Chapter OneSession 1
Some years ago I heard a story of a fifty-six-year-old woman
from Africa who faced adversity that most of us could barely
imagine. Her nation was going through yet another famine,
and she, in complete despondency, finally got a coupon from
World Vision (a Christian relief agency) for a bag of rice. If she
walked from her village to a feeding center in another city and
traded the small piece of paper for a large bag of rice, she
could probably stay alive for thirty days, until she had a
chance to get another coupon.
The woman stood in line for much of the day and finally got
her bag of rice. She walked around the city, and at one point,
put her bag down to tend to something. She looked away for
only a moment, but when she turned back, her bag of rice was
gone-stolen. At that instant she realized that for the next
thirty days she would face stomach-gnawing hunger and
potential starvation. There would be no extra ticket or second
bag of rice. To understand the full scope of this woman's suffering,
you need to know that she had lost her husband and
children in a previous famine. This is adversity beyond imagination.
We might not face famine, but adversity can come pounding
down on us in many different ways. It is not much of an exaggeration
to say that most of your small group members have
felt or will feel the painful blow of adversity. It may come in
the form of a financial, relational, or emotional beating. It may
come from a stranger or from those closest to you. It may
come slowly or out of the clear blue sky. But in the middle of
our darkest moments, Jesus says, "Take courage. There is still
hope. There is still a power that can sustain you during times
of unbelievable tragedy and adversity." We all need to hear
these words of encouragement.
A WIDE ANGLE VIEW
1 Choose one of the areas below and describe a time you
faced adversity in that area:
In the home
In the marketplace
In a friendship
In the church
In some other area of life
What helped you make it through this time?
A BIBLICAL PORTRAIT
Read Isaiah 43:1-3
2 In light of this passage, how would you respond to
each of these statements:
If you live a good life and are faithful to God, you will
never face suffering or adversity.
When I go through hard times, I have a feeling that
God has deserted me in my time of greatest need.
3 Isaiah speaks of "waters," "rivers," and "fire." What is
he talking about?
What is God doing while we are going through adversities?
What are some of the "waters," "rivers," and "fires" you are
facing right now?
SHARPENING THE FOCUS
Read Snapshot "What You Believe"
WHAT YOU BELIEVE
If we are going to overcome the adversities of this life, we must know what we believe. False beliefs
can poison our thinking and weigh down our hearts. When facing the struggles of life, some basic
beliefs must be firmly implanted in our minds or we are bound to get in trouble. Here are four essential
beliefs for overcoming adversity:
1. God is not the author of evil. (James 1:12-18; Psalm 5:4)
2. God limits the severity of what we suffer and gives us power to overcome our adversity. (Philippians 4:13;
1 John 4:4; 1 Corinthians 10:13)
3. God is completely available in the middle of our troubles. He never leaves us alone to deal with them on
our own. (Psalm 34:18; Psalm 23)
4. God is committed to bringing good out of the hardships of our lives. (Romans 8:28)
4 Why is each of these beliefs essential to overcoming
5 Take each belief and turn it around. If it was not true,
what implications would this have on how we face
Read Snapshot "How You Grieve"
HOW YOU GRIEVE
If you are going to live as an overcomer, you have to know how to grieve. Some of us have never
learned to allow ourselves to feel the deep and terrible sadness over the adversity we face. We don't
feel free to tell God about it, to sob and weep over it, to cry until the tears run dry, and then to repeat
the process as often as necessary.
Some of us lose sight of the fact that there is a tomorrow and there is a good God who rules over it.
First Thessalonians 4:13 says some of us grieve as though there were no hope. But there is coming a day
when there will be no more sadness, darkness, tragedy, or tears. There is hope as long as God is on the throne,
as long as the resurrected Christ is available for relationship, and as long as the Holy Spirit lives inside of us.
With this knowledge, we need to learn to grieve over the tragedies that have come our way, and then to move ahead with
6 Describe a time when you went through suffering and
were able to grieve and pour your heart out to God.
How did the process of grieving help you heal?
7 Describe a time of struggle or adversity you have faced
when you did not fully pour out your grief and sorrow.
What kept you from grieving?
Would you be willing to express your sorrow and grief about
this adversity to your group?
Read Snapshot "Who You Lean On"
WHO YOU LEAN ON
Sometimes overcomers learn how to walk in victory when they find a few trusted friends they can lean
on. When Jesus was drawing near the end of His life, He did not want to be alone. He took His three
closest friends (Peter, James, and John) to a garden and asked them to keep watch with Him. He
knew He was facing the cross and He needed a few friends around Him in His time of adversity. If
Jesus needed people to lean on, who are we to think we can make it on our own?
8 What area of struggle or adversity have you been trying
to face alone?
How can your group members pray for you and offer you
9 Discuss a person who you are aware is going through
a time of adversity. What can you do as a small group
to offer practical help, encouragement, and support?
PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE
Take time in the coming week to memorize and think deeply
about the following passages:
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of
those who love him, who have been called according to his
Time for Grief
Commit to setting aside two half-hour sections of time in the
coming week for dealing with unfinished grieving. Use this
time to pour out your heart to God. Identify areas in which
you still hold heartache and pain over adversity you have
faced in your life. You may want to journal or to pray silently
or out loud. Let any emotion surface that is within you; don't
fear tears, anger, or frustration. God knows you inside and out
and He can handle your emotions.