your need for God to make you strong. Pray together (or alone) and ask God to strengthen your mind, body, and spirit with His strength.

3. God also uses others to encourage and support us in times of need. If you find that getting out of bed, handling everyday responsibilities, or even thinking clearly is too difficult, ask someone you trust to help you find a counselor to assist you with the healing process. And allow others to help you with things like cooking, cleaning, and caring for your children until you begin to feel stronger.

Additional Scripture reading:

Habakkuk 3:19
Isaiah 41:10
Ephesians 3:16

 

 

Day 12: Turning Aside Pride 

 

A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor. (Proverbs 29:23)

Have you heard the biblical story of the Good Samaritan? In that story he, unlike others who had opportunity, demonstrated compassion for a man who had become the victim of a vicious attack by robbers. The Good Samaritan bandaged up the man's wounds, brought him to an inn, and took care of him (see Luke 10:30-35). But what about the man he helped? What if this man, who had been left for dead, refused the help of the Good Samaritan because of pride? Where might his pride have left him? Alone? Dying on the side of the road? Wouldn't he have missed out on his blessing from God?

We all experience hard times. They're a part of life. And when those times come, and we're hurting, there are people who will come alongside us, to help in any way possible to ease the pain. It is God at work through the kindness and generosity of others—like the Good Samaritan. "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father …" (James 1:17). Still, you might be thinking, "But I don't want people to think I'm poor! I had a job before all of this!" Or, "I don't want people feeling sorry for me!" Though this kind of pride is natural, it is wrong. "… For God gives special blessings to those who are humble, but sets himself against those who are proud" (1 Peter 5:5d TLB).

Don't allow pride to keep you from accepting kindness from others, graciously, and with a thankful heart. That's what the Christian community is really all about—helping, encouraging, and building up one another. So turn aside pride today! "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you" (James 4:10).

Taking back your life …

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing." In what ways have people encouraged you, or built you up during this difficult time?

2. If you have received help from others with a bitter heart because of a pride, ask God's forgiveness. Then ask Him to give you a humble heart, and an attitude of gratitude for the wonderful ways in which He has met your needs through the generosity of others.

3. Make a special effort today to tell someone "Thank you," when they share God's gift of kindness and goodwill with you. You can say it to the volunteer serving your next meal, to one of the workers in the shelter where you're staying, to the people who have come to bring food, clothing, or other supplies, to the person who has come to express their condolences, or to the family who has opened their home to you. It's a great way to bless them as they seek to bless you.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 72:12-14
Proverbs 11:2
Galatians 6:2


Day 13: Resolving Feelings of Anger

 

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Difficult circumstances can bring about many emotions in the hurting heart. One of those emotions is anger. When you are suffering, or facing difficult challenges, there may be many feelings at the root of your anger. You may be feeling betrayed by God, wondering why He allowed such a disaster to hit your home … and your life. You may wonder, "If God loves me, why did He allow this to happen? Why won't He take the pain away?" These and other questions (which we'll discuss tomorrow) can evoke anger toward God. Your anger may also stem from feelings of insecurity as a result of loss; or from uncertainty as you face major, unexpected life-changes and an unclear future.

Though anger is a natural, human emotion, and a normal part of the journey toward healing, left unchecked, anger can be a dangerous emotion that may lead to sin, such as unforgiveness. If not resolved, it can give the enemy an opportunity to destroy your hope, steal your peace, poison your heart with bitterness, damage relationships, and keep you from moving forward.

You can face and resolve your anger by first being honest with yourself and with God about what you are feeling. He is big enough to handle your anger and to help you resolve it. Talk to Him about your doubts and fears, and what is causing rage in your heart. Tell Him, "God, I am so angry!" He will not turn His back on you. So, give your angry feelings to the Lord, and trust Him to replace those feelings with peace, forgiveness, and strength. Freedom from unchecked anger is freedom to heal. (5)

Taking back your life …

1. Talk with someone who would be comfortable listening to you vent your anger. Discuss the feelings that may be at the root of this emotion. Identifying these feelings and expressing them verbally will help you to work through your anger.

2. Hebrews 10:30 says, "For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will Repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.'" How can you apply this Scripture to how you are feeling about those who hurt you or let you down during this tragedy?

3. If you have harbored anger in your heart, confess this anger to God, and if applicable, or possible, to the one who has hurt or offended you. Then release your anger by forgiving them. Not only is forgiveness a requirement to be forgiven (Matthew 6:14), resolving your anger and forgiving those who have hurt you will free your heart to truly heal. Have you, in anger, hurt or offended your spouse, child, or someone else during this difficult time? If so, repent by confessing this to God and to that person, and ask for forgiveness. Make sure the wounded relationship is healed. Then prove your repentance and sincerity by controlling your anger (see Acts 26:20).

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 37:8
Ephesians 4:32
Colossians 3:8


 

Day 14: Asking the Hard Questions
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

When life got him down, Asaph, one of King David's key men, cried out to God and asked Him some hard questions. He asked, "Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?" (Psalm 77:7-9). Asaph wasn't the only man in the Bible to ask God hard questions. In the Book of Job, we find that in his suffering, Job asked hard questions. After losing his family, and everything he had, he argued his case before God, but even when God's answers may not have been what he expected, he never lost faith.

