In episode 113, we find ourselves in a new series, "Sitting in suffering".  How do we hold to hope when the hardship seems too much and God seems too distant?  Lauren had been authentically seeking God when things began to hit -- the loss of a friend, unexplained pain, the loss of a relationship -- and at the hardest moment she found herself questioning God, something she never wanted to do.  It was in this questioning, though, that she discovered her doubt wasn't in the true God, and that He was actually with her, at work on abundantly more.

How might God be inviting you to see Him accurately?

In episode 114, Tricia Roos shares the difficult story of receiving devastating news during a pregnancy, and making the difficult choice to persevere against the odds.  Her story prompts a hard question: what if God is inviting us to allow our wishes and desires to change?  Afterall, some of the most painful moments amidst suffering is when the desires of our heart aren't met.  However, if God has infinite wisdom and desires full life for us, there may be something unexpected in store, if we are willing to embrace the desires of His heart.

What wishes might God be inviting you to change?

In episode 115, Saroya Brown shares her story of being homeless for two years, but very quickly it escalated into so much more.  Saroya knows what it means to sit in suffering, and knows what it is like to feel unseen in the midst.  If you've ever felt unseen, you know how much heavier it can make the suffering.  However, through her journey Saroya came to learn she was seen by God, and that changed everything.

How has God let you know He sees you?

In episode 116, Thola Bennie shares of a hard season she recently navigated.  In the midst, we discovered that one thing that made it so hard is the "deceit of normalcy".  Whether it was in her own mind or through the expectations of others, a pressure to be and pursue what is "normal" could easily intensify the hardships.  What if our pursuit of "normal" is actually impeding our ability to experience God in the midst of suffering?

How has God invited you into "abnormality"?

In episode 117, Danielle Bernock brings us back to a topic we sat with in the "Healing series": rejection.  Sometimes suffering can end up feeling heavier because of the sense of rejection; this was true for Danielle, as in her childhood she felt rejected both at home and in church.  That rejection sat with her, leading her to believe God had rejected her as well; the truth was, He had been with her in her loneliest moments.  Her story confronts us on a hard truth: sometimes our sense of rejection can cause us to reject the God who is with us. 

How has God shown He is with you?

In episode 118, Christian Bohlen's story presses us into a unique space in this series.  We've heard stories of suffering being thrust upon someone, but what about the moments when we choose to remain in the suffering of another?  For Christian, it was choosing to remain in a difficult marriage after realizing his wife struggled with significant mental health challenges, even when the impact on him could be severe.  While voices around him and in his own mind told him to leave, God invited him to stay.  This was not an easy invitation, but has led to a decades-long story that will encourage any who are choosing to remain in the suffering of another.

How has God equipped you to remain in hard spaces?


In episode 119, Tiffany Moore and I were initially going to explore how offense can lead us to sit in suffering, but God wanted to press us deeper.  We don't want to admit it, but focusing on the offense of the offender can make it easy for us to blame others... but what if the problem is us?  What if God has given us access to a super power that allows us to "take captive every thought", even in the hardest of situations, even when the offender doesn't change?

How has God helped you take thoughts captive?



In episode 120, Wendy Wallace shares the powerful story of her life being utterly changed by an unexpected flesh-eating bacteria.  As a result of a quadruple-amputation, a long list of impossibilities was thrust upon her by others and her own mind.  However, she resolved to remove a word from her vocabulary: "can't".  "Can't" can lead our suffering to feel more unbearable, and Wendy invites us to lean into the God who can do the impossible. 

What is God inviting you to stop saying "can't" to?


In episode 121, Diana Winkler shares a story of suffering that spans decades, and in the process presses us into the concept of "long-suffering".  Bible translations often swap this term out for "patience", but the former evokes something deeper, something prolonged, something intentional.  In fact, it's a fruit of the Spirit, and we learn from Diana it was the Spirit's capacity, not hers, that got her through, particularly when the Church and her spouse failed to be the support she longed for.

