More than merely remembering, Advent is also about anticipating, living in the tension of what is and what will be—the Second Coming, when Jesus returns. Whereas Lent focuses on fasting and repentance, Advent centers around prayers of expectation, a desperate people living in darkness who pray in expectation for the coming of the Light. Each week for the month of December, I’m sharing a focus scripture as well as an excerpt of Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves (Zondervan, 2019). May your Advent experience this year be rich with His Presence and Light.

Someone recently asked me, “What’s the hardest thing for you right now?”

It didn’t take me long to answer.

“The choice I make every day to wake up and live.”

There is a deep loneliness in suffering. Whether it’s a terminal disease, a chronic illness, the loss of a child, or the irreparable severing of a relationship, suffering brings with it an otherness. Perhaps that is both the burden and the gift. For in this lonely place we learn how to keep company with others who find themselves there.

It’s easy to assume that life comes back once the crisis is past. But life never comes back. New life can grow, and I see evidence of that fact. But new life can grow only as it is watered by grief’s tears.

I’m going to tell you something, and you won’t like it any more than I do. But we both need to hear it.

God’s presence is where the pain is.

He’s in the losses and diseases and questions. He’s in the plans that fail and relationships that refuse to heal. He is with you when you hurt and cry and pout and walk away. And if you and I want to be with Him, we need to stop raging long enough to hear Him whisper into the wound we so desperately want Him to heal.

Recently I read an article by pastor John Piper that spoke healing and hope to my empty heart:

“God is glorified in worship not only by those who come full, but also by those who come desperately needy and pinning all their hopes on meeting God. The same heart of worship that says, ‘Thank you,’ and, ‘Praise you,’ when full also says, ‘I need you, I long for you, I thirst for you,’ when empty. It is the same savoring, the same treasuring.”

There are days when God seems hard to find. I weary of the search and want to collapse beneath a bush and dream of heaven. On these hard, hard days, I can’t always feel Him. Pain, on the other hand, is impossible to miss. It’s as close as my neighborhood or the nine o’clock news. As close as my own throat every time I swallow.

In those moments, I want a God who shows up in earthquakes, wind, and fire. I want a God of fireworks in the sky and visions of Jesus on my toast. I want the sensational and spectacular, some- thing bigger and more powerful than all the pain.

And yet I suspect God knows better than to give me such experiences. We have a way of worshiping things that never last. And the one who holds this crazy world in His hands knows we need far more than a fifteen-minute light show to get through the hard reality of everyday life.

We need a person … A person who holds us even when we can’t see Him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus says (Matt. 11:28).

Life is more than we can handle. And although some days you and I can do little more than collapse onto the floor, there is one who whispers in our ears. He’s not always showy, but He’s always rock solid. I sink into Him, stop the running and rocking. I decide to hide myself in this cleft in the rock, right here, in the middle of the storm.

Look at My face, He says. I’m not afraid. You’re going to be okay.

And the last thing I think as my soul slides off into peace is that, perhaps, this is why He allowed me a life that is far more than I can handle.

That way I’d know—and finally believe—He can handle every bit of it. 

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me. —Psalm 13:5-6

Relentless Gift Pack now available!


Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? The Relentless Gift Pack is an easy and meaningful option for friends, neighbors, teachers, and family members who are looking to deepen their understanding and experience of God’s presence in the middle of real life. It includes the Relentless book, the Altar Stone Companion Card Pack, an olive wood cross, and chocolate, wrapped in a lovely organza gift bag (while supplies last). Want to personalize your gift? Include a message in the “notes” section of your order. Merry Christmas, friends! He is with us!

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When you need to know God is near, grab this free download of verses compiled by Michele and inspired by her new book, Relentless.

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