Tragedy can challenge our faith and raise many questions. Questions like: Why is this happening? Where is God when it hurts? Why doesn't He do something? Where is the protection He promised? God isn't offended when we ask questions in our despair. He wants us to come to Him when we're confused. However, like Job, it's important that we learn to resist being critical of God, keeping in mind that He is the supreme ruler, the Most High, all-knowing, and in control of all things, including our lives. (See Job 38:2).

So bring your heartfelt questions to God and ask Him to help you understand. But be prepared to accept His answers, even if they're not what you expected to hear (see Job 38-41). And whatever you don't understand, acknowledge His authority, knowing that the God who created the heavens and the earth, loves you beyond comprehension, and is able to give you mercy and "grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

Taking back your life …

1. What are some of the hard questions that you want to ask God about your current circumstances? Ask those questions in prayer. What has God revealed to you?

2. On a piece of paper, write down some of the questions that you feel are yet unanswered. Then after truly giving those unanswered questions over to God in prayer, tear the paper up and toss it, as a symbol of your trust in Him with all that you don't understand.

3. Sometimes in asking God the hard questions, like Job, we can become critical of His dealings with us. In Job 38-41 God makes it clear why a creature (man) should never become a critic of the Creator. Through a series of questions God shows Job of his (man's) ignorance as compared with God's greatness. This opens Job's eyes to God's ultimate authority, and he repents of his pride and rebellion. If you have criticized God's dealings with you in your current circumstances, ask Him to forgive you. Then acknowledge that He is in full control of your life, and in all that He allows you to experience. Thank Him for loving you, and for providing all that you need to help you during this difficult trial, and for accomplishing His purposes in you through it all.

Additional Scripture reading:

Isaiah 55:8-9
Jeremiah 33:3
James 1:5

 

Day 15: Giving Thanks in Everything
No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 TLB)

When reading this Scripture, you may question, "How can I possibly be thankful in the midst of such pain? It feels like my life has been shattered into a million pieces, and I'm not even sure what tomorrow will bring!" David said in Psalm 34:1, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." The words "at all times" means in all circumstances, no matter what. But God isn't instructing us to be thankful for difficult circumstances. He wants us to be thankful in them, knowing that He is faithful, and able to help us overcome. When we are thankful in difficult times, our attitude says to Him, "I trust You. I know You can handle this." He in turn blesses us with peace of mind, strength of spirit, and the power to make it through.

We cannot know all that God has planned to do in the midst of tragedy, but we can be thankful that He promises to be with us, and that the outcome will be for our good. He always keeps His word. "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth … So shall my word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire …" (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Remember that God is a deliverer. He delivered His people in the past, and He will deliver you out of all your troubles in the future (Psalm 34:6). Additionally, He will supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19). And when you rely on Him, He will not fail you (Hebrews 13:5c). Understanding this, you can give thanks in everything. (6)

Taking back your life …

1. Why does God instruct His children to be thankful in everything and in every circumstance?

2. Discuss with your family those things that you can be thankful for in the midst of your current circumstances. For instance, you might thank Him for His presence in your life, for loving you, protecting you, providing for you through the goodwill of others, etc.

3. Spend some time together (or alone) in prayer, thanking God for the blessings in your life in the midst of tragedy and loss. Make this the beginning of a daily habit, even as you continue to face this difficult trial.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 100:4
Psalm 103:1-5
1 Corinthians 15:57

 

Day 16: Laying Aside Every Weight

 

Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1 NKJV)

In a marathon, or any other competitive race, runners normally wear sleek uniforms and lightweight shoes, designed to take advantage of aerodynamics and quicken their pace. They also endure strenuous physical training to help them reach their maximum potential, and their goal of finishing, or better yet, winning the races set before them. But can you imagine a world-class runner competing in a race with weights attached to his wrists and ankles? It would be safe to say that he wouldn't have a chance at winning, in fact, he probably wouldn't even finish the race.

1 Corinthians 9:24 says, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win." Consider your current circumstances. Think of it as the race that is set before you. Imagine you're running hurdles in a track meet. Are you spiritually fit to run? Or is depression, fear, anger, worry, or doubt weighing you down? Rather than allow these to hinder you, why not view them as obstacles or hurdles on the track. Start your training by talking to God about every thing that is holding you back. Then trust Him to help you leap over each one. With God's help you can overcome your greatest obstacles as you push toward the finish line of your current circumstances. Lay aside every weight, therefore, and run to win! (7)

Taking back your life …

1. Psalm 121:1-3 says, "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip …" What encouragement can you find in this Scripture for overcoming your greatest obstacles?

2. Make a list of those obstacles that are weighing you down, such as depression, fear, anger, worry, or doubt. God's promises for overcoming each one can be found in the Bible. Find all the Scripture promises you can for overcoming each one. Here are some promises to get you started …

 

Depression: Psalm 147:3
Fear: 2 Timothy 1:7
Discouragement: Philippians 1:6
Worry: Isaiah 26:3
Doubt: Psalm 18:30
Confusion: Proverbs 3:5-6

 

3. Look at the promises that you've listed. Pray these, and the promises listed above, back to God according to your needs then trust Him daily to help you overcome each obstacle.

