INDIVIDUAL OR SMALL-GROUP STUDY GUIDE
The following questions are designed to further your journey of healing through the study of God’s Word. The guide follows the structure of the book, taking you deeper into Scripture passages mentioned in each chapter with the intent that “grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2) as you apply God’s truth to your life.
Whether you use this guide on your own, with a prayer partner, or in a small group, my fervent prayer, beloved of God, is that it will draw you more and more deeply into the Bible and into understanding God’s heart for you. God longs for you to know His healing, His love, and His hope, even when the hurt runs deep.
CHAPTER ONE: “IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY!”
1. When in your life have you said, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way”?
2. Read John 16:33. What “tribulation” is in your life right now? What would God’s peace look like if you, in faith’s trust, allowed it to overcome that pain?
CHAPTER TWO: YOU DON’T SUFFER ALONE
1. Read Genesis 37:1–31. What prompted Joseph’s brothers to hate him? How did their hate lead to betrayal?
2. Read Genesis 39. Why did Joseph become successful in Egypt? What did “success” look like for him in verses 1–6? In what ways was Joseph’s later imprisonment also a sign of success?
3. Joseph acted with integrity yet ended up in jail. When have you suffered even when you were not to blame for something? What happened to you inside? How did you deal with it—or did you? What difference does it make today in your view of that experience to know that God was with you every moment?
4. In what ways were Joseph’s circumstances in prison similar to his circumstances in Egypt before his imprisonment?
5. Read Genesis 40. How did Joseph respond to being put in jail? What does this suggest about how God calls you to respond when you are somewhere you don’t want to be?
6. What have you learned about God from the circumstances of Joseph’s life so far? Stopping to assess this is so vital to your mental and spiritual health and wholeness.
CHAPTER THREE: IS THERE PURPOSE IN YOUR PAIN?
1. Read Genesis 41:1–40. Considering the passages from Genesis that you’ve read in this study so far, who betrayed Joseph in his lifetime? In what ways did Joseph’s response to Pharaoh (vv. 15–32) reflect humility and wisdom rather than bitterness over these betrayals? Why was he able to respond in this way? What does God want you to see?
2. Read Genesis 45:1–24. What do Joseph’s tears in front of his brothers (vv. 1–2) signify?
3. What do Joseph’s words in verses 5–8 reveal about his belief in God’s purposes?
4. What did Joseph tell his brothers not to do on the way home (v. 24)? Why? What does this suggest about Joseph’s perspective on his suffering?
5. Read Genesis 50:20. What was Joseph placing above his emotions or pain? How did a sense of God’s purpose free him to do this?
6. The psalmist recounted Joseph’s story in Psalm 105. How did the psalmist begin in verses 1–4? How would you describe the perspective of these verses? Why is this significant in light of Joseph’s suffering and the suffering of the Israelites? Why was Joseph’s story worthy of passing down to future generations?
7. What difference does it make—in our perspective, in our ability to cope, in the lives of others—when we confront pain and find purpose in it rather than glossing over it?
CHAPTER FOUR: WHAT KIND OF GOD ALLOWS OUR PAIN?
1. Read Psalm 103. What did the psalmist say God does? What words did the psalmist use to describe who God is?
2. How does your understanding of who God is affect your understanding of who you are? Why does your state of weakness make God’s relationship with you even more significant?
3. Why is understanding the sovereignty of God important to healing?
4. Prayerfully read Revelation 21:3–5 in light of your pain today. What phrase or word brings the most hope to you? Why?
5. Why does the fact that God will one day wipe away our tears make a difference right now? What does this say about God’s character and power?
6. What would you like God to “make new” (Revelation 21:5) in your life? What does God promise you about the future? Can knowing what the future holds enable you to handle the present? How? (You might want to memorize 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 after reading the whole chapter. It’s awesome!)
7. How does the truth that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) make a difference when you suffer? How does knowledge of God’s love free you to find His purpose in your pain?
8. Read Romans 5:6–11. In what ways does this passage focus on realities and actions rather than emotions?
CHAPTER FIVE: A FRIEND IN HIGH PLACES
1. Read Romans 8:28–32. What connection did Paul make between circumstances in our lives and our being conformed to Christ’s image? How have you seen this happen in your own life?
