Seasons filled with challenges of various kinds are inevitable. But that shouldn’t leave us discouraged or even full of fear when these seasons come. As believers, you and I can hang onto the promises of God’s Word.

Here are three passages you can meditate on when the challenges of life come your way.

1) Psalm 91:11-13 

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

Psalm 91 is a promise of protection, but it’s a promise of victory too. The Messiah will trample the serpent. Do you hear Genesis? God speaking to the Serpent: I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and hers, he will crush your head, you will bruise his heel. That’s Jesus. 

Psalm 91 is a psalm of comfort to us, because it tells us of Christ’s victory over Satan, not just the cross; his resurrection proclaims his victory too. We can take refuge in his finished work. We don’t have to bend to the enemy, we can rest in the fact that Christ has won. Not for himself, but for us. 

As you read Psalm 91 take refuge in the Lord, He’s done it, and He’ll continue to protect us from the enemy.

2) 2 Timothy 1:7 

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

There are different kinds of fear. The outbreak of a virus, the loss of a job, broken relationships, and even loneliness. The Apostle Paul is telling us that the Lord has not given us a spirit of terror or a cowardly spirit.

He’s not given us a spirit that shrinks back in the face of fear. The Lord hasn’t given us a spirit of panic, a spirit that runs and hides, a spirit that leaves others to their own demise. Jesus entered our sick and dying world in order to save it. 

This is the Spirit the Lord has given us. By the power of the Spirit, Christians stand firm; we can move toward the panicked. We can glorify our Lord by turning to him in hope and prayer. He’s given us a spirit of power, a spirit of love, a spirit of sobriety so we can remain steadfast and love our neighbors as he calls us to love.

As you meditate on this verse, ask for the Lord to grow and strengthen you in spite of your fears.

3) ROMANS 8:38-39 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you believe these words? It’s easy to carry these words in our minds. It’s a lot harder to believe them in our hearts and actions. This great promise is something we all need to cling to, and not just because a virus is spreading throughout the globe. This is good news to us in any circumstance! 

We have the promise: nothing can separate us from the Lord’s love. Nothing can separate us, not disease or sickness or death. Not even our sin or the enemy. Nothing can come between us and the Lord, because the Lord takes care of His own. 

May this passage lead you to the Lord’s sovereign care. Christ alone saves and Christ alone protects.

This post first appeared on The Good Book blog; used with permission.

The following piece is an extract from 5 Things to Pray for Your Kids by Melissa Kruger. In the book Melissa suggests fresh, biblical ideas to help you pray for tots, teens and all ages between. Today we wanted to give you a sneak peek at what the book looks like. This chapter uses psalm 121 to help you pray for God’s care of your child…

Father, I pray that you will help my child by…

1. Encouraging me

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD” (Psalm 121 v 1).

Being a parent is a wonderful gift, but it is also difficult. There’s no owner’s manual to guide us in all the choices we face each day. Praise God that we can turn to him for the help we need! Pray that he will guide your steps and lead you as you parent today.

2. Watching over them

“He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121 v 3-4).

As parents, we are limited. Even with modern technology, we can’t watch our children at every moment (although we certainly try!). Thank God that he is always watching over them, and that he never slumbers or sleeps. Pray that your child will know God is with them, no matter where they go or what they face.

3. Providing refreshment

“ The LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night” (Psalm 121 v 5-6).

We all need a place of refuge. The world can be difficult and lonely. Pray that when life is hard for your child—when they experience a broken heart, a difficult illness, or a painful consequence—they will turn to the Lord and find comfort in him.

4. Keeping them from harm

“The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life” (Psalm 121 v 7).

While we want to keep our children safe, we know we are often powerless to protect them from skinned knees, harmful gossip, and their own mistakes. Pray that the Lord will use the trials they endure to draw them closer to himself, and that he will keep them from all that he sees is harmful.

5. Protecting their future

“ The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121 v 8).