Additional Scripture reading:

Zechariah 4:6b
John 8:32,36
Revelation 12:11 

 

 

Day 17: Defeating Negative Thoughts

 

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV)

In addition to lightweight attire, and physical fitness, mental fitness is equally important for an athlete to have a competitive edge. It has been said that if a runner's head is not in the race, he will not compete well. If he thinks he will lose, it's possible that he's already lost the race before it even begins. The phrase "Don't beat yourself," in reference to negative thinking, is a popular one among athletes of every sport.

The same holds true of any challenge we face in life. If we think we will be defeated, there's a good chance we will. Proverbs 23:7a says, "For as [a man] thinks within himself, so he is." Sure, it's normal to feel sorrow, pain, confusion, fear, and uncertainty, amid tragedy and loss. But if you allow these feelings to control your thoughts, it can be extremely difficult to overcome … to finish the race victoriously.

You might be thinking, "But this is just too difficult to deal with! I'm in a desperate situation. I have no money, no job, no idea what to do, or where to go. How can I possibly start over?" Or, "I'm not strong enough, and I'm afraid. I just don't think I can make it." Don't beat yourself! Instead, "Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about" (Philippians 4:8 TLB). And whenever a negative thought comes to mind, and tries to bring you down, you can defeat it by counteracting it with a promise from God's Word. Give yourself a competitive edge to triumph over your circumstances. Dwell on the positives!

Taking back your life …

Practice counteracting negative thoughts with positive thoughts, such as promises from God's Word. For example, if you are thinking …

 

  • But this is too difficult to deal with! You can recite Jeremiah 32:17, "Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You."
  • I'm in a desperate situation. You can recite Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
  • I have no money and no job. You can recite Philippians 4:19, "And my God will supply all your (my) needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
  • I have no idea what to do, or where to go. You can recite Psalm 23:3, "He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness."
  • How can I possibly start over? You can recite Revelation 21:5, "And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'"
  • I'm not strong enough. You can recite Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
  • I'm afraid. You can recite 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God hath not given us (me) the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
  • I just don't think I can make it. You can recite Philippians 1:6, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you (me) will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 19:14
Philippians 4:6-7
Romans 12:2


 

Day 18: Conquering Your Greatest Fears 

 

On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul. (Psalm 138:3)

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar's gods, he threatened to cast them into a furnace of blazing fire, saying, "And what God is there that can deliver you out of my hands?" (Daniel 3:15). Still, the three men refused to bow down. Filled with anger, Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to heat the furnace seven times hotter than usual.

Imagine the fear they might have experienced at that moment. However, their faith in God conquered their fears, and in their loyalty, they were thrown into the fiery furnace. But the next thing that happened was miraculous! Instead of three, there were four men who stood in the furnace, completely unharmed! God had sent a divine being to deliver the loyal servants, making Nebuchadnezzar a believer in the Most High God!

What if it were possible for you to face your circumstances without fear? What if in spite of all the heartache and tragedy that you are dealing with, you could be boldly courageous and at peace? Impossible? Unrealistic? Absolutely not! The Word of God tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7 that "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline." Fear can be conquered by faith!

When tragedy turns up the heat in your life, and stirs up fear in your spirit, don't allow your faith to be shaken! Remember who's with you at all times, and in all circumstances—the King of kings, and Lord of lords, with all power in His hands! He's calling you to trust and obey, to be courageous in the midst of difficult circumstances, and to have faith. In the presence of faith, fear must leave!

Taking back your life …

1. Having faith in God, His presence in your life, and His abilities to help you in any situation is what gives you the power and strength of spirit to overcome fear. Try listing your greatest fears regarding your current circumstances on a piece of paper. Then at the bottom of the page write this personalized version of Romans 8:31-32: "What then shall I say to these things? If God is for me, who is against me? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for me, how will He not also with Him freely give me all things?" How do your fears look now knowing that God is on your side?

2. Hebrews 13:5c-6 TLB says, "For God has said, 'I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.' That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, 'The Lord is my Helper, and I am not be afraid of anything that mere man can do to me.'" What hope and encouragement can you find in this Scripture as you think about insurance adjusters, medical staff workers, government aid workers, employers, or any other people you may have to deal with as you work toward rebuilding your life?

3. Commit 2 Timothy 1:7 (above) to memory, and every time you begin to feel fearful about anything, say it aloud or to yourself, as a reminder that the spirit of timidity is not of God and can be conquered by faith. Remember, in the presence of faith, fear must leave!

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 91
Proverbs 3:25,26
John 14:27


 

Day 19: Remembering God's Faithfulness  

This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord's lovingkindness indeed never ceases, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23)

Whenever we are facing difficult circumstances, and wonder, "Where is God?" one of the first things we should do is to look in the rearview mirror of our lives. What we will see will undoubtedly give us strength for today and hope for tomorrow. What we will see is God's faithfulness throughout our lives. We will see how He has loved us, redeemed us, forgiven us, and given us new and eternal life (see 1 John 2:25, 5:11). We will see how He has brought us through past struggles, provided for our needs, woke us up this morning, and how He continues to cover us with His love throughout the day.

