When it Hurts like Hell and the World is Crashing Down

by Jackie Riopelle

“Praise Him in the storm.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard many times and it’s something that I’ve said and prayed myself, but it’s not as simple as some make it sound.

I know how hard it is to pray when your heart is aching with pain and your mind is numb. I’ve felt the struggle of trying to worship when everything in you just wants to hide and grieve.

There’s a war that goes on inside because I know who my God is. I know that He is good in all things. I know that He doesn’t abandon me. I know that I can cry out to Him. I know that He is in control. One of the biggest flaws of humanity though is how easily we forget, and I am no exception.

When a baby that was loved and wanted and needed so badly lies dead in his mother’s arms, I forget that God is good. When the man who helped cement my faith jumps off a bridge, I forget that God never abandons us. When the future of people I love is uncertain, I forget that God is in control. When I feel alone and unworthy and broken, I forget that He still wants me to cry out to Him.

I have seen the love and the grace and the mercy of God in ways that are beyond comprehension. I have seen His hand of protection. I’ve heard His voice. I’ve seen His healing. I’ve felt His love. And yet…still I forget.

The fact is, we will always forget. There will always be that war in our hearts and our minds. There will always be that temptation to fall into grief and pain. The enemy will always try to convince us that we are still in bondage. The biggest lie he will try to tell us is that we don’t have a choice about staying there. It’s not true.

When the world is crashing down around me, I can choose to remember that the ground I stand on is solid. When it hurts so much that it feels like my heart is being torn from my chest, I can choose to stand and worship…not in a pretense of being strong and alright…but in brokenness. When I feel alone I can choose to cry out to the God who promised He would never leave me. When doubts fill my mind, I can choose to trust. When things happen and my questions go unanswered, I can choose to remember that His logic is not my logic, and His ways are not my ways, but His ways are good… Even when I don’t understand.

Last month a couple who were strangers to us took us in, they loved and encouraged and poured into us despite their busy schedules. Despite the fact that the wife was eight months pregnant they went out of their way to serve us. Never have I met two people who carry the love and light of Christ as purely as they do. They were so in love with Jesus, with each other, and with their coming baby, Christopher. They were so happy. That was last month.

Last week, Christopher died unexpectedly.

And his parents broke.

How could they not? Their baby is dead. He was so loved and so cherished and so wanted. It’s not fair and it doesn’t make sense. How could a good God allow this to happen? His mom is not ok. She’s not. Her heart is breaking into a hundred thousand pieces and her husband grieves with her. Right now they’re in the worst storm of their life. How can you praise God through something like that?

It’s not even my baby, but when I heard about his death I sure didn’t want to worship. I didn’t want to praise God. I wanted to rage, I wanted to scream out at the heavens, I wanted to demand back the life that He took to Him. I wanted answers. How could anyone believe in God’s goodness at a time like this? How could anyone praise Him in that moment? The enemy screamed into my mind that it was impossible and in my flawed humanity, I forgot that it was a lie.

A few days ago the baby’s mom posted on Facebook. This is a small piece of what she said, “We may not always understand why, but in our hearts is the certainty that God’s will is perfect.”

And I remembered…….That’s how you praise God in the storm.

You break and you cry and you grieve and then you hold onto Him and to His promises with everything you have. You choose to remember that He never stops holding onto you. You don’t have to be ok to worship. You don’t have to have it all together to pray. You just have to be willing to come to God in your brokenness. Even when it hurts like hell, we can choose to praise Him.

Blog is re-posted here by permission.

Born and raised in Massachusetts (not Boston!), Jackie Riopelle is a writer, manager, and a Chick-fil-A enthusiast with a passion for kids, missions, and Jesus. Currently, Jackie is in the beginning stages of a year long missions trip ranging over eleven countries in South America, Europe, and Asia. This trip is unique in that the ministry itinerary is not preset. The team prays as they go out and then they serve however the Lord leads. So far this has included sports ministry, home to home prayer ministry, kids ministry, Bible studies, forging relationships with both believers and non believers and just showing the love of God everywhere they can. Jackie says, “It’s been amazing, terrible, fun, difficult, painful and so so worth it! It’s been absolutely incredible to see what God has done just in these two short months and I can’t wait to see what He does next!”

