Act Like You Know Him

I’ll never forget Mark’s first day of fifth grade. It was a unique situation because the building was completely new to him, but the teacher wasn’t. She had previously taught Mark second and third grade at another building but had transferred to a new position at the same school Mark had been moved to.

I did everything I could to make the transition as easy as possible for Mark. I reminded him repeatedly that, yes, the building would be new and so would all the other students. But I reassured Mark by reminding him that he would have the same teacher whom he already knew and loved. I even made two separate trips to the new building during the summer, so that Mark could become more comfortable with what would be his new school.

He was proud to be starting fifth grade and excited to see his favorite teacher once again. So, I was honestly taken aback by his reaction when the first day came. In fact, I think his feelings and actions took both myself and Mark by surprise.

Together, we entered the cafeteria where all the students had been asked to gather on the first day. But that’s when I felt Mark’s clasp on my hand turn from relaxed into a death grip. And when I glanced down to see what had happened, I noticed he wasn’t breathing. He must have started to hold his breath prior to digging his fingernails into my right hand because I noticed his cheeks were beginning to turn the same shade of purple as his backpack. Oy.

It was packed and as loud as you can imagine one room filled with over five hundred excited and anxious children would be. But I did my best to find a bit of privacy. The very last thing Mark needed was to add embarrassment to everything else that was already overwhelming him.

“Mark,” I said as calmly but as loudly as I could so that he would be able to hear me. “You’ve got to breath, Sweetie. Breath.”

When that didn’t work, I relied on an old standby; I started blowing puffs of air into his face. Thankfully this worked, but after a few hard blinks, Mark suddenly took a loud gasp of air and proceeded to let out a blood curdling scream.

“Mark, calm down,” I said as I rubbed his arms, trying to relax his stiff, tight muscles, “What’s wrong? Tell Momma.”

“I…Uh…I…Uh…Uh…” he uttered repeatedly between sobs. I could tell he was close to passing out and could do little more than stutter at this point.

The not-so-small peanut gallery of other kids and several adults that was now surrounding us didn’t escape me, either. Neither did it help. So, I grabbed Mark’s hand firmly and guided him through the crowd back to the school office.

It took some doing. The office staff did not want to call his teacher down to the office. They wanted to protect her last few minutes of free time before the start of the school day. But I knew that she knew Mark and loved him as much as I did. I also knew that if Mark could just see her, he could remember that in the middle of all this newness, all this chaos, all this emotional suffering and distress, he could know that everything was going to be okay.

Fortunately, I was convincing enough. Either that or Mark’s inconsolable tears and incomprehensible stuttering did the trick. Who knows? Maybe both helped. But it took little more than a few minutes from the time the teacher was called to the moment she appeared in front of him, kneeling down to make eye contact with Mark on his level.

“Mark,” she said so softly I could barely hear her myself. “It’s my first day, too. Can we go into the cafeteria together?” And with that, there was a transfer of security. Mark’s now sticky-with-sweat and shaking hand transferred from mine to that of his teacher. In an instant, my own blood pressure likely dropped a good 30 points!

The situation didn’t change at all. Mark was still terrified and suffering terribly. But now he knew he wasn’t going to face the day alone. He knew his place: In the middle of this new and scary situation, yes. But also in the caring and proven hands of a teacher whom he loved, knew and trusted.

The same is true for us.

We can suffer well if we also know our place. Like Mark, knowingly stepping into a most uncomfortable situation, but comforted by knowing that he isn’t alone. Our place is with God. He is our rock (Psalm 18:2), our shield (Proverbs 30:5) and He “knows those who take refuge in him” (Nahum 1:7).

What a profound privilege.

What a peaceful place to be.

Like this post? It’s taken from Going for Broke: How to Suffer Well. (Click here to find it on Amazon.)

How to Take Bad News

It’s not a matter of if, but when. At one point or another, we all get faced with bad news. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to break us. In fact, how less-than-ideal news affects us is completely up to us—and in light of bad news, this simple truth can be a very good thing!

Here are six simple ways to take bad news so that it doesn’t take you down, too:

Resist the urge to react immediately. Instead, opt for patience and pause.
Our reactions don’t just affect others. They affect us, too. A knee-jerk reaction could very well set the stage for even greater emotional stress later. In other words, don’t do something in the moment that you might regret later. Instead, give yourself the opportunity and time needed to carefully think things over before you respond.