As you think about all that you're going through, or wonder how you'll be able to pick up the pieces of your life and move forward, don't be discouraged. God was faithful yesterday, He is faithful today, and He will be faithful tomorrow. God never changes (see Hebrews 13:8). You can always depend on Him.

Think about it. What past challenges has God brought you through? Has He healed your hurting heart? Or weakened body? Has He ever delivered you from fear, worry, anger, or despair? Have you ever experienced His peace, joy, or strength? Has He ever forgiven you, blessed you, or provided for you? As you recall God's faithfulness to help you in the past, know that you can trust Him to be faithful now and in the future. "Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God, is the faithful God, who for a thousand generations keeps His promises and constantly loves those who love Him and who obey His commandments …" (Deuteronomy 7:9 TLB). He will not fail you!

Taking back your life …

 

1. Take a few minutes to look in the rearview mirror of your life. What are some things that God has brought you through? What are some ways in which He has blessed your life in the past?

2. Make it a point to remind yourself, every morning, about God's faithfulness and compassion toward you. "… For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning …" (Lamentations 3:23). And remind yourself of His promises to you. They are sprinkled throughout the Bible. Here are some of them, found in Psalm 103:

 

  • He forgives all my sins.
  • He heals me.
  • He saves my life from destruction.
  • He surrounds me with love, kindness and compassion.
  • He fills my life with good things, and renews my youth like the eagle's.
  • He reveals His ways to me.
  • He performs justice for me against oppression. He sets me free.
  • He gives me His grace and mercy even though I don't deserve it.

3. Thank Him for His faithfulness in the past then express to Him your trust in His faithfulness to fulfill His promises in your life today, and in the future.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 89:1
2 Thessalonians 3:3
Hebrews 10:23


Day 20: Resting in His Love  

 … and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God's children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high His love really is …. (Ephesians 3:18 TLB)

Did you know that God loves you like no one else can? His love for you is so great it is beyond understanding. What's more, it's unconditional. It is not based on your appearance, your intelligence, the color of your skin, what neighborhood you live in, or whether you're rich or poor. It's not even based on how you live your life—what you do or don't do, good or bad. God's love for you is constant. It is unfailing, unwavering, and immovable; completely perfect, pure, strong, and everlasting.

There is nothing more assuring than God's love. It is something we can always count on, and is sufficient for our every need, even in the midst of tragedy. For instance, because God loves us, He will be with us always, He will show His goodness in countless different ways, He will pour out His mercy on us again and again, He will protect us, and provide all that we need to see us through every trial, and throughout life's journey until we are safely ushered into heaven to be with Him for all eternity.

As you look at your circumstances in light of God's love you, like the apostle Paul, will be able to say with confidence, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God." You have His full attention, because He loves you. So don't allow stress and anxiety to rule in your heart. Choose today to rest completely in His love. (8)

Taking back your life …

1. Why is God's love so important when facing tragedy, loss, or an unclear future?

2. Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." What does this Scripture say about the extent of God's love?

3. Pray and thank God for His unconditional love toward you. Let Him know how confident you are in His love for you, and in His ability to help you through this difficult time. You might say something like this: Lord, you love me so much. Your love for me has not changed. Your plans for my life have not changed. Everything is right on track according to Your will. I will continue to praise You, trust You, and rest in Your love ...

Additional Scripture reading:

Jeremiah 31:3
John 3:16
1 John 4:10


Day 21: Consider it All Joy 

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)


After Hurricane Katrina, one woman, who had lost everything she had in the floodwaters in New Orleans, had this to say, "I may have lost everything I had, but I will never lose faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! My children lost their homes, and I don't know where they will all go, but they all made it safely out of the storm, and for that I am so grateful. Everything's going to be alright." She said this with such strength and hope, with a smile on her face the entire time. Was she happy? Not exactly. What she was experiencing was not happiness, but joy.

Unlike happiness, joy is not dependent on circumstances. Instead, it is a deep-down quality that is present whether a person's circumstances are good or bad. Since joy is one of the fruits of the spirit, it lives within the spirit of every Christian (see Galatians 5:22). This joy is our strength in difficult times. Nehemiah 8:10 says, "… For the joy of the Lord is your strength." We can experience joy knowing that God has already given us the victory (see 1 Corinthians 15:57).

In addition, the Bible tells us that difficulties help us grow in patience and endurance, and make us strong in character. They draw us closer to the Father, causing us to be dependent on Him—the One who works through our difficulties to accomplish great things in our lives. That's why you can "consider it all joy" even in the face of tragedy. Trust His plan, stretch your faith, and let your heart be joyful with anticipation, as you allow His purpose to be fulfilled in you.

Taking back your life …

1. Nehemiah 8:10 says, "… The joy of the Lord is your strength." How can joy give you strength during difficult times?

2. Pray and ask God to help you "consider it all joy" as you go through this trial and allow Him to accomplish His perfect work in your life through it all.

3. Watch in joyful anticipation as you observe the ways in which you grow and mature through this trial. Remember to keep the end in sight, knowing that the end result will be for your good. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Be sure to thank God for all of the victories that come out of your suffering, and to share those praise reports, as they occur, with your family and others.

