Encouragement for the Discouraged

Tyndale House Publishers

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.” Isaiah 30:15

Devotional from the Beyond Suffering Bible

God’s people find strength only as they rest in the promises of God, relating to him as the center of all reality. Trusting in any other form of security leads to failure, because God knows what is best for us: to return to him from our foolish habits of rebellion and the lonely experience of exile. The book of Isaiah is filled with stark contrasts between angry prophetic threats of destruction because of disobedience and precious promises of quiet confidence experienced in the loving arms of God. If only Israel would have returned to their God-given destiny—existing in covenantal communion with the Father and testifying of his love to the nations—what peace they would have found!

Our situation may be different from Israel, but the truth that our salvation is found in God alone is just as applicable for us. God’s promise of rest is intended to encourage us in the midst of disheartening situations. We often pray for immediate change in our circumstances: relief from pain, satisfaction of our desires, restoration of physical comfort, or an influx of money. But the promise of God’s presence—resting in him—is at the heart of our need. We can, and often do, experience his faithful presence in the midst of suffering.

In John 17:15, Jesus prayed for his disciples and for us as his followers, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.” What does it mean to be kept safe? God graciously welcomes us as his precious children through our union with Jesus Christ. This does not guarantee preservation from harm, but it does mean the gift of eternal security and rest in communion with God, which is much more significant. Our attention is directed away from our circumstances and back toward God. Understanding that God’s good plan for us extends beyond our momentary circumstances is the deepest possible encouragement.

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What God Wants

by Joni Eareckson Tada, from the Beyond Suffering Bible

This is what God wants—hearts burning with a passion for future things, on fire for Kingdom realities that are out of this world. God wants his people to be aflame with his hope and to have an outlook of pure joy that affects the way they live their lives. God wants each of us to be “like a city on a hilltop” (Matt 5:14) and “a lamp . . . placed on a stand” (Matt 5:15) so that everyone around us will be encouraged to look heavenward.

A perspective like this doesn’t happen without suffering. Affliction fuels the furnace of heaven-hearted hope. People whose lives are unscathed by affliction have a less energetic hope. Oh, they are glad to know they are going to heaven; for them, accepting Jesus was a buy-and-sell agreement. Once that’s taken care of, they feel they can get back to life as usual—dating and marrying, working and vacationing, spending and saving.

But suffering obliterates such preoccupation with earthly things. Suffering wakes us up from our spiritual slumber and turns our hearts toward the future, like a mother turning the face of her child, insisting, “Look this way!” Once heaven has our attention, earth’s pleasures begin to pale in comparison.

What has suffering taken away from you? Don’t allow your heart to dwell on such earthly disappointments. God permits suffering to draw our attention to heaven where that which was lost—and more—shall be restored. Suffering forces us to look forward to the day when God will close the curtain on all disease, death, sorrow, and pain (Rev 21:4). Until then, we have work to do!

Jesus says, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work” ( John 9:4).

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God Loves You Reading Plan Day 5

“Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace
with God.” Romans 5:1, NLT

Article from the Beyond Suffering Bible

Paul begins Romans 5 with the presupposition that we have peace with God. This is not a simplistic assertion by Paul. He has taken four chapters to explain both the need for being right with God (1:18–3:20) and the way to get right with God (3:21–4:25). Having carefully built his argument, Paul has arrived at the settled conclusion that peace with God is a reality.

Getting right with God, according to Paul, is based on faith—the kind of faith that Abraham, the father of faith, demonstrated (4:3). It is not based on the law or perfect behavior or perfect bodies. There are no qualifications, exceptions, or exemptions here—no matter how much we might feel that somehow we are the exceptions to the rule. We think, Surely God wouldn’t accept me. We reprimand ourselves for our failures and our imperfectly functioning bodies. We think that if only we did not fail God in our heads, our hearts, and our whole physical being, we could find peace with God.

But that is not what Paul writes. Since we have been made right with God no exceptions—we already have peace with God. Moreover, we have this peace because of our faith and what Jesus did for us. It had nothing to do with our heads or our hearts or our bodies in the first place. If this is true and it is—what are we to do with our agonizing, unrelenting pain? Does the peace we have with God make the circumstances of our lives simply vanish? Certainly not. We can simultaneously have pain and peace.

Christ experienced pain and suffering in order to reconcile us to God. Not because we were perfect, but because we were broken. Christ died for us imperfect though we are. God saw our intense suffering and entered into it with us. Because of this, we have the assurance that even in the midst of trials we have peace with God.

