About a year prior to the release of my first book, I was deathly ill, on medically prescribed bedrest, kept alive on IV-hydration and nutrition, I plummeted from 113 pounds to a skeletal 74, and was so depressed from my isolation and confinement, I didn’t want to go on this way. I had treated thousands of patients with depression, and I recognized it in myself. I followed the advice I had given those patients for years: I rested, ate healthy once I was off the IV, slowly resumed exercise, and started therapy and medication. All those efforts helped, but I was disturbed to find they weren’t sufficient to eradicate the depression. As the depression continued, I looked at others enviously, those with energy and evident joy, and I began to believe I was joy immune.
The longer I remained like that, the more frustrated I became, and the harder it was to keep fighting. I needed a reason to get up each day and face the world. That’s when I learned the importance of encouraging myself in the Lord. A friend called the night before my scheduled surgery, and lovingly reminded me of the truth, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5 NLT).
To encourage myself, I crafted a very simple post on social media, “Today is going to be a good day because God’s joy comes in the morning.” A couple weeks later, as I fought back depression’s darkness, I wrote another post to encourage myself, “Today is going to be a good day because God’s mercies are new every morning.” Over time, this became a daily exercise for me that always started, “Today is going to be a good day because…” based on one of God’s promises. I left my posts open for public viewing and they began to attract views and comments from others. Quite unintentionally, this turned into a five-year ministry of daily devotionals about how and why we can experience a good day despite our feelings and our circumstances when we trust in and stand on God’s promises.
As I walk through my pain journey now, I am encouraged to see what began for me turn into a book that will touch so many lives, Today Is Going to Be a Good Day: 90 Promises from God to Start Your Day Off Right¹. Especially on my highest pain days, I return to Scripture to encourage myself in the truth of the Lord. God brought me through those dreadful, pain-filled days, and I know he will do the same for you.
The definition of encourage is “to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope.”² When we’re in the abyss of pain, our grip on the thread of truth may slip and the temptation is to let go. Encouragement, or inspiration with courage, spirit, or hope, fortifies our grip and strengthens our resolve. Sometimes we must encourage ourselves, sometimes we need the encouragement of others, and always we need God’s Spirit to encourage us to keep holding on, looking up, walking, waiting, or sometimes just breathing. “Kind words are like honey; sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Prov. 16:24 NLT). We can be our own worst critic, and we must be careful what we say to ourselves because we are listening. Instead, we should consider speaking kind and grace-filled words to ourselves like we would to a friend.
In 1 Samuel, David, along with several hundred men, were away when a band of raiders from a neighboring region captured one of their hometowns, kidnapped women and children as slaves, looted the city, and burned it. Nothing remained of the city, their property, or families when David and his army returned home. David and his men wept in grief, and his men talked of stoning him. When pain strikes our lives, the temptation is often to look for someone to blame.
In his grief and devastation, David likely had many questions, whether he voiced them or not. “If I’m a man after God’s own heart, how could God let this happen to me?” “If I’m an anointed man of God, why must I hide from my attackers?” “Why doesn’t God protect me?” David’s situation was reminiscent of the situation Job found himself in: they both lost all they had, except God. In his pain and discouragement, David had a choice, as we do, to either blame God, or to encourage himself in the Lord and what he knew to be true about God and his character. David offers us an appropriate model for our response to pain, suffering, and tragedy in our own lives: he reminded himself of the truths offered in scripture and applied them to his situation.
“And David was greatly distressed…but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1 Sam. 30:6 KJV). Other translations say David found strength (NIV) or strengthened himself in the Lord (ASV, ERV). Encouraging or strengthening ourselves in the Lord requires intentionality. If we neglect this choice, we offer the enemy a blank canvas on which to write his lies and stoke our natural impulse to cast blame on God.
When pain ravages our lives, and the enemy tempts us to become angry and blame God, we encourage ourselves by knowing, recalling, and affirming the truths of God’s word, especially those that rebut the enemy’s lies. When the doctor put me on bedrest, and my spirits plummeted, I encouraged myself in the Lord by doing three things. As I read the Word or listened to preaching and teaching online and came across Scripture that spoke to the pain of my heart, I wrote the Scripture on sticky notes and posted them on my IV pole, bedside lamp, bedroom door, closet door, light switch, bathroom mirror, car dashboard, and every other bare space. Each time I saw one of those notes, I read the scripture out loud. Scripture tells us, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV). It bolstered my faith and encouraged me to hear God’s word in my own voice. I repeated the verse several times each time I saw them to help me remember them later.
If you are suffering through physical, emotional, relational, financial, or spiritual pain, grief or loss, I want to encourage you to make the choice to encourage yourself. Is it hard? Yes. But is it worth it, and will it help? YES!
Friend, if you are experiencing physical, emotional, relational, financial, or spiritual pain, grief or loss, can I encourage you to pick up a copy of my book The Hem of His Garment: Reaching Out To God When Pain Overwhelms. I wrote it in the crucible of pain, with you in mind. In it, I address the common thoughts and questions of pain sufferers, I openly and authentically share about my own painful journey, and I encourage you to hold on to your trust in God while waiting for your healing.
Adapted from The Hem of His Garment: Reaching Out to God When Pain Overwhelms by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, provided by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2023. Used by permission.
¹Dr. Michelle Bengtson, Today is Going to be a Good Day: 90 Promises from God to Start Your Day Off Right, (Grand Rapids, Revell) 2022.
The Hem of His Garment
We all experience pain from time to time, and not just physical pain, but also emotional pain, relational pain, spiritual pain, grief and loss.
I’ve been there. I’ve experienced each one of those types of pain. I’ve asked the hard questions. I’ve searched the scriptures for biblical examples and lessons learned through pain and suffering. And I’m sharing a fresh perspective in my new book “The Hem of His Garment: Reaching Out to God When Pain Overwhelms.”
Here’s what Carol Kent, Founder of Speak Up Ministries, Speaker and Author of When I Lay My Isaac Down (NavPress) had to say about The Hem of His Garment: “The Hem of His Garment sings hope in the minor key. It is an honest, profound, and deeply moving labor of love that will invite you to weep, worship, and pray. This book is a treasure for those who live in constant pain—and for those who long for a resource to give to friends and family who are hurting.”
The Hem of His Garment: Reaching Out to God When Pain Overwhelms is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook.com, Books-A-Million, and other fine book retailers.
Click here to learn more: The Hem of His Garment.