Additional Scripture reading:

Isaiah 51: 11
Psalm 31:7
1 Peter 1:6-9


Day 22: Accepting God's Will 

For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death. (Psalm 48:14)

"In a Hindu village in India, one family turned to Christ. Shortly after their conversion their child got very ill. The Hindu neighbors said the gods had cursed the family for changing religions. Though the Christians prayed hard for the child's healing, he died. But his funeral was such a triumphant event that through it the eyes of many of the villagers were opened. Their resistance to the gospel vanished, and they turned to Christ." (9)

God answers prayer. However, what He does in response to our prayers is not always what we expect. Isaiah 55:8 says, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord." In His sovereignty, He knows what's best in every situation, and sometimes does the unexpected. Like with this Indian family, they looked for victory to come in the form of healing, but found it in the death of their child, when others came to know Christ as a result. God knows the best outcome.

When Christ considered the horror of suffering that He would have to endure on the Cross, He naturally wanted to be spared, and prayed for God to "remove this cup" from Him. But He made it perfectly clear that He wanted God's will, not His own, to be done, and willingly submitted to it (see Luke 22:41-42). Whatever your requests, make them known to God, but leave room, in your expectations, for His will. Trust Him with all your heart, and with boldness of faith pray as Christ prayed, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."

Taking back your life …

1. In what ways are you expecting God to answer your prayers in your current circumstances? Are you prepared for God to do the unexpected? Perhaps you've already experienced disappointment in God's response to your prayers, because it wasn't what you expected. Share your disappointment with Him honestly, and ask Him to reveal to you His purpose in the outcome you experienced.

2. God's will for us is always best because, as mentioned above, He knows what is the best outcome in every situation. He knew how glorious the outcome of Christ's death would be—the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life for all who believe. And even though Christ submitted to God's will, it was a struggle, because He knew it would be excruciatingly painful and difficult. Why is the prayer of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane (above) the hardest prayer to pray? What are your fears in praying this prayer? Do you trust and believe that God has your best interests at heart in everything He does concerning you?

3. Pray and ask God to prepare you for the unexpected, and to give you the strength to accept His will in this situation, whatever it may be, even if it is difficult and uncomfortable. Ask Him to keep you mindful that everything He does is for your good and His glory.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 18:30
Proverbs 3:5-6
Jeremiah 33:3

 

 

Day 23: The Guarantee of Victory  

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4)


When Jesus, the sinless Son of God, took upon Himself the sin of mankind, died on the Cross for those sins, and arose from the dead, He conquered sin and death once for all. He defeated Satan—the enemy of our souls, taking away his authority, spoiling his kingdom, and triumphing over all his power! The greatest blessing of all is that Jesus' victory became our victory! In Christ, we too can conquer sin and death and any problem the enemy brings our way. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." If Jesus lives in you, you have the victory. It's already yours … guaranteed!

But what does victory look like? You probably have your own ideas of what determines a victory in your current trial. But the Bible says that God has the final word (see Proverbs 19:21). The outcome is in His hands. For instance, victory may come in the form of spiritual growth, or a life lesson learned. It may come in the form of a strengthened relationship, or material blessings. Or it may come in the form of healing. However God decides to move, when it's all over, you will have won! Even in death, we have the victory—the gift of eternal life! (See John 3:16) "But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37). It may not feel like it right now, but you are in a win-win situation. Begin developing a victorious attitude in your heart and mind today, and stand by faith believing that you're blessing is on the way!

Taking back your life …

1. Look again at 1 Corinthians 15:57 (above). What hope does this Scripture give you in the midst of tragedy and loss? How does it feel to know that in Christ, victory is guaranteed?

2. As you think about your current circumstances, and the ways in which you've asked God to help, what would you consider victory? Remember to leave room in your expectations for His will to be done.

3. Pray and ask God to help you recognize victory, big and small, so that you do not miss all that He is doing in and through you during this difficult time. Be sure to thank Him in advance for giving you the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord, and for knowing what is the best outcome.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 121:1-2
Isaiah 51:11
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

Day 24: Trusting God's Plan for Your Life  

 

You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in Your book! (Psalm 139:16 TLB)

Before tragedy came and seemingly changed the course of your life, you probably had certain life dreams and goals. Even though you may have had challenges before "the storm"—financial struggles, relationship troubles, or health issues, you still probably had in mind specific changes you wanted to make, or what direction you wanted your life to take. But how do you feel now that you're living day to day, not knowing what tomorrow will bring? Do you feel as if all your dreams have been shattered, and question how in the face of this catastrophe you can ever get your life back on track?

Take courage! Your life isn't made up of circumstances and coincidences. God has a definite plan for your life! You are uniquely made with specific gifts and abilities to fulfill His purposes. This tragedy may have changed your circumstances, but you have God's promise that His plan for you will be accomplished (see Philippians 1:6).

God knows all about you. Like David said in Psalm 139:16 (above), He saw you and made plans for your life before you were even born. He knew what challenges you would face, and what your needs would be before you took your first breath. Isn't it exciting to know that God scheduled each one of your days? Though your life has been disrupted, and your path seems unclear, you can trust that everything is right on track according to His will. God is at work in you to accomplish His divine plan. Begin to see your life through His eyes, and you will see that your future is full of promise!