How has God met you in long-suffering?


In episode 122, Roger Butts helps us explore how we can create space for those sitting in suffering.  Having served as a Chaplain and Minister, he has often chosen to journey with individuals in incredibly hard spaces, including on the cusp of death.  He's learned how much we can bring to the table in those moments -- how distracting and even destructive that can be -- and how each of us actually has the capacity to care for others, no matter our situation.  Each of us can create space.

How has God invited you to create space for others?


In episode 123, Jim Barnard never wanted to be "a suffering guy", but three months into his marriage a mysterious health issue in his wife changed everything.  Jim presses us deeper into the experience of the caregiver, and he's as candid about his disdain for the suffering as he is about his confidence in the goodness of God.  God did not "fix" his wife, and yet somehow they are living in the midst of "abundantly more", chief of which is Jim's deepening understanding of THE Suffering Guy.

How has God invited you to share in the sufferings of Christ?


In episode 124, Debby Kruszewski presses us into a frustrating reality: it's possible for us to self-inflect our suffering.  For her, it was the years of ruminating on an event in 7th grade that led her to see how she was bringing herself now, and she now invests her time in lifting others up.  What if, instead of self-inflecting suffering, we found ways to pursue the peace and presence of God?

How have you broken from self-inflicted suffering?


In episode 125, Melinda Culbertson shares the many, many stories of health issues that have made this concept of "sitting in suffering" deeply relatable for her; yet in the midst, she has known God as loving and powerful.  As much as she longed for healing, she recognized that God was giving her an invitation to represent Him in the midst.  However, to do so required following Jesus' example when he too was suffering; to say, "not my will, but your will be done."

How has God invited you to embrace his will over yours?


In episode 126, Orlando Palmer, also know as the musician Iamson, paints for us a beautiful picture of how the gifts and passions God has given us can help us to find peace in the midst of suffering.  Orlando has always loved to create music, and in his hardest moments his songs have become ways to channel his ruminating thoughts; and sometimes, the God of "abundantly more" uses what healed Orlando to heal others.  No matter how hard your situation, God has equipped you with gifts to know that He is always with you.

What gifts has God given you to find peace in the midst?


In episode 127, Kim Peacock opens up about a painful season when her life changed in one tragic moment.  Not long before, her husband had said, "We should talk about what we'd do if something ever happened to one of our kids," to which Kim responded, "God is not going to allow that to happen, because He knows I couldn't handle it."  Are there things you think you couldn't handle, and deep down you believe God has to protect because it'd destroy you otherwise?  What if we're wrong about our capacity?  Or more, what if we are underestimating God's capacity through us? 

What has God handled that you were convinced you couldn't?


In episode 128, Mark Steiner gives us a unique companion episode to his wife Darci's episode in the "Healing Series."  The theme of the caregiver in the midst of suffering continues to appear, and Mark gives us a transparent look into his experience of caring for (and at times not) for his wife, and how this journey has not only brought them closer together, but closer to God.  There is a beautiful invitation Jesus is giving around caregiving, and it may be abundantly more than you imagine.

How has God invited you to care for others?


In episode 129, Joshua Marcengill uses his story of being met by Jesus at his lowest point to help us process that God invites us to more than simply positivity.  We've talked often about the risks of platitudes, and this conversation presses us further to note that positivity it limited; God's eternal gifts, however, are limitless, and He's inviting us to receive.

What eternal mindset has God invited you to?


In episode 130, Heather Carter helps us discover a gift God has given us to thrive: public transparency.  That's not our gut expectation though, is it?  Public transparency seems risky, costly, and even foolish.  Yet, it was through public transparency that Heather was able to navigate a season of suffering, discover more about God, and find a purpose in life she wouldn't have pursued on her own.

How might God be inviting you to public transparency?


