When Life Is Really Hard

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    Day 1: Suffering: It Happens & It Hurts

    Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33.

    Life is hard. Bad things happen. Relationships fail. There is sickness and disease. We age, and not always so well. Death comes to everyone. Along the way we lose jobs, feel anxious about the big things we can’t control, fret about money problems, and become worried and stressed out. Sometimes in our sadness (pain and anger) we make foolish decisions that make things worse.

    The Bible has so much wisdom to provide on the problem of suffering and the mystery of evil. As you work through the Scripture and reflections, look to discover insights to these three questions:

    Why am I suffering or struggling?

    Where is God in the midst of my hard times?

    What choices and actions will help me discover the flourishing God has for me, even in hard times?

    For today’s reflection, I want you to see the extreme suffering the Apostle Paul endured. I want you to see Paul’s suffering because he will be the one giving us quite a bit of guidance. He does so from places of hard-gained wisdom through personal suffering.

    Reflect: Make a list of the difficulties, struggles, and bad things that have happened in your life, including the hard times you have seen. This is important so you have a very real picture as you listen to God’s Word this week. If you desire, add the suffering of others you love to the list. Their suffering has affected you also.

    Day 2: More Than Conquerors

    Read Romans 5:3-5 and 8:28-39.

    These passages may be the most important words you will read on suffering this week. They talk about the reality of suffering, what God is doing through your suffering (as you allow him to do this), and the promises you hold to while you struggle with the hard things of life.

    Reflect: What does God desire to do as you go through hard times? In some way, your suffering produces a new character and shapes you into the image of Christ. That’s powerful! How have you experienced that forming work when you have suffered? If you are going through any hard times now, how is God at work to change you inside? What is the good God is bringing forth during this time? How strongly do you believe verse 37?

    Worship: Read parts of this passage several times. Pray; be grateful; ask for wisdom; pray for grace, hope, joy, and love. Ask God to help you deeply believe these promises. You belong to God and nothing will separate you from his love.

    Day 3: Be Comforted to Comfort Others

    Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-11.

    There is mystery (and grace and love) in the work of God during our times of suffering. Remember, God is at work to make you like Christ, build your character, and make you mature. Here you see a focused aspect of what you experience and learn in times of hardship. Paul will talk about his (very) great suffering. But it did something beautiful and powerful in Paul—it produced compassion, empathy, comfort, and a new capacity to love others.

    Reflect: Suffering makes some people bitter; it makes others better. If your suffering has produced compassion, empathy, comfort, and love for others who suffer, then your suffering has made you better. What kind of person have you become through your suffering? In what ways have you become bitter (or worse)? How have you become better?

    Put It Into Practice: Be attentive to others who are going through hard times. Don’t try to fix them or give simple answers. Just love them. Serve them. Pray for them. Be a friend who cares.

    Respond: If you are in a time of suffering right now, pray and ask God to comfort you so you can comfort others.

    Day 4: Jars of Clay

    Read 2 Corinthians 4:7–5:10.

    This is a longer passage. Originally I kept it shorter, but it is all so rich and useful in lessons about suffering. Once again, the suffering is deeply painful, but grace and love are stronger. There is a very deep lesson here of imitating Christ, being shaped by the life and death of Christ, and seeing how transformation takes place.

    Reflect and Study: This is a passage you need to study a bit more. These are great truths, but they need a little more focus to wrap your mind around them. Be sure to notice that what God is doing inside you is eternal, even as some external things may be fading. Also, be sure to see that while suffering is hard and can hurt you, it cannot defeat you.

    Pray: As you pray about your own trials and difficulties, try to use the language of this passage to guide your requests and thanksgivings.

    Day 5: Sufficient Grace

    Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 and Philippians 4:13.

    If you look back at the passage for Day One, you understand that these verses serve almost as a summary and conclusion. They soar to new heights of understanding God’s love, grace, and power. Notice that God’s love, grace, and power do NOT mean that all suffering is eliminated. It just means that you have love, grace, and power available to you while you are in the hard times of life. That is why suffering cannot defeat you. God is with you in profound ways. And your suffering opens the eyes of your heart to experience grace, love, and power.

    Memorize: There have been many good phrases and even full verses that you should consider committing to memory. Verse 9 is one such verse.

    Experience: Consider your struggles and pain. Now consider the grace, love, and power of God that is with you. They are sufficient and are being perfected as they lead you to maturity in Christ.

    Day 6: Suffering for Christ

    Read 1 Peter 4:12-19; John 15:18-27; and Philippians 1:27-30.

    Jesus, Peter, and Paul all speak to Christians about the struggle we will have as Christians living in a fallen world. Our faith, our values, our morality, and our vision of what is good, true, and beautiful will be in opposition to that of a sinful world. The sinful world will not react positively or politely to your way of faith. They may be aggressively against you, and you must be prepared.

    Study: What are the best insights you learn from these passages that help you deal with opposition from the non-Christian system in which you live?

    Reflect: How have you faced struggles because of your convictions and beliefs as a follower of Jesus? How do you respond when you have these experiences?

    Pray: Pray for grace, courage, and faith. Pray that you would be a faithful witness.

    This devotional completes our Get Real series. If you have kept your previous devotionals, pull them out and look at how many major biblical passages you have read, studied, and prayed through. God’s Word works in powerful ways to change your life. My prayers and encouragement are with you. ~ Pastor Brian

  • Songs We Sing
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    • Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)Paul Baloche
    • Dessert SongHillsong United
    • All That I NeedLiving Word Music
    • Sovereign Over UsMichael W. Smith
    • King Of My HeartSarah McMillan
    • Blessed Be Your NameMatt Redman
    • This I Believe (The Creed) - Life CenterHillsong Worship
    • Whom Shall I Fear - Life CenterChris Tomlin
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