Here’s what YOU can do……

1) Pray
We came into this journey with the firm belief that prayer is powerful and the more people joined in prayer the better! Please be praying for us for the following:

•  ‎Endurance as we begin to get tired or discouraged
•  ‎Wisdom and clarity as we listen and follow God’s lead
•  ‎For open hearts both in ourselves and in those we come in contact with
•  ‎Provision as most of us are still fundraising

2) Donate
Fundraising is something most people shy away from, but it is definitely one of the ways that God works both in the fundraiser and those that give.
I still have $4,100 left to raise in order to be able to see this mission to it’s completion. If you feel led to donate or to check out what it’s all about, you can access my blog at jackieriopelle.theworldrace.org

3) Tell people about it!
My platform is relatively small at the moment. I would love to be able to share what God is doing with even more people.

Women of the Word has donated to Jackie’s year long missionary journey. We pray for her and we are delighted to share about it here on our blog! WOW’s ministry is inter-generational and we want to encourage young women to step out and do what God has called them to do. Won’t you consider coming alongside Jackie too? Please visit our website to learn more about WOW and join us at an upcoming event soon. The Lord bless you.

Aging from a Biblical Perspective

by Lois Tverberg

To understand your Bible you need to grasp the assumptions of its cultural world. Sometimes glimpsing its alternative point of view can even put our own reality into perspective.

For instance, in the Ancient Near East, advanced age was not seen as something to be avoided. Aging was seen a source of honor and dignity. Job saw a long life as a source of knowledge: “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:12)

We, on the other hand, live in a society that idolizes youth, where our heroes are Mark Zuckerberg and Justin Beiber. We can hardly imagine living in a society where growing older is actually seen as a good thing.

Our perspective is not universal, though. Even today, it’s an insult in the Middle East to estimate a person’s age as too young. Hasidic Jews line the cribs of their newborns with pictures of white-bearded rabbis, who are the “rock stars” of their world.


The Dynamic Heroes of The Prince of Egypt

Do you remember The Prince of Egypt? In Disney’s animated retelling of the Exodus story, Moses, Miriam and Aaron all look about 23 years old. But have you ever considered the fact that the real Moses was actually eighty, which meant that Miriam would have been in her mid-nineties, and Aaron even older? These three dynamic “leaders of the revolution” were all senior citizens, old-timers who’d be long out to pasture in our world.

Believe it or not, even more of the players in the “original” Prince of Egypt were distinguished by their age. When Moses went to the leaders of Israel with God’s plan, the ones he approached were the zakanim—the elders, or literally, the “beards.” Disney doesn’t seem to realize that every one of the key roles in the Exodus story was significantly aged.

Where Elders were Leaders

Throughout the Bible, communities were led by elders, zakanim. The early church continued the tradition of forming counsels from elders, presbyteroi. In the ancient world, advanced age was seen as a prerequisite for leadership, because of the wisdom that accrues from experience. This was even more important in oral cultures, where traditions were handed down from generation to generation.

Youth was actually seen as a disadvantage, if you wanted to be influential. Jeremiah protested when God first called to be a prophet, because he felt so young that no one would listen to him (Jeremiah 1:6). Likewise, Paul had to encourage his disciple Timothy by saying, “Let no one despise you for your youth.” (1 Timothy 4:12) To have no one in one’s family who lived to an advanced age was a curse. (1 Samuel 2:32)

What would it be like if Christians reconsidered our culture’s worldview and saw aging as a blessing, rather than as a burden? What if middle-aged pastors didn’t feel saddled by the expectation that they act like teenagers?  What if older folks were the most influential, sought-after people in a congregation, rather than being treated as a declining, needy group?

I’ll be celebrating my next birthday in a few weeks. With every year, I like the Bible’s positive view of aging more and more.

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31

Original blog posted at ourrabbijesus.com. Reposted here with permission.

Lois Tverberg

Lois Tverberg holds a Ph.D in biology and was a college professor. While in a Bible study class she became interested in studying the Bible in it’s cultural context. Discovering the answers to head-scratching questions and sharing the “ah-hah” moments with others became a passion. She began learning Hebrew and Greek, studying in the land of Israel, and exploring recent scholarship on Jesus’ first-century Jewish world. Ultimately, she left a life in academia to devote herself full-time to teaching and writing on the topic, and now has been at it for almost twenty years. She has authored five books and also directs the En-Gedi Resource Center, an educational ministry. 

Lois will be the speaker at “Through the Eyes of Jesus”, a Bible study seminar for men and women in Janesville, Wisconsin April 13 & 14, 2018. Early Bird deadline is March 19, 2018. Registration includes Saturday lunch. Our time together will include worship, teaching, and practical application via round-table discussion. You will receive materials to take home with you for ongoing study. Information here.

