Devotionals and Bible Study
Emily, the main character in Sticks and Stones, questions where God is in her struggles. I hope these pages provide some inspiration for your own struggles and help you find faith in the midst of it all.
Faith Fuel #1 Overcoming Fear
I woke up to fists pounding on the front door that winter morning, shouting voices, “Police! Open up!” Next, the scurry of Mom’s slippers, the opening and closing of cabinets and drawers, my mom’s voice, high-pitched and frantic. -Emily from Sticks and Stones
Fear – the emotion strongly expressed by Emily in Sticks and Stones as she hears the police at her door, and the feeling all of us feel at some point in our lives, or possibly continue to feel on a daily basis.
Fear can be good. It can cause us to react quickly in a dangerous situation, or keep us from doing something hazardous. But when irrational fear creeps in and settles down, it is crippling and detrimental. It can destroy our sense of identity, our purpose, our freedom.
It’s interesting that the most frequent command in the Bible is to NOT fear. In fact, the topic of fear is mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible, and supposedly the specific words to not fear or not be afraid can be found 365 times. That’s right, the same amount of times as there are days in the year, we are told to not be scared.
Why would God tell us this so many times, enough for every day of the year? Clearly, he knows it’s something we need to hear, and I’m sure none of us would deny that reality. The world is kind of a frightening place.
We turn on the news to see frightening events in our schools, our malls, at concerts, in people’s homes, in our own governments, and across the world. We scroll through social media and feel inferior compared to the happy perfect smiles on the screen, making us fearful of how we might be viewed, or afraid we may never match up and be enough according to the world’s standards.
Like all of us, Emily has reasons to be afraid. Who wouldn’t be afraid to wake up to police knocking on the door? But also like Emily, we have a God who is with us in the scary places, every single minute, of every single day.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we always knew that? How might we live differently with the confidence of God with us every moment? With the world loudly speaking, it doesn’t come naturally for us to remember. It’s something we need to consciously remind ourselves of or we risk hearing and seeing all the things of the world that go against the comforting and encouraging words God wants us to hear.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 41:10:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
If I can remember this and picture God’s hand upholding me, strengthening me, helping me, I can then move my focus away from my fears, off myself, and onto the one who is stronger than anything that comes against me. I can speak the words of Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
These words are powerful. They are the words God gives us to remember who to turn to when the world tries to take us down, tries to steel our joy, tries to make us live and act in fear.
We aren’t promised a trouble free world. In fact, Jesus tells us in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
So when facing difficulties and frightening situations, we can proclaim the win. With God at our side, holding us in the palm of his hand, we will come through as conquerors.
What are some of your biggest fears? Like Emily, has something caught you off guard? Has something happened that seems to have taken away your security, your stability?
Journal and Ask
Write down some of your fears. Try writing them as a letter to God, telling him what scares you and asking him for help.
Look up verses about fear on an app or website such as blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com. Write them down in your journal or post them where you will see them. What do you hear God saying to you in these words? Maybe record your thoughts.
Remember and Pray
Speak these words whenever you feel scared and ask God to help you remember them.
Here are some verses you can start with:
Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
Isaiah 41:13 For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Matthew 6:25-27 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
The police knocking on Emily's door is just the beginning of her journey through fear and insecurity. You can read more of her story in Sticks and Stones, to be released in March.
Subscribe below for updates.
Faith Fuel #2 – Need an Escape?
I heard the rumble of a car engine, turned and saw a blue boat of a car inch behind the line of cop cars. “Looks like Grandma is here,” I said. I blew the pink flower off my hand, watched it float and land, wished I could float away too.
Emily – Sticks and Stones
Do you ever wish, like Emily, that you could simply float away from the things in life that are too much? At this point in the story, Emily has been hit with a lot. She hasn’t even had enough time to process it all. She just knows none of it is good, and she wishes there was an escape route, an emergency exit that would take her away from her circumstances and make her feel safe again.
Life has a way of doing that sometimes – feeling heavy, overwhelming, like more than we can handle. We all have those moments, some for a short while and some for far too long. But in those times, when life feels like too much and there’s no way out, God promises to be close.
Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Let those words soak in for a bit. He is CLOSE when our hearts are broken. HE is the emergency exit for our weary, sad, or scared hearts. He will rescue us. This doesn’t mean the situation will magically go away. But, he will help our brokenness. He will help and heal.
I think one of the most difficult things about being in the midst of difficulty is the isolation and loneliness it can stir up. We can feel as if we’re either the only ones going through something so terrible or the only ones who can’t handle it. We might look at others and think they have it all together, everything is fine, so what is our problem?
But, in truth, everyone is fighting something, everyone needs help getting through it, and everyone has access to the escape route of God’s love and power.
What feels heavy today? What do you wish you could escape? In what situation do you need to remember that God is right there with you? Talk to God about it, write to him in a journal.
Read Psalm 34:18. But, don’t just read it. Picture what it actually means. Picture God so close to you, and repeat those words. Tell yourself something like “God is close. God will rescue my crushed spirit. He will mend my broken heart.” Write these words down. Illustrate or color them while you reflect on them.
Rewrite Psalm 34:18 as a prayer, asking God to help you remember he is close when you feel sad about (fill in your hurt). Ask for his wisdom, discernment, love, comfort, peace. Thank him for rescuing your crushed spirit, for helping you through (fill in your difficult situation).
Speak Psalm 34:18 or the words that he is close, he is healing your broken heart, he is rescuing your crushed spirit, as often as you need, all day long, over and over if necessary. You can never hear them enough. Remember that this is not a magic pill, it’s not an escape route where you will actually float away as Emily says she wishes she could do. But the more you remind yourself that he is there, the more you will feel his peace, the kind that passes all understanding whatever comes your way.
More verses to look up and reflect upon:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Subscribe below for more updates on Emily’s journey in the novel Sticks and Stones, to be released March 8, 2020
"I’ve never received a better gift, a simple stone, wrapped in love and hope."