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Finding Family

Ruth and Naomi became related through marriage, but it was through their suffering and faith that they became a family.

“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!’ When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.” Ruth 1:16-18, NLT.

From the Beyond Suffering Bible Book Introduction to Ruth

In the midst of loss and grief, we may be tempted to doubt God’s goodness.
Over the course of ten years, Naomi buried her husband and both
of her sons. This left her and her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, widowed and with few options. Both young women initially clung to the mother-in-law that they had come to love, but Orpah eventually heeded Naomi’s advice and returned to her father’s house.

Ruth made a different choice. She stayed at Naomi’s side, proclaiming her allegiance to Naomi and the God she served. Together, Naomi and Ruth found courage to trust God for their survival. As a result, the Lord brought them through their intense grief and into a safe place of promise. They also experienced the compassion and generosity of Boaz, their family redeemer, whom God used to provide for them in ways that were beyond their wildest imaginings.

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Worship Reading Plan: Day 4

“You and these treasures have been set apart as holy to the Lord.” Ezra 8:28

Devotional from the Beyond Suffering Bible

Some responsibilities seem too weighty to carry and are therefore destined for failure. Imagine the daunting nature of Ezra’s task.

King Artaxerxes had returned all of the valuables King Nebuchadnezzar had taken when he conquered Israel. Thousands of pounds of gold, silver, and other precious items were entrusted to Ezra to carry back to the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. Ezra did not have an armed escort to protect him and the treasure from almost certain danger. Most caravans during that time were vulnerable to bandits. If word leaked out about the wealth being carted to Jerusalem, the travelers would be doomed.

Ezra called twelve priests and charged them with the safe delivery of the Temple treasure. We don’t know whether they had the option of refusing such a burden, but their service was seen as a special offering to God.

As difficult as it is to fathom the enormous worth of this treasure, both in monetary value and as invaluable pieces designed for the worship of the Lord, Scripture assures us there is another treasure of even greater worth. God calls his people his treasure: “The Lord has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure” (Deut 26:18). And in Matthew 18, Jesus speaks of God the Father giving special attention to the needs of “little ones” (18:10).

The phrase refers to children, but it also includes everyone who might be categorized as one of the “least of these” (Matt 25:40). The chronically ill, disabled, mentally ill, all those who are unable to care for themselves or provide for their own needs—God especially treasures these.

And just as Ezra entrusted the treasure to the priests, God has given us the responsibility to care for those he considers his special treasure. Whether we have been charged with the care of a dying infant for six months, a sibling with a brain injury, or simply being a friend to someone with a disability, every believer has a part to play. Though we may experience fear and feel the risks to be greater than we can manage, we can take comfort in knowing that God is protecting us and will save all of his treasured people.

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Where is God in Suffering? Day 1

“Elihu continued speaking: ‘Let me go on, and I will show you the truth.

For I have not finished defending God!
I will present profound arguments
for the righteousness of my Creator.
I am telling you nothing but the truth,
for I am a man of great knowledge.

‘God is mighty, but he does not despise anyone!
He is mighty in both power and understanding.
He does not let the wicked live
but gives justice to the afflicted.
He never takes his eyes off the innocent,
but he sets them on thrones with kings
and exalts them forever.
If they are bound in chains
and caught up in a web of trouble,
he shows them the reason.
He shows them their sins of pride.
He gets their attention
and commands that they turn from evil.

‘If they listen and obey God,
they will be blessed with prosperity throughout their lives.
All their years will be pleasant.
But if they refuse to listen to him,
they will cross over the river of death,
dying from lack of understanding.
For the godless are full of resentment.
Even when he punishes them,
they refuse to cry out to him for help.
They die when they are young,
after wasting their lives in immoral living.
But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer.
For he gets their attention through adversity.

‘God is leading you away from danger, Job,
to a place free from distress.
He is setting your table with the best food.
But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged.
Don’t worry, judgment and justice will be upheld.
But watch out, or you may be seduced by wealth.
Don’t let yourself be bribed into sin.
Could all your wealth
or all your mighty efforts
keep you from distress?
Do not long for the cover of night,
for that is when people will be destroyed.
Be on guard! Turn back from evil,
for God sent this suffering
to keep you from a life of evil.'”

Note from the Beyond Suffering Bible


Job’s suffering did not prove that Job was wicked or sinful, but it did introduce a central issue: During times of suffering and disability, when anger and doubt arise that lead to accusations against God’s goodness, God is at work in his own ways to shape and refine his people. We need to be attentive to what God is—and isn’t—saying to us, and not let our pride or worldly assumptions obscure his purposes and timing in our lives.