Women of the Word is an inter-denominational, inter-generational, and inter-cultural ministry dedicated to transforming lives into the image of Jesus through growing disciples taught by God’s Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We honor our elders, learning from them as they mentor us. We value and strengthen the middle-aged. We seek to reach the millennials and younger generations to encourage and mentor them in the ways of the Lord. Our prayer is that we honor God together. We welcome men to join us at Bible seminars such as “Through the Eyes of Jesus” and on our Amazing Israel Adventure trips. 

Ask Away

by Rachel Hansen

My 5-year-old son posed one of my favorite life questions in a car ride last month: “Mom,” he said. Pause. “We’re rockin’, right?” As I cranked the music volume up a couple more notches, I smiled widely and responded: “Yes, son. We are!”

I’m building a legacy here. As a musician, this moment felt epic! My heart beat to each sound of the drums, feeling the depth of the bass in my bones. My soul rejoiced in the innocence of such a simple, fun question — one of a million questions to date from him in five short years.

Questions. Questions. Questions. My oldest boy is full of them! I guess he’s a chip off the old block in this way. As crazy as they can be – the inquiries AND the kid – the truth is that I enjoy fielding my son’s questions. His asking is funneled through my open ears and an interested heart because I love him. This one inquiry a few weeks ago about pop/rock music was an easy answer. Some questions require much more thought. And others challenge me to my core! The challenge is welcomed because I want him to explore the world with me. He’s growing and trying to make sense of this place, of his world… as am I.  So, questions are welcome here.

If he’s the chip, I’m the block. Despite my laid back demeanor, my mind is a chatter box! The more time I have to think about something, more questions arise. The more time I spend with a person, the more I ask. Maybe it’s the journalist or philosopher in me? I just want to know MORE. I want to wrap my mind around “it” (whatever it is). I seek answers and understanding. I want to go deeper.

Where do you take your most important questions? Who do you entrust with hidden heart inquiries? Each of us needs a trustworthy, wise and available confidant if we intend to grow.

What I’ve grown to love about God is how gracefully He handles my questions. All of them. Grace. I can ask away. No filter.

(Timeout here. Talk to God? Yes.)

I wasn’t born ready to knock at God’s door with all my concerns. Life got me there. God found me in a very tired season when I had exhausted my questions and had no answers. For a moment in time, I had actually stopped asking… I call it a “tangled hanger” season — no matter how hard I tried to find the problematic root, to pull out the source of the tangle, the mess remained intact. How frustrating! The sad truth is I had already spent years confronted with these “tangled hangers” struggling under the oppression of nagging health issues. Doctors had not yet cured me and the Internet confused me with so much hypothesis. I become lost in the pursuit of knowledge while my body, soul and spirit suffered. So tired of dead ends, I stopped my pursuit of healing to rest. My efforts to fix myself had failed.

Sometimes a dead end can redirect us to truly experience the spiritual reality that God’s door is always open. And I needed to open my life even more to Him. Tired but desperate to become unstuck, I realized I had to ask God some REALLY hard life questions to find peace. I had to become completely honest about the struggle before I could grow from it.

So, with nothing more to lose, I made an event out of seeking God. I decided to press into Him harder then ever before! I remember the two seater small table in the bustling coffee shop where I sat and journaled to God looking at the empty chair in front of me (His place). I sat there in this caffeinated seat to hash “it” out. (Fascinating that God got there ahead of me and proved Himself ready and waiting. I think He was holding that last free table in the back corner for me! Little did I know this gut wrenching practice of complete honest dialogue with God — just writing to Him, periodically looking up at the empty chair as if He’d show His face — would become several years of table talk.)

When I sat with God that day and wanted to spill my guts, it felt intimidating to be completely honest! Before I ever wrote Him a single word in my notebook, a few questions haunted me: Was I in fact going to question the God of the Universe? Who was I to demand answers from God? I wasn’t brought up this bold in the church. Talking to God was much more polite. My questions seemed less reverent and way more gritty. I was going there, to the hard places. What would He say? Would I even hear from Him? I had to find all this out for myself. I put my ability to hear from God to the test! I took a risk.

Surprisingly, His immediate response changed EVERYTHING. I heard one simple and profound reply:

“I can handle your questions. Ask me.”

Can you imagine hearing these words? Have you?