In episode 131, Dr. Pamela Mshana invites us to "run into the storm."  She found God inviting her into this when a challenging work situation brought up deep, forgotten trauma from her past, and she had a sense that God was inviting her to not flee or cower, but run towards Him.  While that experience deepened her spiritual maturity, she has sense discovered that the cycle continues, as does the continuing opportunity to learn more deeply of God's power and love.  The storms might be frightening, but if Jesus could nap in one, maybe he is inviting us to trust him in ours.

What storm is God inviting you to run into?


In episode 132, previous guest Micalah Collins shares how a season of suffering led to an invitation to operate outside of the internal and external expectations that had been influencing her.  In this space she found peace; yet so many are still pressured by expectations, trying to fit into a construct counter to what God may have intended.  1 Corinthians talks of us as being a Body, and "in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be"; and yet too often, in the midst of our suffering, we can question our value and place.  But you DO have value, and you do have a place, if you're willing to trust God's vision.

How has God positioned you in the Body?

In episode 133, Dorsey Ross shares how he will not let his circumstances lead him to limit God.  Born with Apert's Syndrome, Dorsey has known what it has meant to be both limited and have others assume limitations for you.  He also knows Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Dorsey's story reminds us both of our tendency to limit God in the midst of suffering, and the reality of His limitlessness, and leaves us with an invitation to step in faith. 

How have you limited God?

In episode 134, we experience a special episode with multiple guests!  I set up my mic during a unique event called "The Gallery", hosted by East End Fellowship, which invited the congregation to share their creative gifts with the entire spiritual family.  In fact, that was the theme: spiritual family.  John (a previous guest), Adrianna, Kenya, and Shawn join me at the mic to talk about "spiritual family in the midst of suffering", where we discover our tendency to pull back, and God's invitation to lean in.

How is God inviting you to lean into spiritual family today?

In episode 135, Pastor Corey Widmer invites us to do something we aren't interested in by default: suffering well.  That's because we don't want to suffer at all.  Interestingly, I intended this to be the finale of the "Sitting in Suffering" series, but God had other plans; throughout this season we've heard not just stories of suffering, but moments when guests "suffered well", so this episode serves as an important pause as the series continues.  If you aren't sure how to suffer well, or you feel you lack the capacity or desire, this conversation may encourage you.

How is God inviting you to suffer well today?

In episode 136, Scott Schara helps us process what discernment looks like in the midst of suffering.  It's often said "hindsight is 20/20", and what we can discern in retrospect is too often mired in confusion when we are sitting in suffering.  Scott has navigated this as he's processed the death of his daughter during a hospital stay.  The more he has looked into her hospital records, the more he has come to believe it was not an accident.  How does one respond in that space?  How does one forgive?  And how do we grow the ability to discern when our suffering is deep and complex, and we are at the end of ourselves?

How can you invite Spirit-led discernment today?

In episode 137, Sue Corl invites us to see beyond our story, to the stories God is writing amidst ours.  Her's is a powerful journey itself; due to medical issues at birth, she endured dozens of surgeries throughout her youth, traumatic bullying, and challenges within her home.  However, God was in her midst, and used her story to plant seeds around the world.  Yet God wanted us to go beyond her story and explore the story her mom had written for her at that time, and we discovered that knowing the stories of others amidst ours can lead to abundantly more than we could ask or imagine.

Who's story might God be inviting you to hear today?

In episode 138, Jacqui Wilson's story forces us to confront the reality that we often view our situations -- and other people -- in broad sweeps.  Jacqui has learned from her roles as an attorney and Children's Minister that without the nuances, we may not see others as "made in the image of God", and may actually miss God at work.  What if God is inviting us to see our situations and those around us as He does?

How has God confronted your "broad sweep" vision?

In episode 139, Alicia Luca Dean's story invites us to consider how our boundaries can be opportunities to "love God and love others".  She made the hard call to walk away from a toxic relationship with her parents, and through that learned the healing God can bring when we trust him in the midst.  If you are navigating childhood trauma or toxic relationships, or simply want to discern how to navigate hard interactions, this will encourage you.  Also, you'll hear about a viral post Alicia created that you've likely seen!