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Sheltering in Place: Encouragement for Special Needs Families

by Steve Bundy, Senior VP of the Christian Institute on Disability

“Please, quiet down, I’m on a call!” I said through gritted teeth. Even though I tried to exude calmness in my voice, in reality, I was like a duck swimming in water, calm on top, but furiously paddling just beneath the surface. My mind churned as I felt anxiety and pressure building in my attempt to balance working remotely while sheltering in place with my family. During this season of social-distancing, many can likely relate to the stress of trying to work from home with children who have their own pent-up frustrations as they attempt their new online education. Add to that no outside activities, no favorite shopping malls and no restaurants, and the “cabin fever” sets in.

When you’re a family like mine that has a child with special needs, it can be like adding rocket fuel to a fire. We are usually prepared for challenges surrounding vacations and holidays when routines are lost, but when weeks turn into months with no school, no therapies and no breaks—it can easily turn into no patience. Exhaustion and despondency can quickly develop when we as parents are giving constant attention to our child’s needs throughout the day with little to no relief. And, let’s not forget the challenges our children face. Many, like my son, cannot comprehend the reason for sudden school closures and changes to his normal routine. As a result, the occasional outburst is evolving into frequent full meltdowns.

The truth is that these are uncertain and unprecedented times for everyone. But I find peace in knowing that the Word of God transcends all time and circumstances. Scripture is indeed timeless, and we can apply it to our lives—even during a global pandemic. In Psalm 91, the psalmist reminds us that during the most trying times, God is indeed our “shelter, refuge and place of safety.” It’s believed that Moses wrote this psalm during the 40-year period of the Israelites’ wandering through the wilderness. It was a time, as the psalmist indicates, of “disease, terror and disaster.” If ever the people of God needed a refuge, it was during the wandering years. It is a psalm of comfort and confidence in the Almighty who provides protection and security even in the most uncertain and fearful times of life. The promise remains, “For those who live in the shelter of the Most High, will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

If you identify with any of the challenges or frustrations I shared, I encourage you to read Psalm 91 aloud with your family. Discuss God’s promises and declare that he is your refuge! Pray and have an honest (and age appropriate) discussion about your family’s worries, anxieties and fears. As you adjust to this season of sheltering in place at home, here are a few additional tips that may assist you in not just surviving these times, but thriving in them:

  • Spend a little extra time in your devotions. Whenever sports teams are disrupted and have setbacks, the head coach usually returns to the basics…the fundamentals that built the team in the first place. This is not a time to go “AWOL” on spiritual disciplines—press into the things of God. What is he teaching you? How is this season stretching your faith? If you are looking for a good daily devotion, check out Shelter in Place with Joni on the YouVersion Bible App https://www.bible.com/ or log onto Joni and Friends to access our online bible study www.joniandfriends.org/bible-reading-plans.
  • Create a new routine and try to stick to it. There will need to be some flexibility relative to everyone’s needs, but a routine will help you and your family feel a sense of “normalcy,” decrease frustration and help with expectations. For special needs children, routine often helps decrease behaviors because they begin to get a sense of what is coming next.
  • Celebrate the little accomplishments. Set small goals and simple action steps to get them done. All of us have had to put activities, events and trips on hold for this season. Completing small goals, as simple as they may seem, can give you a sense of victory and progress in your day, week and month. Reward yourself, your spouse or your children for their accomplishments.
  • Reach out and connect to your church, Sunday school class or community group. Connecting virtually to others accomplishes a couple things. First, it helps prevent you from isolating and becoming emotionally discouraged. Sharing your experience with others can facilitate a sense of release and refreshment, reminding you that you’re not alone and that others know and understand what you are going through. Scripture reminds us to pray for one another all around the world that we would stand against the discouraging attacks of the devil who wants to devour us (1 Peter 5:8-9). Secondly, it provides you with an opportunity to minister to others. Taking your eyes off of your own problems and assisting others is often the best recipe for shaking off discouragement and replacing it with joy.
  • Similarly, stay connected to your child’s school and to local social services. Schools are making teachers, staff and therapists available for consultations and providing virtual instruction. This can assist in keeping your child from boredom and can also help with routine. Likewise, reach out to the Social Services Agency in your community to find out what resources are available to your family. Depending on your level of comfort, additional caregiving or respite hours may be available. If you do welcome caregivers or respite staff into your home, be sure they are following CDC recommended COVID-19 protocols.
  • Finally, live with grace. Lots of grace! Don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember, every family member is living with adjustments, fear and disappointments. Work to accommodate one another’s needs, space and schedule. This storm will pass and on the other side you want to look back with gratitude for the grace you gave, not regret for unchecked emotions. As you receive the grace of God in your time of need, pass that along to those you love most!