God raised the volume of His voice to me a couple notches. It still astounds me! This open door response changed my relationship with God in a moment and began my healing journey. It brought me deeper into prayer and ongoing, honest conversation with Him. I better understood then that I am His child and like my own little boys now, I also need to press into Him as children do to their parents. He could handle me. No filter.


Now when I look back into my notebooks, I had so many “why” questions at first. (Which is so like my other son, the 2-year-old! One of his first words was in fact “why”!) And in time — as I asked God questions and read His word — the “why’s” turned into “what” questions:
What should I do in this circumstance?
What do I say to him? To her?
What do you want me to do for you God?

Because God met me in my “why’s”, I grew to trust Him with the “what’s” of my life. And then I gave over the “who” and “where” questions. The often most difficult “when” questions came last! I learned that the door to God is open and yet His response timing is His own. If I haven’t heard His voice or seen His response, I can trust He is still working on my behalf. After all, I’m His child.

“No question is a bad question.” I still hear that elementary encouragement because I stored it in my heart. We expect and encourage little ones to press in. Go ahead. Ask away. But when we “grow up” some of us inquire less. And with the hardest questions, we may wait to ask God or not ask Him at all.

Today, if you’re holding onto deep unresolved questions, take a leap of faith! Take a risk and talk openly to God. Ask away. He can handle you! Then wait and see how He responds… He’s waiting with open ears and an interested heart because He loves you.

Maybe you’ve already spoken to God about an issue in the past and received no answers. My guidance is the same: Take another leap of faith! Keep knocking at His door. Or don’t knock at all because the door’s actually open wide! Walk right in and share your heart. Again if needed. No filter. He’s expecting you and has a two seat table waiting for you! Take your seat at the table.

Relationships starve on silence. Don’t silence yourself. Don’t turn down God’s volume. Seek God out. Ask away. My hope is that God speaks personally to your heart and soul. And in these divine moments your spirit will find strength.

Original blog at pressingintogod.com. Reposted here with permission.

Rachel Hansen

Rachel loves tracking the movement of God in and around her, sharing the miraculous hope found by faith in everyday life. An adventure seeker with a curious heart, she loves living by the Spirit exploring wherever life takes her! She has Midwest roots as a former Chicagoan and currently resides in Southern California. As a full time mother and wife serving God, two energetic little boys and her husband, she’s often on the move and lives in her running shoes! Passionate about the transformative power of God, she enjoys prayer ministry and serves as a leader of women’s ministry at her church, The Bridge, in Pasadena. She’s currently working on a faith based book and sharing spiritual insights on her new website.

Notebooks image credit unsplash.com


Peace in the Storm

by Heidy Fontanez

Most of us have experienced times when thoughts of defeat and hopelessness attack our minds. Fears well up and anxiety takes over when we experience the loss of a dream or the loss of a relationship or the heartbreak of a child walking away from the Lord. The voices say that our sons and daughters are lost and that it is hopeless to pray. Only God knows when our children will return to Him, but we must be convinced that God is working. We must believe; therefore, we pray and wait, but in the meantime we must fight against the thoughts that the enemy and even our own flesh try to throw at us.

God’s Word says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Our thoughts can take us on a ride….but we can take the wheel and hit the brakes. The way to do this is to apply the knowledge of God to the argument; this brings our thoughts into obedience. What He says is what is truth.

What does God’s Word say about the argument? The enemy and the flesh say, “It’s impossible.” His Word states, “ALL things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). The flesh and enemy say, “It’s hopeless” but His Word says, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24). They say you are too weak to endure…you can’t do this anymore… His Word states, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 9:10).

A while ago I had to fight the battle. In the middle of doing everyday life, I got THAT phone call. You know the one that throws you into a frenzy. My son was in jail. WHAT? My world turned upside down, and I began to look for answers. I even thought it might have been a mistake! My heart began pounding, I thought I would faint any minute, my thoughts were hard to manage and I couldn’t understand the words I was hearing…yes, that’s the call a parent never wants to receive.

Well, after my initial panic, the Lord began to remind me of the Bible story about Jesus sleeping in the boat in the midst of a storm. Just days before I was sharing that same story with my son, not realizing that the Lord was already speaking to us before the storm even arrived. I came to a new understanding. As I sought the Lord, I felt the Him say to me, “Even before I lay down in the boat, I saw the storm coming. I already knew the storm was on the horizon, and I already had the answer. Just as I was with them in the boat, I am with you in your storm.”

This word, and many others that the Holy Spirit gave me, helped me to ride the wave during this period in my life. Was it easy? NO! But I decided to praise the Lord through it. I decided to align myself with His Word, with who He is, and who I was to Him.