Our children make choices each day. As they grow, these choices increase in significance. Pray that the Lord would guide your child in the future as they choose what to study, which church to be part of, who to marry, or what job to pursue.

About the Author:

Melissa Kruger is the author of Wherever You Go, I Want You to Know as well as several books for adults. She blogs at Wit’s End, hosted by The Gospel Coalition. Her husband, Mike, is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, and they have three children.

5 Things to Pray for Your Kids

Our culture says that the most important things for children are education, good health, treats, entertainment, and material things.

Yet as Christians, we know that children’s spiritual health is the most important thing. So we need to pray for them, but where do we start?

This little guide is both deep and easy to use. Melissa Kruger takes us back to the Bible to show us what God’s will for children is, so we can pray in line with it.

She selects 21 key areas of spiritual growth and character development. For each one, there are five short prayer prompts drawn straight from the Bible.

Sometimes it seems that tragedy strikes when life is going well. I experienced this firsthand when traveling with Pastor John Dickerson, author of I Am Strong.

Before I boarded the plane for New Mexico, news broke about the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, CA, which is about 15 miles from my house. My mind raced to remember if my family might be home or out shopping. Would there be more attacks? Praying for San Bernardino and my family, I boarded the plane while sending a quick text to my wife and was relieved to hear they were all safe.

Later that afternoon, as John and I drove from Albuquerque to Taos, we listened to more of the breaking news and talked about how pain and suffering often come out of nowhere. It was a timely conversation to say the least—especially since we were on our way to meet and interview Joy Veron.

In 1999, Joy was on vacation with her family in Pogosa Springs, CO. On the last day of the trip, her kids ran ahead and jumped into the family SUV. Then the vehicle began to roll in the direction of a nearby cliff. In the blink of an eye, Joy and her dad raced toward the vehicle.

Joy’s body acted as a speed bump, slowing the vehicle enough for her father to leap into the SUV and brake just before they went over the cliff. But Joy’s heroic act cost her the use of her legs, and for the moment, her eyes.

Thankfully, her eyesight came back, but despite numerous surgeries, she was told that she would never walk again.

Even after 16 years, Joy is still moved to tears when she talks about that day. The event is still real. It still affects her every day. But when asked if she had the opportunity to not go through the accident, she quickly replied, “No.”

Joy is not a glutton for punishment; she has learned and continues to learn that relying on God while suffering is far greater than living without God in the so-called best of times. As Psalm 84:10 joyfully proclaims, “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

Christians who rejoice in their suffering are not masochistic. The pain is real and it hurts! But as Charles Spurgeon so aptly put it, they have “learned to kiss the wave that throws [them] against the Rock of Ages.”

For those who are followers of Jesus, there is sweetness in suffering because He draws near to us in our pain. There is closeness with God in suffering that we don’t often experience when things are going well.

We can also take comfort in trials knowing that God will use it for many purposes. Romans 8:28 reminds us that God is using everything we experience in life – triumphs and trials – for our good if we are truly lovers of God.

Towards the end of John’s interview with Joy, she explained how God had not only used her suffering to draw her closer to Him, but to encourage others who were going through hard times. It reminded me of Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “God comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

It was a pleasure to meet Joy on that cool, clear day in New Mexico. The sun was setting on the distant mesas while John and I drove back to the airport. As we reflected on the interview with Joy, we were encouraged that the promises of God for His people are always true. He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Troy Lamberth is the executive producer of HAVEN Today. On the side, he teaches film at Providence Christian College, produces documentaries, and often teaches at his church. He enjoys discovering how Jesus is involved in all aspects of our lives—from faith to film to family—and how our relationship with him shapes the way we live. He and his wife Melissa have three young children.

Friends wield significant power. They can build us up; they can tear us down. In God’s good design, they are one of the primary tools used to help us grow—especially during the hard times.
Think of Job. First, God allows Satan to take his property. Then his children. Then his health. So much of the Book of Job, though, is focused on how his friends react. These friends had the power to help Job, a sufferer, but ended up hurting him. Their negative example shows us what not to say to sufferers if we want to help them (For example, straight from Job’s wife’s mouth: “Curse God and die.”)
In Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love, counselor Ed Welch has a few other things that we should not say to sufferers:

It could be worse.

