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Finding God in Tough Times
By Kristi Holl, Kim Childress
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2013 Kristi Holl
All rights reserved.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." (2 Tim othy 1:7 NLT)
Fighting Fear God's Way
Grace took a deep breath and steadied her shaking knees. She would have given anything not to walk into another new school. But with Dad in the Air Force, her family moved every year. No matter how many times she started over at a new school, she always found it terrifying: the curious eyes staring at her, teachers making her introduce herself to the class, getting lost, sitting alone in the lunch room ...
Students jostled Grace as she walked up the school steps to the front door. She felt invisible as she pushed through the crowd. No one will like me, she thought. I'll never have friends. She headed down the hallway to her locker, then stopped ... confused. Someone ran into her. Afraid to ask for directions, Grace flowed with the crowd until she spotted a restroom. She dashed inside, headed for a stall, and locked the door.
Tears welled up in her eyes, and with a shaking hand, Grace brushed them aside. Stop this, she told herself. She closed her eyes, said a quick prayer for help, and then repeated the verse Mom had encouraged her to memorize. "God hasn't given me a spirit of fear," Grace whispered. "He gave me power and love and a well-balanced mind."
Pulling her shoulders back, Grace took several deep breaths before leaving the restroom. She walked up to two girls, smiled brightly, and asked directions to the sixth-grade lockers.
"Are you new?" the tall one asked, smiling back. "Come on. We'll show you."
Grace walked down the hall between the girls and prayed, Thank you, God!
* * *
More to Explore: "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them ... There is no fear in love." (1 John 4:16, 18)
Connecting to God: "Dear God, sometimes I'm so afraid of going into new situations and meeting new people. When I'm afraid, help me remember that you're with me. I trust you to take care of me. Amen."
Journal Prompt: How can you prepare, with God's help, for some event that you fear?
Take Action: Fear urges you to believe in what you see as your outward circumstances and doubt the unseen—God and His promises. When sneaky little lies pop into your mind, speak up and tell the truth—out loud!
Lie: Nobody loves you.
TRUTH: God loves me "with an everlasting love." (Jeremiah 31:3)
Lie: You're all alone.
TRUTH: God is "with [me] and will watch over [me] wherever [I] go!" (Genesis 28:15)
Lie: You're too afraid to do this.
TRUTH: "I can do all this through [Christ] who gives me strength!" (Philippians 4:13)
Real-girl Confession: "I have panic attacks and throw up every time someone asks me how I feel about starting a new school."
Indexed under: fear, loneliness
"Speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things." (Ephesians 4:14–15 NKJV)
Caught in the Middle
Sophia called, "Hi, I'm home!" when she walked into the house on Sunday night, but she hoped Mom didn't hear her. As usual, she tried slipping upstairs to her room without being seen, but Mom popped out of the kitchen.
"Hey, wait a minute!" Mom called. "How was your weekend with Dad and what's-her-name?"
Sophia sighed. She dreaded these Sunday night cross-examinations. They always followed a weekend visit with Dad and his new wife.
Mom cornered her and began grilling. "Did you go to church today? And did you remind him about the late support check? We can't buy groceries this week without it."
Sophia stared at the floor. Sometimes she felt like a messenger boy. Other times she felt like a spy.
Mom stood with hands on her hips. "I saw the fancy car they brought you home in. How much did that cost?"
"How would I know that?" Sophia asked, trying hard to sound reasonable.
"You could find out if you wanted to."
Sophia threw her hands in the air. "Am I supposed to snoop through Dad's desk?" She ran to the top of the stairs and turned back. "Can't you be nice? Dad never asks nosy questions about you!" She ran down the hall to her room and slammed the door.
One day, Sophia's Sunday school teacher asked about her life. For a change, Sophia opened up—about how she hated being caught in the middle and how upsetting it was. Her teacher suggested that Sophia be kind, but honest, with her mom. "Tell her how you feel," her teacher encouraged her, "but speak the truth in love, as the Bible says."
After the next visitation weekend, Sophia was ready. Mom asked question after question about how Dad lived his life and spent his money. Sophia smiled and took a deep breath.
"Mom," she said, "the divorce is between you and Dad. If you need to talk to him, please do it directly." She hugged her mom. "I love you, and I love Dad too. But I don't want to be caught in the middle anymore."