2. How does God use suffering to draw us closer to Him? Describe a time when you have experienced this for yourself.
3. What characteristics of God make Him the only One who can truly heal us?
4. How does it change your view of suffering to know that God is for you (Romans 8:31)? What does this verse suggest about the relationship God desires with you?
5. Read Romans 8:35–39. What things do we “overwhelmingly conquer”? Who or what makes this possible? What is the number-one characteristic about God that gives us victory over pain in our lives?
CHAPTER SIX: A TIME FOR ANGER
1. What is the difference between righteous anger and unrighteous anger?
2. Read Psalm 106:34–48. What makes God angry? Why?
3. Why is God able to be angry and love at the same time? How does His anger demonstrate His love for us?
4. Read Exodus 34:6–7. What difference does it make to you that God has promised to judge those who’ve wronged you? How does knowing this help you love others more? How does it shape your response to their behavior?
5. Read Ephesians 4:25–32. When does anger become sinful?
6. According to this passage, what traits should replace anger and bitterness in our lives? Why? How does unresolved anger at one person affect all of our relationships?
CHAPTER SEVEN: AT THE ROOT OF YOUR PAIN
1. Read the first chapter of Job. How do Job’s actions in verses 1–5 reflect what he valued the most?
2. Why did Satan suggest attacking Job? What was Satan’s expectation? Why did Satan need to speak with the Lord before bringing suffering into Job’s life?
3. How did Job mourn and worship God at the same time? How did his words and actions before his losses prepare him to respond in the way he did?
4. Read Job 2:1–10. Contrast Job’s actions and words, particularly in verse 10, with what a sinful response to such suffering would look like.
5. Why did God allow pain in Job’s life? How did God’s interactions with Satan reflect His love for Job?
6. Did Job get what he deserved? Why or why not? How does our culture promote the idea that your actions alone determine your future circumstances? How does this compare with what you’ve learned about God’s sovereignty?
CHAPTER EIGHT: LIFE CHANGES…GOD DOES NOT
1. Read Job 2:11–13. What is the first thing Job’s friends did when they saw him? How is this similar to or different from how our culture today responds to someone’s grief ? When has someone responded to your suffering in a similar way?
2. What is healing about silence?
3. Read Job 3. How would you describe Job’s words about his suffering? What is the difference between cursing God and Job’s response to suffering? What is the difference between denying pain and Job’s response?
4. Read the words of Job’s friend Eliphaz in Job 5:8–27. What was Eliphaz implying about the reason for Job’s suffering? What was he suggesting about God’s power to heal? Why would Eliphaz’s words in verse 25 be especially cruel to Job?
5. Describe a time when someone tried to comfort you with spiritual platitudes. Were his or her words about God true or untrue? What made them hurtful to you? How did you respond to this person?
6. Thinking over what you’ve learned so far, what words of comfort might you offer today to someone in deep pain?
CHAPTER NINE: GOD’S ANSWER TO OUR “WHY?”
1. When have you declared something to be true about God even though you didn’t understand it?
2. Read Job 38. Who did God speak to? Describe the tone of His words. How does God’s response reflect both His love and His power?
3. Read Job 40:1–5. How did Job respond to God? What did Job’s words reveal about his view of God?
4. Read Job 42:1–6. What truth did Job acknowledge about God in these verses? Why did he need to repent?
5. Why would a new appreciation for God’s sovereignty comfort Job more than the words of his friends?
6. In Job 42:7, God tells Eliphaz that he is angry with him because he spoke falsely about God. Why were Job’s words more acceptable to God? What does this suggest about how God wants us to relate to Him?
7. If you could choose, would you want to understand all God’s ways in your life right now? Why or why not?
CHAPTER TEN: SUFFERING WE BRING ON OURSELVES
1. Why is it tempting to blame others for our pain? What does this say about our view of ourselves?
2. Read 2 Chronicles 33:1–20. What did Manasseh do that was sinful? What do his sins have in common with all sin?
3. What caused God to respond to Manasseh and restore him to Jerusalem? Why couldn’t God heal him earlier?
4. How did God’s forgiveness change Manasseh’s life? Why is forgiveness powerful?
5. What are the similarities between Job’s story and Manasseh’s story? What are the differences? What consistencies do you see in how God responded to each man?