What is God teaching you through this?

God will work this together for good.

What can I do to help?

We want to be better helpers than Job’s friends. So what do we say? What do we do? Many of us feel unqualified to help those we love and helpless to help in practical ways. But as Welch reminds us, “Friends are the best helpers. They come prepackaged with compassion and love. All they need is wisdom, and that is available to everyone.”
Here are some of Welch’s ideas of how to help:

1. Realize that we are needy.

Sufferers can smell pretension from miles away. And it stinks. But a friend with humility has the sweet aroma of Christ. This friend realizes that he or she is a sinner, also, and has his or her own struggles that may seem impossible to change. “Jesus introduced a new era in which weakness is the new strength,” Welch writes. “Anything that reminds us that we are dependent on God and other people is a good thing. Otherwise, we trick ourselves into thinking that we are self-sufficient, and arrogance is sure to follow.”

2.  Realize that we are needed.

We don’t need a counseling degree to help, nor do we need decades of life experience under our belt. We mainly need the Word, prayer, and the Holy Spirit. In God’s design, the broken are assigned the job of fixing the broken. It is through broken vessels that God’s glory and love is best displayed.

3. Take the time to dig deep into those inside and outside of your circle.

Go beyond, “How are you?” to “How are you really?” Ask people more questions that will draw out their needs. Ask questions about their family, their job. Remember that we should be seeking out the alien, the lonely, those at church without friends—but also remember that we can’t save everyone. We should start with a couple people and slowly expand our net.

4. Pray, and really pray.

Welch says the best question we can ask sufferers is, “How can I pray for you?” And then pray for them right there on the spot. Then pray for them later, again and again. Follow-up the next time you see them to see how your prayers are being answered.

5. Don’t be afraid to confront people about their sin.

If we truly desire to point people back to Jesus, sometimes we also need to point out their sins to them, for sin is what separates us from God. Welch has hard words for who we are when we avoid confrontation about sin: “[W]e are Pharisees who, during a leisurely walk, avoid eye contact with the dying person we almost trip over.” Care more about their soul than what they think of you.

6. Be patient.

Love the person as you would be loved, you who have intractable sins yourself. Sins that cling, sins that you have spent years dealing with. If we need help in helping, we ask for help ourselves, from our pastors, our church. When we fail, we have even more opportunity to grow and learn and be sanctified.

Above all, be encouraged. When we participate in God’s work, it is not we who are doing the work—it is God in us. “As comfort comes, the Lord has blessed two people—both the one who prayed and the one who received comfort,” Welch writes. “Together they have witnessed the love of God and the Spirit’s power. That is how God builds his church.”
God, in His unfathomable goodness, is using sinners as bricks in His glorious building process. Let us rejoice and give thanks and “press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 3:14)
Lindsey M. Roberts spent years writing exclusively for secular journalism, including such outlets as The Washington Post, Architect, and Gray magazine, before she first tried to write about Jesus. She’s thrilled to explore in words how everything from cleaning the kitchen three times a day to delighting in the maritime history of Nantucket is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband, a pastor and U.S. Army Reserve chaplain, and two children in Virginia.

At 2:58 PM on July 14, 2009, Andy McQuitty officially entered the valley of the shadow of death with these words from his doctor, “Andy, you have a massive tumor that has broken through the wall of your colon. It’s cancer. It’s serious. Get in here now.”
Since then, Pastor Andy has been on a journey of discovery, prayer and purpose. Watch as he reads a blessing someone wrote for him when he was going through one of the darkest times of his life.

Pastor Andy included this blessing in his new book, Notes From the Valley: A Spiritual Travelogue Through Cancer. In it, Andy records much of what he discovered as he lived in the valley of the shadow of death. He takes time to sensitively answer questions like, “Why did I get cancer?” “Does God still love me?” and “Can any good come of this?”