How has God guided you to stay or walk away?

In episode 140, Annette Spurr hits us with a tough one: sometimes the breakthrough we're longing for is realizing there is no breakthrough.  It's tough because in our heaviest moments, we long for breakthrough; interestingly, God longs for it as well, but what He is after is abundantly more than our best breakthrough ideas.  How can we learn to release OUR breakthrough as a step of faith to trust HIS, especially when the hardship may remain?

How has God brought breakthrough in a way you didn't anticipate?

In episode 141, Phil Thompson helps us acknowledge a difficult reality: sometimes our suffering is a result of our nearsightedness (or even the nearsightedness of others.)  Spiritual myopia -- our tendency to focus hard on the present and leave the eternal a blur -- is something we're all prone to struggle with, but God desires us to have "eyes to see"... if we're willing.

When have you been spiritually nearsighted?


In episode 142, Kent Stoneking shares his journey of navigating diabetes and the threat of amputation, pressing us to consider how we respond to the decision-points in the midst of suffering.  Those moments can be stressful, frustrating, or crippling, and can seem to deepen our suffering; what if they actually create an opportunity to follow Christ?  How do we do so when it seems like the cost is too much, and yet Jesus says "come" nonetheless?

When has God invited you to "count the cost"?


In episode 143, Michael Scholtes invites us to confront what we think disqualifies us, that God may actually intend to use for abundantly more than we could ask or imagine.  Michael has struggled with depression throughout his life and is keenly aware of how that could seem like a disqualification to being a pastor.  Not only has it not disqualified him, but in a beautiful moment of God's creativity, he discovered how his "limitation" equipped him to pastor his church in powerful ways.

What do you think disqualifies you, that God may intend to use?


In episode 144, Kim Sorrelle shares the wild invitation God gave her when she was sitting in suffering: to commit over a year exploring what "love is" by engaging the "is" and "isn't" phrases in 1 Corinthians 13 one month at a time.  Let's be honest: we may acknowledge that "God is love", but do we really know what "love is"?  Afterall, aren't we quick to question His love when things get too hard?  But if God is love, and he is with us, maybe love is with us in the midst of suffering too.

How has God equipped you to love when things were hard?

In episode 145, Benjamin Bell helps us confront how we limit God's ability.  Sometimes our suffering is heavier because we question what God can do; sometimes in our spiritual maturity we know God can do things, but we decide precisely what those things should be.  The real invitation is to simply affirm that "God can", and leave the details to Him.  Benjamin did this when he accepted a counter-intuitive and risky invitation four years ago, and strives now to trust God in the midst, whatever He does or doesn't do.

How can you embrace the reality that "God can"?

In episode 146, Nicky Billou helps us explore the concept of oppressive spaces leading to suffering.  As a child, Nicky's father recognized that remaining in Iran could become dangerous for their family, so he worked to move his family out before things got worse.  Though he was saved from that oppressive space, Nicky discovered that hardship remained ahead, whether it was acclimating to a new culture, wrestling with the wounds of religion, or navigating the challenges of his personal life.  His journey has led him to recognize that suffering is a part of life... but Jesus can be too.

How has God sustained you in oppressive spaces?

In episode 147, Laura Diehl invites us to press into the concept of "hope".  If hope is "a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen", that means that anytime we have an expectation or desire, we are hoping for something; in other words, rather than wondering if we have hope, perhaps we should ask "what am I hoping for?"  After all, what we hope for will determine how we navigate our seasons of suffering, and how clearly we can see God at work in the midst.

How has God reoriented your hope?

In episode 148, Johnathan Drayton presses us to consider how we are understanding and engaging the Word in the midst of our suffering.  Too often, we will utilize the Word for platitudes or fixes, but what if God actually intends abundantly more than we could ask or imagine?  If you enjoy this conversation, check out the conversation Johnathan and I had on his podcast, "The Truth of the Matter Is."

How has God's Word guided you?