Taking back your life …

1. What would you like to do with your life? How has this tragedy changed your dreams and goals?

2. How do you think God could use this time in your life to bring about His purposes in you? In what ways do you think God may want to use your life?

3. Pray and thank God for His perfect plan for your life, and ask Him to reveal it to you as you move toward rebuilding your life. Be sure to thank Him for His faithfulness and ability to fulfill those plans. Then watch and pray as He makes those plans a reality, in His perfect timing. Above all … never give up!

Additional Scripture reading:

Isaiah 43:19
Jeremiah 29:11
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

 

 

Day 25: Valuing What Matters Most 

 

There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

The most recurring quote from survivors of Hurricane Katrina was, "I lost everything I had, but I still have my family. And that's what matters most." It's no doubt your life changed dramatically when tragedy hit home. Tragedy has a tendency to destroy a lot of things that are valuable to us, but there are some things that even the most destructive disaster could never take away: your relationship with God and His love for you, and the love you share with family and friends. It's that enduring love—even the love for a loved one lost—that matters most.

When dealing with difficult circumstances, it's easy to take that love for granted. In our pain, anger, and frustration we can either isolate ourselves from family and friends, lash out against them, or fail to realize their need for our support. But just as your family and friends need you to care for them through this tragedy, you also need them. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote, "… that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love …" (Colossians 2:2).

Have you told your spouse, children, or other loved ones lately that you love them? If not, be sure to tell them today. But don't stop there. It's not enough to just say "I love you," we have to show love by our actions (see 1 John 3:18). Talk about the tragedy together, listen to each other, cry together, comfort each other, and pray for each other. And whenever the remembrance of tragedy and loss casts a shadow on your spirit, remember the importance of valuing what matters most … each other.

Taking back your life …

1. When tragedy or troubles hit our lives, it often makes us think about what's really important. What has this tragedy taught you about your priorities regarding your relationship with God? Your family? Would you say that you have your priorities straight? God first, then spouse, family, Christian and community service? What changes do you think are necessary?

2. Proverbs 3:6 TLB says, "In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success." Make a new or renewed commitment today to put God first in your life. Spend time with Him every day in prayer and Bible reading. If you're not already an active member of a Bible-teaching church, find one today, attend regularly, and get involved. Seek to honor Him in your relationships, your time, and your material resources.

3. Have you spent quality time building your relationship with your spouse? With your children? 1 John 3:18 TLB says, "Let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions." What are some practical ways that you can show your spouse and children (or extended family and friends, if single) that you really love them? How can you use this time now to build family relationships?

Additional Scripture reading:

Joshua 24:15
Matthew 6:33
Colossians 3:14
1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

 

Day 26: Comforting Others Who Grieve 

 

Blessed be the … God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the same comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

One of the ways to ease the pain of tragedy and loss is to reach out and comfort someone else who is hurting. Comforting others is one way to look tragedy directly in the eye and profess that we are not helpless victims. It's a way of reaffirming God's power in our lives. Great things happen when we talk to others about God's love, His compassion, and His faithfulness. When we speak His promises to others, it not only ministers to the hearers, it ministers to us, causing our own faith in God to come alive! Additionally, it moves our focus from our own problems to the needs of someone else.

Reaching out to others is also a great way to build new friendships and a support system—you can comfort, encourage, and pray for one another. For instance, after a natural disaster, you're suddenly surrounded by a lot of people who are struggling with grief and loss, and need help and comfort just like you do. Or if you're dealing with another type of tragedy, you can reach out to others with similar circumstances. Sometimes God allows us to go through trials so that we can better understand the pain of others, and comfort them with the same comfort we have received from Him.

But be careful not to overload yourself, or short-circuit your grief by concentrating on other's needs prematurely. Pray about it first, and ask God whether it is time. Then ask Him to direct your energies and desires to reach out to others, as you journey toward healing. The rewards will be immeasurable! (See Matthew 5:7.)

Taking back your life …

1. Do you know -or have you met someone who is hurting as a result of difficult circumstances? What can you do to help heal that person's hurt? Here are a few ideas: You can talk to her. Pray for him. Share something from God's Word, such as a promise, or a Bible verse that would provide comfort and encouragement. Or just listen and understand what they're going through. Give a sick, or grieving parent a break by caring for their children while they take a walk outdoors or rest.
2. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." Why is it important to have a support system—people you can talk to, pray with, and even cry with, during difficult times?

3. Remember to lift up the needs of someone else whenever you bring your needs before the Lord in prayer.

Additional Scripture reading:

Romans 12:10
Colossians 3:12
1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

 

Day 27: Making Tough Decisions  

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

When dealing with difficult circumstances we're not always sure how to react. We want to say and do all the right things, but in our human weakness and heartache we often fall short of what we had in mind. We may say things we really didn't mean, or do things that only make matters worse. Then there are the decisions needing to be made: What should I do with the insurance money? Is surgery or chemotherapy best? Can we rebuild our home or business, or should we start over somewhere new? Where will I work? How will we make it in a whole new place where everything is totally unfamiliar?