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God’s Hand of Healing: Day 2

“Some time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. Then she said to Elijah, ‘O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?’

But Elijah replied, ‘Give me your son.’ And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?’

And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.’ The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. ‘Look!’ he said. ‘Your son is alive!’

Then the woman told Elijah, ‘Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.'” 1 Kings 17:17-24, NLT

Elijah Profile from the Beyond Suffering Bible

Asking others for help is humbling and can be life changing for everyone involved. If the person you ask has little available to give, your request may seem selfish or insensitive. But what if God told you to ask that person for assistance?

Elijah had a word from God directing him to go to Zarephath, where he would meet an impoverished widow and single mother who had no way of knowing that God was about to set in motion a miracle—one that would not only provide for her needs, but also impact her faith forever.

This story plays out in three acts.

Act One. Elijah instructed the widow to use her meager supplies of flour and cooking oil to bake some bread to feed him first, then her and her son. Elijah acted with God’s assurance that there would be enough food from that day until the new rains and crops arrived (17:14). The widow followed the prophet’s instructions, and there was just enough flour and oil to meet their daily needs. The promise of God was fulfilled.

Act Two. When the widow’s son became sick and died, the desperate woman turned to Elijah for help. He carried the child to his own room, where he prayed. Elijah’s first prayer was a complaint: “Why bring this tragedy on a poor woman who is simply struggling to stay alive? How can this be fair?” His second prayer was a request: “Give back the child’s life.” And God did.

Act Three. The grieving mother was given back a healthy, living son. The woman’s response went beyond simple joy or relief—she acknowledged the activity of God in the life and words of his prophet. Elijah was obedient, willing to trust God and humble himself to ask for help, even when it made no sense. The result? An abundant provision came through an unlikely source, and a struggling woman’s faith was strengthened.

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Free Bible Resources to Bring You Closer to God

Though this COVID-19 crisis has caused many of us to physically isolate ourselves from people we love, we are finding comfort in remembering that God is always with us. For us here at Tyndale Bibles, a light that has shined through this darkness is the coming together of the community of believers to be innovative in sharing God’s love in a time when so many desperately need it.

If you follow us on social media, you will know that we have done several reading plans together these weeks. We also have created some additional free resources we wanted to share with you. Please continue to join us in reading God’s Word, praying, and bringing God’s hope. We are thankful for each of you and pray you feel God’s loving arms around you.

Shelter in Place with Joni: A 7-Day Devotional Reading Plan
During this difficult season of social distancing, economic upheaval, and panic about the COVID-19 pandemic, Joni shares her biblical perspective on suffering. Instead of being fearful as we huddle at home, Scripture shows us that the only place to find true comfort is in the arms of our good and wise God, who remains our sovereign Savior. Drawing from the Beyond Suffering Bible, this reading plan will encourage you to focus on Jesus in troubled times.

Holy Week Reading Plan Day 6: Never Alone

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13, NLT

Devotional from the Beyond Suffering Bible

After years spent with Jesus, the disciples were devastated to hear him say,
“I am going away” (16:5). They had been living with him for years. They had come to place their faith in him as their Messiah. He was their hope. Now he was leaving? This couldn’t be!

We will all lose people who are close to us. This is one of the most painful experiences of life. However, Jesus did not want the disciples to dwell on his impending death. He revealed that something very significant would happen once he left them: He would send an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to guide his disciples.

Although it would be great to walk and talk with Jesus, we discover as believers that God in his wisdom has given us a greater gift. As children of God who have been given the Holy Spirit, we have God himself dwelling within each of us. Jesus was restricted by time and space as an embodied person, but the Holy Spirit isn’t—he is with us always. He helps us in our weakness (Rom 8:26) and serves as a guarantee of our inheritance as God’s children (Eph 1:14). Think about it. No matter what our circumstances—whether disabled, alone, suffering, or confused and afraid—God is with us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not leave the world because he wanted to return to heaven. He departed so that he could send the Holy Spirit to be with us always.

Take a moment to thank the Lord for sending his Holy Spirit to empower you to overcome any obstacle and to accomplish the work of God. Allow the Spirit to guide you in your relationship with God and others. This is a lavish gift from God to his people; resolve to be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit in your life.

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