In episode 149, EksAyn Anderson shares a story that reveals what can seem a daunting reality; in the midst of our suffering, others are watching.  EksAyn had interactions with his mom as a kid that impact him to this day, and she never knew the depth of impact.  When we are in hardship, we can already feel like we have no capacity, and the thought of having to navigate well for the sake of others can seem impossible.  What if God is actually inviting us into an opportunity to plant seeds as ambassadors of Christ, even if we aren't feeling it?

How has God's planted seeds through you?

In episode 150, Steven Snook presses us to not miss out on the most powerful gift in the midst of suffering: the Spirit.  There is no shortage of valuable advice and resources for navigating suffering that aren't Christian-based; so if you can navigate suffering without God, what does God bring to the table?  Steven would tell you it's the power of the Holy Spirit, and we are missing out on full life and peace by not honestly contending with the reality of the Spirit.  Maybe that scares you, maybe it confuses you; and maybe the Spirit is nearer than you know

How has the Spirit helped you in hardship?

In episode 151, Tim Lodgen's powerful story allows us to go deeper into a topic we've only lightly addressed: suicide.  Suicide is difficult to discuss; it's a topic that carries deep emotions, difficult theology, and hefty stigmas.  However, not discussing it leaves the many who wrestle with suicidal thoughts feeling more alone.  The truth is, they aren't alone; these emotions and mindsets can be found in scripture.  Tim and I don't give answers, but we do create space to discuss this hard topically honestly.  Tim also shares transparently his challenging journey with addiction, and how God was with him even when he couldn't believe it.

How has the God brought you peace amidst hopelessness?

In episode 152, Darryl Rodgers helps us acknowledge a sentiment that can trip us up: "It shouldn't have been this way."  It could have been easy for him to say this, when after striving to be a good father he watched his son slip into a destructive addiction struggle that eventually cost him his life.  What makes this particularly hard is that sometimes we are right... it shouldn't be this way.  And yet it is.  How do we learn to trust God when things aren't as they should be, and how might we discover the "abundantly more" He is working on?

How has the God brought you peace when things weren't as they should be?

In episode 153, Karis Meier's story challenges us to consider if we are accepting grace.  When an unexpected medical issued to life-long, serious health issues, it could be hard for Karis to know what God was doing and how to navigate the mounting hardships.  In the midst, however, God was inviting her at accept his grace; even more, Karis -- who's name means "grace" -- was being invited to accept who God had created her to be.  Sometimes in the midst of our suffering it can be hard to see (or trust) the grace God is extending to us; how can we grow better at accepting it?

How has the God brought you grace in the midst of hardship?

In episode 154, my friend Angela Westmoreland's story presses us into an element of "rest" that is uncomfortable: what if our need for rest is so vital that God forces it?  It sounds unfair and controlling; but what if "forced rest" can actually be a profound display of God's love for us?  This is what Angela discovered: when a foot injury led to a difficult period of forced rest, she realized the restoration God had in store was far beyond the physical.  Like in Psalm 23, you may find God "makes you lie down" when you'd rather keep going, but perhaps the good Shepherd knows what we need.

How has the God used forced rest to restore you?

In episode 155, Coach Jonathan McLernon invites us to embrace starting over again as an opportunity.  Starting over can feel daunting and unjust, and so many of us have found ourselves there despite our best efforts.  Jonathan takes us on a journey through an attempted murder, to a pursuit of weight-loss, to a costly betrayal, and how along the way he often found himself -- whether practically or spiritually -- back at the start, and how he now sees that God was right there with him.  If you feel like the reset button was pushed without your permission, God might have abundantly more in store.

How has the God invited you to start over again?

In episode 156, Beth Thorp helps us know what it means to find meaning in the midst of our suffering.  Her family was thrust into hardship when a mystery illness struck her son Mitchell and upended their lives.  Their thoughts became filled with questions -- for doctors, for God -- that too often went unanswered.  Yet God heard them, and more than answers, He desired to reveal the deeper meaning He was inviting them to.  We long for their to be meaning to our struggles, and if you've been asking "Why?" a lot lately, Beth's story will encourage you.