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Have you acknowledge God in your current circumstances, and in the decisions you have to make, or are you relying on your own thoughts and ideas on how to handle things? God gives wisdom generously and graciously when we turn to Him and ask, "Lord, what would You have me to do? Where would You have me to go?" He promises to give you His wisdom and to guide you, if you will just ask. Proverbs 3:13 says, "How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding."

Wisdom will enable you to honor God in everything you say and do regarding your circumstances. Wisdom will safely guide you in every decision you have to make. And wisdom will help to move you and your family towards healing, wholeness, and restoration.

Taking back your life …

1. What are some of the tough decisions you are facing? Psalm 32:8 says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you." Have you asked God to guide you in making your decisions?

2. The following Scriptures show some of the ways in which God imparts His wisdom:

 

  • Through the Bible: Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path."
  • Through wise counselors (could be a pastor, teacher, Christian counselor, or a godly friend or relative): Proverbs 24:6b, "For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory."
  • Through prayer: Jeremiah 33:3, "Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know."
  • Through the Holy Spirit: Romans 8:14, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."
  • Through your spirit: Isaiah 30:21, "Your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right or to the left."

3. Pray and ask God for His wisdom and guidance. Ask Him what He would have you to do in each decision you are facing, and to make clear the path that He wants you to take.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 37:23
Proverbs 16:16
James 3:13-17


Day 28: Tuning in to God's Voice  

Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk; for to You I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8)

Did you know that amid the noise of every day life, God speaks to you? He speaks to you throughout the day and into the night. Are you listening? Can you hear His voice? Because you are His own, He wants to impart His peace, joy, and love to your heart … if you will listen.

But what does it really mean to listen to God? First, listening to God involves spending time with Him on a regular basis where you are free of interruptions and distractions, and can hear Him. For instance, you can find a quiet room, or a quiet place in a park. During this "quiet time" make a conscious effort to listen to God speak as you read His Word and as you pray. Secondly, take some time to think over what you have heard Him say. What does He want you to know or do? What life-changes does He want you to make? In what areas does He want you to grow? Finally, listening to God involves having a teachable spirit and a willingness to obey what He has told you.

God is not limited, however, to speaking to you only in your quiet time. He wants you to tune in to His voice, from the moment you open your eyes until the time you shut them again each night. Listen for Him in the beauty of His creation, in the midst of a storm, and in the face of tragedy and loss. Listen for Him through the people He may send your way. And listen for His voice in your spirit as you journey through each day. He loves to speak to you, His beloved child—to reveal His wisdom, direction, and will for your life. He's speaking to you at this very moment … are you listening? (10)

Taking back your life …

1. When you talk to God in prayer, do you take the time to listen for His responses? Why is it important to listen to His voice throughout the day, each day?

2. Have you been tuned in to God's voice lately? If so, what is God saying to you about your life or current circumstances? If not, you can tune in to His voice today. God says in Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."

3. Seek the Lord today. Pray and ask Him to open your spiritual ears so that you may be tuned in to His voice at all times, enabling you to stay in the center of His will for your life.

Additional Scripture reading:

Isaiah 30:21
John 10:27
Revelation 3:20

 

 

Day 29: Dependence on Him 

 

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Your family and friends depend on you, and you depend on them. You look to them to be there for you in good times and bad, and they look to you for the same loyalty and support. But face it, family members can sometimes fail or disappoint each other, and friends can sometimes let each other down. There is a friend, however, who will never fail anyone who places his utmost faith in Him, and that friend is God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Will you depend on Him in this, your time of need? He is a Friend unlike any other. He is your everything—all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. And because He loves you, He wants you to depend on Him completely.

To depend on someone completely, you must have faith in his abilities and character. Faith is an unconditional, absolutely dependent trust in another. The more you depend on the Lord, the more you will experience His intimate, loving friendship. You will find that God is a trustworthy friend who can be taken at His Word. For instance, you can depend on Him for peace. He promises to give you peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Depend on Him for joy. He promises to give you joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8). Depend on Him for strength. He promises to strengthen you (Isaiah 41:10). Depend on Him for safety. He can hide you under His wings (Psalm 91:4). Depend on Him for everything! He will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)! (11)

Taking back your life …

1. How can the pain and turmoil caused by a natural disaster force us to be dependent upon God?

2. How does knowing that you can count on the dependability of God make your circumstances bearable?

3. Make a commitment to the Lord to get to know Him better. Set up a daily quiet time that consists of prayer and Bible reading, and ask Him to keep you mindful of your commitment to spend time with Him everyday. Pray that through your private times together He will establish Himself to be your most intimate, loving, and faithful friend.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 68:19
2 Corinthians 3:5
Ephesians 3:20-21

 

 

Day 30: Waiting With Patience 

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. (Psalm 27:14 KJV)

One thing we can learn when a natural disaster, death, illness, or any other kind of tragedy strikes, is that we cannot control our lives. We can control how we react and how we respond when faced with a trial, but we cannot control our circumstances. As we go about our daily lives, and get settled into familiar routines, we may think we know what tomorrow will bring, and make plans accordingly, but things do not always turn out the way we've planned. From time to time, some kind of struggle or challenge, or in some cases, a natural disaster, will come along and disrupt everything. It is in those instances that we come to realize we are not in control.