Mom looked a bit embarrassed. "I don't need you to tell me what to do."
"I'm not," Sophia said. "I guess I'm saying what I don't want to do. I don't want to carry your messages to Dad anymore."
Over the next few weeks, Sophia had to mention her decision a couple more times. "I'm just a kid. I really want you and Dad to talk to each other instead of pass messages through me."
"You're right," Mom finally said one day. "It's my job to communicate my questions directly. From now on, I will."
* * *
More to Explore: "We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings." (2 Corinthians 1:12 NLT)
Connecting to God: "Dear Lord, it's hard being caught in the middle of people's problems. Give me courage to speak the truth in love and let them resolve their own issues. Please keep my heart at peace. Amen."
Journal Prompt: Learning new behaviors takes time. Controlling your emotions so you can speak up respectfully can take a while to learn. What can you do when you feel like giving up?
Take Action: QUIZ: Underline the responses that "speak the truth in love."
"How could you make such a stupid mistake?"
"I believe your answer is wrong, but we don't have to agree on everything."
"I don't speak to you in that tone, so please show me the same respect."
"You probably lost the race because you're so fat."
"Those pink jeans are pretty, but I think I like the black ones better."
"I hate you for saying that to me!"
"Your story needs some more work to make the ending stronger."
Real-girl Confession: "I'm supposed to tell my dad stuff like, 'Mom needs money—why aren't we getting any?' "
Indexed under: divorce, honesty, stepfamilies, resentment
"Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close." (Psalm 27:10 NLT)
Megan grabbed the music for her solo, glanced again at the clock, and hurried after Mom to the car. "Don't worry," Mom said. "Dad's just running late. He probably plans to meet us at the school."
I don't believe that any more than you do, Megan thought, buckling her seat belt. "He hardly ever shows up for anything important to me, including my last birthday party," she said aloud. Megan slumped down in the seat and stared out the window. "I bet Dad's in some bar downtown."
Even though it hurt, it might actually be better if he missed her music program. Megan shuddered at the memory of last year's championship volleyball game. They'd had to stop the game when Dad fell off the end of the bleachers and got hurt. Megan squirmed at the memory of her teammates' snickers and pitying looks.
As Megan's mom pulled into the school parking lot, her cell phone rang. She glanced at the caller ID. "It's your dad," she said. The call lasted less than a minute. A moment later, looking straight ahead, Mom said in a grim voice, "Someone gave your dad an expensive ticket for a baseball game tonight. He's going with some friends."
Megan knew without asking that it was a drinking buddy. "I don't care," she muttered, feeling the familiar stab of pain. How could Dad's friends and his drinking be more important than her recital? Megan knew she'd never understand, even if she lived to be a hundred.
Mom reached over and gripped Megan's hand. "I'm so sorry, honey. Let's pray before you go in. 'Dear Lord, help Megan remember that her heavenly Father is always with her, always loving her, always proud of her, and always thinking of her. Amen.' "
"Thanks, Mom." Megan's heart felt a new warmth. She walked inside the auditorium to sing her solo, knowing God the Father's loving presence is with her at all times.
* * *
More to Explore: "Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I [God] would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands." (Isaiah 49:15–16 NLT)
Connecting to God: "Dear God, sometimes I feel forgotten and abandoned. Please hold me close. Thank you that you never forget me and always love me. And thank you for loving my dad too. Help him to find your love. Amen."
Journal Prompt: Pretend you are writing to a teacher, counselor, or a friend's parent. Tell them what it feels like to live with someone who drinks too much.
Take Action: If you have a parent who drinks too much, you can't fix it or make your parent stop. You can take better care of yourself though. Write the following "six Cs" on a card. When you're scared or don't know what to do, read this out loud.
Remember the Six Cs:
I didn't Cause the drinking.
I can't Cure the drinking.
I can't Control the drinking.
I can take better Care of myself.
I can Communicate with God in prayer.
I can make healthy Choices.
(from National Association for Children of Alcoholics at http://www.nacoa.org/)
Real-girl Confession: "Is it my fault Dad drinks too much? Will I become an alcoholic too?"
Indexed under: abandonment, alcoholism, sadness
Excerpted from Finding God in Tough Times by Kristi Holl, Kim Childress. Copyright © 2013 Kristi Holl. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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