She was wearing a knit hat. Not surprising for November in Colorado Springs. But then she pulled it off and her suffering was exposed. Her eyes were bright, her smile was warm, but her head was bald from chemo.

Kara Tippets is a mother of four young children and the loving wife of a church-planting pastor. She would happily end her bio there, but she can’t … not since the diagnosis. In spite of the chemo, cancer has crossed all the boundaries of her body, and has even entered her brain.

20140930-085509.jpgKara writes beautifully about leaning into Jesus as she suffers. Her blog “Mundane Faithfulness” has thousands of readers and her recently released book, The Hardest Peace is already a best seller.

“I have recently been in so many interviews, and I am often asked if I struggle feeling angry over the path we find ourselves walking. My answer is typically the same – Jason and I have fought to be ‘broken’ instead of bitter and angry. It’s not a simple journey.”

Her battle for peace is a daily reality, especially with Christmas coming.

“Oh my heart – oh my sad and covetous and jealous heart. I want to go to a thrift store and buy old wool sweaters and make ugly stuffed animals with my kids and bake over Christmas break. I do not want to be back in radiation battling to kill what is killing me … I want to be decorating my house for Christmas.”

Kara struggles every day, but she’s a veteran in this battle. She knows where to go when she starts to covet a “normal” life.

IMG_1358“I hunt down the grace, the peace, the source of what true living really is. It’s not the absence of this pain, it’s not the presence of normal. It’s not the ability and strength that I covet so desperately. It’s Jesus.”

The answer, she says, is to, “Live so LOVED that you are able to fight the temptation of jealousy and live present in the life you have today. This moment. This minute.”

Presence – not presents – will be the focus of Christmas this year for the Tippets.

“Presence – living in this moment, looking in gratitude towards the next moment, and fighting against the lies of comparison. Our children will likely not remember the gifts, but they will remember the love.”

Janet Morris is a mother of three, a grandmother of three, and wife to Charles Morris, the speaker and president of Haven Ministries. She helps write the programs for Haven Today, has co-authored two books—Jesus in the Midst of Success and Saving a Life—and is also a women’s Bible study teacher and leader. Her third book, Missing Jesus, Find Your Life in His Great Story, comes out March 1. Janet confesses that she also drinks one pot of Chai tea a day, talks to her dog, and is close friends with C.S. Lewis. But most of all, she needs Jesus every day.

How is the Lord helping you?

What a wonderful question. Someone asked me this recently about a trial I am going through: my husband is deployed with the U.S. Army for the first year of my son’s life. He left three weeks after our son’s birth. We are now five months in, with seven to go. What seemed impossible when we got the news—me parenting a newborn alone, in a sleep-deprived state—has been made possible by God’s providences.

God has given me teenagers who volunteered to clean my house and watch my son so I could get a break. He has given me a church that prays diligently. He has given me an iPad, through my uncle, so that father and son can see each other better over FaceTime. He has given me a two-month reprieve at my parent’s house on a peaceful inlet in Washington State. He has even helped me find my wallet when I was imagining waiting days to get a new debit card, and thereby grocery money.

Another woman asked, “Is God meeting your needs?” Then she laughed. “Of course He is,” she said. “How is He meeting your needs?

What if, instead of asking people how they are, we asked them how God was meeting them in their current trials? We would be pointing each other to where our eyes should be focused: the Cross, God’s promises, and God’s blessings.

We would be helping each other remember that God met our biggest need when Jesus became a lowly man, was cut off from His Father, died, and then rose again, opening the door for us to follow Him into Heaven.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
— Isaiah 41:10

God’s promises are sure, because His biggest promise—to rescue us from our sinful state—has already been fulfilled.

Lindsey M. Roberts is the editor of the All About Jesus blog. After seven years in secular journalism, she is thrilled to explore in words how everything—from taking a walk to doing the dishes—is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband and newborn son in Virginia.