The Bible says, "We can make our plans, but the final outcome is in God's hands" (Proverbs 16:1 TLB). God is in control. We must acknowledge His authority over all human affairs, which include our lives and our circumstances. He has everything in perfect order, and accomplishes His purposes and plans in our lives in His perfect timing. Still, it has to be hard to be patient when your whole life has been disrupted and all you really want to do is get back to some sense of normalcy. But you cannot rely on your plans or timing to make it happen. God's plans for you and for your family will be accomplished. It may take weeks, months, or even years. But be encouraged. God only wants what's best for you. So don't ever give up, or allow frustration to rule in your heart. Trust God with your life and circumstances, and wait on the Lord with patience. Wait, watch … and pray. (12)

Taking back your life …

1. What does it mean to wait on the Lord? Why is it important to wait with patience?

2. Discuss with your family or friend how you can apply Proverbs 16:1 (above) to your current circumstances.

3. Pray together (or alone) and ask God to help you release your circumstances to Him and to His timing. Be sure to thank Him for working through your situation, even when you cannot see Him moving, and for having your best interests at heart (see Romans 8:28).

Additional Scripture reading:

Proverbs 16:9
Proverbs 16:33
Proverbs 19:21


 

Day 31: Celebrating the Victories 

All day long I'll praise and honor You, O God, for all that You have done for me. (Psalm 71:8 TLB)

When going through difficult times, we tend to look for a major breakthrough before we feel that we can celebrate or praise God for the victory. As we journey through our struggle, we may not see or recognize God's hand at work in our lives along the way. We may miss all the little blessings and victories we receive each day. For instance, when you and your family share a laugh, in the midst of sorrow, it is a blessing, and should be recognized as God's hand at work. Or when you begin to talk about or make plans for your future, when at one time you felt completely hopeless, this is a victory toward overcoming and winning the battle. Every victory, whether big or small, is reason to celebrate!

The Bible says, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above …" (James 1:17a). Every little step you take toward healing, and toward getting your life back together is a good thing given by God, and is one more step toward victory! Has a family member opened up to you about his or her feelings? Praise God! Has someone given you a kind word to lift your spirit today? Praise God! Have the smiles returned to your children's faces? Praise God! Have you made it successfully through another day of treatment? Praise God! When you praise God in the little things, as you struggle through difficult circumstances, you will experience God's peace and joy in the midst of the battle. What's more, the joy of the Lord will be your strength to go the distance and will encourage your family members to do the same! Remember, don't wait until the battle's over … shout your praises now! (13)

Taking back your life …

1. Psalm 103:1-2 says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits …" Why is it important to acknowledge and thank God for every little blessing He gives in the midst of difficult circumstances?

 

2. What are some of the victories you've already experienced in this trial? Encourage your family and friends to celebrate even the smallest of victories by allowing them to hear you acknowledge God for each one as you have opportunity. For instance, you can say aloud, "Thank God for this shelter," or "Praise God for this food." Or when your child smiles or laughs, you can say, "Praise God! It's so good to see you smile," or "It's so good to hear you laugh again." Or when you or your child arise from a good night's sleep that was finally uninterrupted by the nightmare you've been having since disaster struck, you can say, "Praise God for a restful night! He is doing great things!"

3. Pray and ask God to help you and your family recognize His hand at work in your lives in all the little blessings along the way, as you journey through this difficult time.

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 34:1-4
Psalm 66:20
1 Corinthians 15:57

Declare your promise 

Endnotes 

1. Lloyd Cory, comp., Quotable Quotes (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, a division of SP Publications, Inc., 1985), 183.

2. Leslie Barner, comp., Encouragement for Brokenhearted Homes—On the Journey Through Grief (Little Rock, Ark: FamilyLife, 2002), adapted from pgs. 69, 70.

3. Leslie Barner, Encouragement for Brokenhearted Parents: A 31 Day Devotional (Little Rock, Ark: FamilyLife, 2000), adapted from pg. 18.

4. Ibid., adapted from pg. 12.

5. Leslie Barner, comp., Encouragement for Brokenhearted Homes—On the Journey Through Grief (Little Rock, Ark: FamilyLife, 2002), adapted from pgs. 51, 52.

6. Leslie Barner, Encouragement for Brokenhearted Parents: A 31 Day Devotional (Little Rock, Ark: FamilyLife, 2000), adapted from pg. 27.

7. Ibid., adapted from pg. 23.

8. Ibid., adapted from pg. 14.

9. From Practical Christianity compiled and edited by LaVonne Neff, Ron Beers, Bruce Barton, Linda Taylor, Dave Veerman, and Jim Galvin. "Do Christians Have to Suffer" by Ajith Fernando (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1987) 318.

10. Leslie Barner, Encouragement for Brokenhearted Parents: A 31 Day Devotional (Little Rock, Ark: FamilyLife, 2000), adapted from pg. 16.

11. Ibid., adapted from pg. 21.

12. Ibid., adapted from pg. 29.

13. Ibid., adapted from pg. 33.

 

Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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