So…you are probably wondering what happened to my son. Well, he came to the Lord through this tragic time. PRAISE THE LORD! Almost two years later and many trips to the courthouse, we saw the hand of God move in great ways. It was two years of believing Him over and over and over again. This is just one incident in my son’s life that ultimately caused him to come to the Lord. There were many other broken times that we endured with our son, but this was the one that caused Him to begin his journey home to the Father. My son is now married, and he and his wife both serve in their church. God is doing amazing things in both their lives.

I want to leave you with one more scripture on which to meditate: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil. 4:5-7

Heidy Fontanez helps administrate H.O.P.E. for Moms of Prodigals, a closed Facebook group, and an outreach ministry of Women of the Word. 

Heidy Fontanez

During the loss of a 12 year old daughter she learned of the power of applying God’s Word and relying on His grace. She serves in various ministries in her church and is the executive secretary to the Senior Pastor of Bethany Assembly of God in Agawam, MA. She speaks at women’s events, both in English and in Spanish. She has traveled on missions to Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras. She and her husband Ramon, have two adult sons and three grandchildren. Her testimony is, “God has brought me a mighty long way and He is not done with me yet”. 


God Will Bring You Through

by Barbara Benton 

Six years ago, on February 11, 2012, Gaylon and I got a call that no parent wants to receive.  I remember watching my husband as he received the news, “Your son went into cardiac arrest and we were unable to resuscitate him.” The pain in Gaylon’s face and voice were beyond description.

For the next few days, it was as if time stopped. My mind played and replayed that phone call, hoping it was just a bad dream. How is it possible that Bryan would never meet his unborn son?  How would Christmas be the same?  What will Mother’s Day and Father’s Day be like?

There is the marvelous joy of knowing that we can be reunited with loved ones who have gone to be with our Lord. Yet, there is the depth of pain and sorrow that we can’t physically touch our loved ones or talk with them. You wish you could say, “I love you!” just one more time.

Grief is a personal, intense journey that all of us will experience at some point. The scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I believe God’s word, and though death does not sting, emotional bees will swarm around those of us left behind. As a Christian believer, I was able to rejoice that Bryan was with his Heavenly Father, but as a mother, my heart was crushed.

Circumstances can change so quickly. Life hands us difficulties we don’t understand and can’t explain. All of us face moments in life when we are overwhelmed. It is hard to find ourselves in situations that alter life, situations that are unfair, and situations outside our control.

For nearly forty-nine years, I have walked with God. There have been the most glorious times, and there have been times that have knocked the breath out of me. February 11, 2012 was suffocating. Would we ever feel like laughing again?  Would we ever wake up and not feel such heavy grief?

After the flowers faded, the phone calls lessened, and the meals stopped coming, I had to face the reality of this painful twist that life had brought. I had to choose, “Do I let grief take over, or do I give my grief to God, and ask for His strength?” Over and over I cried out to the God of my salvation, and over and over He gave me strength.

What will you do when life knocks the breath of out of you?

Death is not the only thing that can knock the breath out of us. There are other events that have the force to utterly crush us and turn our world upside down. It may be the death of someone we love, a cancer diagnosis, a betrayal by a person we trusted, or financial ruin. The list of life-altering situations that we can experience is a very long one.

Do you feel like you are being suffocated by life? Has stress taken its toll, causing you to feel afraid, discouraged, lonely or ready to give up? Is your heart broken today? Run to God! He is ready. He is willing. He is able. There is so much power and grace available when we turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face.

Yes, life can knock the wind out of us, but God can give it back. Trust Him, lean on Him, love Him and you will catch that breath once again.  You will be amazed what God can bring you through, and He will bring you through.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help … the righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:15-18).

Original blog at BarbaraBenton.org. Reposted here with permission. 

Barbara Benton

Barbara Benton was reared in an environment of poverty, abuse and alcoholism, which led to severe depression. At the age of 17, life began to take on new meaning as Barbara accepted the love of Jesus Christ as Savior. Over time, God has truly changed her into a new creation and overcomer. She is a living example of how God can “turn mourning into dancing” and fill one’s heart with joy. Her approach to teaching the scriptures is relevant, passionate and often times humorous. She will be the keynote speaker at “Fearless Love”, the spring Women of the Word Conference, April 27 – 28, 2018 in Bristol, CT. You will be encouraged, empowered and transformed by her real-life application of the Scriptures.