How has the God helped you find meaning?

In episode 157, Donna Tashjian shares a story that helps us confront our struggle with trust.  After all, it's hard to trust when others have hurt you, or not shown up when you needed them; and it's hard to trust God when He didn't protect you from the hardship.  When Donna was 14, someone close to her family hurt her in such a way that soon found herself a teenage mother, leaving her stigmatized and struggling.  It was hard to know who she could trust; yet in the midst, God was with her, and proved Himself faithful to be trusted.  If your hardships have left you wrestling with mistrust, Donna's story will empower you.

How has the God proven Himself trustworthy to you?

In episode 158, Dan Coe shares how a season of suffering seemed to strip them of a thriving ministry... until they discovered a new ministry in the midst.  We've heard often this season of folks who held traditional jobs, experienced suffering, and landed in a new ministry after; but what if you're already IN a ministry, and the hardship bring things to a halt?  Dan and his family experienced this, as an unexpected cancer diagnosis led them to leave the ministry they loved indefinitely.  What they came to learn amidst the treatments and appointments is that God was still inviting them to serve, simply in a new and important space.

How has God given you ministry in the midst?

In episode 159, Marti and Louis Williams share how not even near-death experiences could keep them from being "one" in the midst. Hardships have a tendency to isolate us, but the reality is that God has created us to be in relationship with one and with others; while isolation can weaken us, oneness can bring us to abundantly more than we could ask or imagine. How do we remain one in the midst, though, when the suffering is intense?

How has God equipped you to be one in the midst?

In episode 160, Susan Johnson invites us to confront how we understand Bipolar Disorder and other mental health conditions. As we've explored in several episodes, mental health conditions are frequently stigmatized, misunderstood, and seen as disqualifying. What if, though, God is calling us to serve Him not INSPITE of our struggles, but WITH them in mind? What if the things we see as limiting actually give us the capacity to see the limitless?

How has God used your struggles in your callings?

In episode 161, Colleen Faul hits us early with a phrase that would catch many off-guard: "blessed with special needs." When she describes her daughter's journey with Infantile Spasms and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, she is aware many would see Gracie's life as unfortunate; yet God has shown her and her family how He is doing abundantly more than they could ask or imagine. You may see things in your own life that seem unfruitful or wrong, and struggle to believe it could be a blessing; yet God may be in the process of taking you to heights you couldn't -- or wouldn't -- have trod otherwise.

How has God shown you are blessed amidst hardship?

In episode 162, Blaine Lay helps us process how -- amidst suffering -- we're not just invited to engage with community, but engage AS community. Scripture invites us to step in to the hardships around us as a Body, and through God's wisdom and power we can see Him do amazing things. But how do we engage as a community? What makes it difficult? Why does it matter?

How has God invited you to engage as community?

In episode 163, we do something different. I felt like God was inviting me to have one more guest before the finale, and I had several exciting options in mind. Then, every single one said no. I was left with a sense there was one more episode, but no clue who to invite. Then, on the morning of my self-determined deadline, I felt like God wanted me to read the verse of the day, and immediately I knew who the guest would be: the "suffering servant" himself, Jesus.

What cups has God lovingly chosen not to take from you?

In episode 164 -- the series finale -- we address what is the quintessence of suffering, hell, through an unexpected conversation. For nearly 17 years, my wife Becca Granger has been navigating something that is difficult -- if not impossible -- to share, yet arguably one of the heftier experiences of suffering we've explored this season. She shares of the moment she fell into an experience of hell so real that it disrupted her life for years to come; yet in the midst of the profound suffering, she was never separated from the love of God. If God's love can't be stifled by even hell, His love is present in your hardship as well.

How have your hardships been unable to separate you from God's love?

Keep up with all the Grangers are up to

God has been opening up opportunities to "Love God and love others" beyond the podcast; join the Grangers on the wild journey God is crafting.

Grangers serving Richmond