Remember Who’s in control. (Hint: It’s not you!)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21
No matter how bad the news is, the (good) news you already know trumps it all. We already know how the story ends. While we may face frustration, pain and hardship now, our future is secure (John 16:33, Revelation 21:1-27). Remember this. Rest on this. Then, let this eternally good news shed light on any temporal shadows cast by bad news.

Go to and give it to God.
You’re not alone, so don’t act like it. Give your worries, doubts and uncertainty to the Father in prayer. Then, dig into His Word for wise counsel on your specific situation. Don’t know what to say or how to pray? Let Scripture speak for you by reading the Psalms. Turn to the Proverbs for quick nuggets of wisdom. Look to other people in God’s Word who faced similar struggles and bad news. Then, consider how you can apply these truths and experiences to your own personal situation.

Unpack the news completely.
Bad news has a way of knocking the wind out of us, and then masquerading as something it’s not. Don’t let it. Strip it down and carefully think about each piece separately. Things could very well not be as bad as they initially seem. And even if they are, there are likely hidden blessings waiting in the midst of what only appeared negative to begin with. Have you taken the time to adequately unwrap the present to find the gifts that could await you in the future? It’s incredibly easy to completely miss what we’re not looking for. Take the time and steps not to.

Keep it in the proper perspective.
Will this really matter tomorrow, next week or next year? Make an effort to accurately gauge the situation at hand. Then, only allow it to demand your attention and energy accordingly. Simply put, protect yourself by refusing to treat molehills as if they were mountains. Refuse to be fooled.

Consider what you (really) can affect and at what cost.
Take inventory of what—and to what degree—you can have an affect on a situation. Then, consider what it will cost you. Is it worth it your energy, time and effort? What will the ultimate impact be compared to what it will require from you personally? Write it down if it helps. Consider all your options and be honest about your current resources—emotional, mental, physical and financial—before you take any kind of action.

The Certainty of Suffering

I won’t identify the pastor I was listening to because I don’t think there’s value in that. Let’s just say that I think it’s always important to know God’s Word and to listen to others with a “thoughtful” ear, meaning take in the teaching, but don’t just leave it at that. Think about it, compare it to what we already know from our own Scripture studies. In other words, don’t just take things to heart and head no matter who says them. Instead, hold everything accountable to God’s Word before we allow them to take root in our lives.

I say this because I was listening to a podcast from a pastor just last night, and sadly I think it could do a lot of emotional harm to many.

His joyful report of the healing of his premature little girl was no doubt encouraging and uplifting. But I couldn’t help but think of the parents whose children hadn’t experienced the same. What would they have taken from that evening’s message? More hurt? Frustration? Maybe even fear that their own faith and prayers weren’t quite enough?

Yes, I know that God is all-powerful (Matthew 19:26). And I genuinely believe that He still steps in to perform miracles today. However, when we focus on these stories alone—the happy, joy-filled stories of miraculous healings—I can’t help but think that we’re rather missing the point.

Suffering is a sure thing. It’s going to happen.

Maybe the point isn’t to try to pray our way out of it or to do everything in our power to avoid it entirely. Instead, maybe the point is to rest easy in God’s will—no matter what that is. After all, isn’t that what Jesus modeled for all of us in the first place (Luke 22:42)? Thank God that His Son didn’t shy away from suffering, otherwise none us would have any hope at all.

When hardship threatens my joy or the pain of suffering starts to cut a little too deep, I try to remember that suffering is part of God’s plan. Our suffering is never for not (Romans 8:28). We can know that God will not be frivolous with our pain. This is true even when we don’t know the “why” behind it all.

And as I listened to this pastor’s story as tears of joy fell down his face and tears of pain ran down mine, another Scriptural truth came to mind:

God placed the rainbow in the sky as a visual reminder of His promise to never completely destroy the earth with water again (Genesis 9:13-15). But that doesn’t mean that rain will never come. In fact, a rainbow is just a reminder that even when the rain storms come—no matter how it may beat down upon us, no matter how high the water gets, no matter how close we feel to drowning in it all—it will not be the end. And even if we suffer and face hardship throughout our entire life, we can know that God’s got a greater tomorrow in store (Revelation 21:4).