“I don’t think I can make it through this pain. I just don’t see how.”
I’ve heard that statement numerous times, with all the despair it carries. I’ve even said it myself. In suffering or sorrow, when each day feels harder than the one before with no end in sight, I’ve wondered how I’ll make it through, let alone find joy and fulfillment.
Years ago, a trusted friend offered me wisdom she recalled from Charles Spurgeon: “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”
In the midst of my pain, she told me to read the Bible and pray. She urged me to fall in love with the Word because it would get me through anything.
I nodded, but I really wanted something more. An inspiring book to read. A stirring sermon to listen to. Some practical advice to follow. A conference to attend. A pill to swallow. I wanted to feel better fast; Scripture seemed distant and difficult, an obligation more than a source of help.
Reading the Bible felt like eating cardboard—dry, hard to swallow, and unsatisfying. In tough times I’d pulled away from reading it, looking instead for a “thought for the day” or a friendly voice to cheer me up. They promised quicker relief than the heavy and daunting pages of an ancient book.
And yet, through all my trials, nothing has had a lasting impact on me like reading the Bible.
When my infant son, Paul, died because of a doctor’s mistake, I stopped reading Scripture because I felt God couldn’t be trusted. But when I finally turned back to him, I found comfort in the psalms of lament. They gave me words when I had none, and as I said them back to God, I was surprised by their power to change me.
When I was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, a painful condition which could leave me a quadriplegic, I understood God’s promises afresh. He would be my strength and shield.
And then later, when my husband left me to parent two adolescent daughters alone, I had nowhere else to go for wisdom or comfort or hope. I turned to God’s Word for everything.
Within weeks, I began to systematically and regularly read through the Bible, including Old Testament books I had long ignored. I read intentionally rather than mindlessly flipping around, just hoping for something to jump out.
I made my time with God a priority rather than always waking up late and vowing to do better the next day. I pondered what I was reading, journaled in a notebook and in Bible margins, pinned verses to my bulletin board. I asked God to reveal himself, his will, and his wisdom while I was reading. I listened, lamented, and prayed my way through the Bible until my quiet time became more life-giving conversation than boring homework exercise.
I listened, lamented, and prayed my way through the Bible until my quiet time became more life-giving conversation than boring homework exercise.
In those months following the collapse of my marriage, reading the Bible intentionally and systematically gave me unexpected insight—ideas and encouragement I had never noticed before.
Throughout the day, I would pray Psalm 119:25: “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!”—inserting God’s promises to his people and claiming them as my own. I vividly remember reading Isaiah 30 one morning and carefully writing down verses 19–21:
He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the LORD give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
Those verses were invigorating. I needed to know God was listening to my cries and would answer. I longed to sense his presence. And I needed wisdom for countless day-to-day decisions, everything from parenting to finances.
The Holy Spirit dwells in all believers and can illuminate a passage to whomever he chooses—whether a brand-new Christian, a desperate sufferer, or a seasoned saint.
The Holy Spirit dwells in all believers and can illuminate a passage to whomever he chooses—whether a brand-new Christian, a desperate sufferer, or a seasoned saint. God speaks to us in his Word, making our hearts burn within us as we open the Scriptures (Luke 24:32). The Author slowly changes us as we read.
From those early days of hardship until now, Scripture has become more precious than food. With Jeremiah I can say: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jer. 15:16). I saw firsthand the truth that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3).
Yes, I’ve been inspired by great sermons. Read moving blogs. Listened to insightful podcasts. Had friends speak truth to me. None of that collective wisdom, however, has changed me as much as God’s Word.
That initially bland manna became sweeter than honey (Ps. 119:103). And the more I consumed, the more I changed. It truly was my secret to surviving life’s storms. The flashy and dramatic experiences that I often sought out didn’t last and couldn’t sustain me—it was the daily, ordinary working of the Word that transformed my life.
The Gospel Coalition