6. Read Psalm 51. If you did not know anything about God, what would you learn about Him from this psalm?
7. Write or pray a prayer of confession to God for any sins that you have not already confessed to Him. Your prayer doesn’t need to be long or eloquent. Tell God how you have sinned. Ask Him for forgiveness. Acknowledge who you are and who He is.
8. Now, in accordance with all you have learned or know about God according to His Word, how will God respond to your prayer? Why?
9. Will you praise God for the healing that comes from knowing all is right between you and Him?
CHAPTER ELEVEN: HAS HOPE FADED FOREVER?
1. Read Lamentations 3. How did the writer’s soul respond when he dwelt on the past? What did he decide to think about instead?
2. How did remembering the characteristics of God restore hope to the writer of Lamentations? Why would Satan want him to dwell instead on circumstances?
3. What do the writer’s words suggest about how he viewed God? In what ways did his knowledge of God shape his response to suffering?
4. What changes over time in this passage, and what stays the same?
5. Why is it hopeful to dwell on who God is rather than on your past actions?
6. How might the story of your life point others to hope in God?
CHAPTER TWELVE: WALKING THROUGH THE FIRE…BUT NOT ALONE!
1. Read Daniel 3. When have you faced persecution—in your family, workplace, or community—because of your faith in God?
2. Why were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego able to say they did not need to defend themselves against Nebuchadnezzar? How do you tend to react to those who unjustly cause you pain or subject you to persecution? What does your natural response reveal about your view of God? your view of suffering?
3. What does Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s reaction to Nebuchadnezzar say about who they believed God to be? What do their words reveal about their priorities, about what mattered most to them?
4. Who was the fourth man in the furnace? Why was he there? How does God’s presence make a difference even when we are experiencing pain?
5. What would it look like in your life to trust God even when you don’t know if He will rescue you from pain? What do you need to believe about God’s nature—as opposed to human nature—in order to trust Him?
6. How might your response to difficult times lead others to God?
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: THE LINGERING HURT OF SUICIDE
1. What are the greatest or most troubling issues you have to deal with when you think of a loved one, or anyone, who committed suicide? What have you learned in this chapter that has helped you with those questions? What issues are not covered that you would like to discuss? (I, Kay, would love to know so I could be of more help. You can reach me through our Web site at www.precept.org/hurt.)
2. Do you find yourself worrying about where the person who committed suicide is? What have you learned from the scriptures in this chapter that can help you handle this worry?
3. Read Philippians 4:8–9. What does God call you to think about right now? Make a list of these eight descriptive phrases. Take each memory or question you have about your loved one’s suicide (or other circumstances leading to the pain you are in) and compare it to the list you just made. If it does not match God’s criteria for your thoughts, what will you do about it?
4. Is it disobedient to dwell on the past in destructive ways? Why or why not?
5. Read Philippians 3:13–14. What would it look like to “forget” what lies behind in your life? Do you believe it’s possible to truly “forget”? Why or why not? What would it look like for you to reach forward to “what lies ahead”?
6. Ask God to show you how these verses can bring healing from your loved one’s suicide or your suicidal thoughts. Express your anger and your pain to Him. Ask Him to guide your thoughts to the traits of Philippians 4:8–9 and pray those traits out loud. Although healing can be slow, keep returning to God with your pain and your desire to submit your mind and heart to Him.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: PULLING THE PLUG ON PAIN
1. When have you had to sacrifice something that was precious to you? How did that experience change you?
2. Read Genesis 22:1–19. How did Abraham’s willingness to let go of Isaac make room for God to reveal Himself ? In what way was Abraham’s obedience an act of worship?
3. How did Abraham’s obedience foreshadow Jesus’ obedience in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42)? What did God do for Abraham that He did not do for Jesus? Why?
4. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7–10. Why did Paul have a “thorn in the flesh”? How was God glorified through this thorn? What connection did Paul make between letting go of his human desire and drawing closer to God?
5. What pain do you need to pull the plug on, to let go of—with total confidence that what you are doing is biblical? And what would change for you if you did? Why haven’t you done so? Do you want to be well?
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: THE BENEFITS OF SUFFERING
1. Read Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23. Has suffering ever caused you to turn away from God? If so, when?
2. What emotional or physical scars do you have as a result of living in this crooked and perverse generation? In what ways can these scars give you hope for heaven?
3. What would it look like for God to redeem the pain you are in right now?
4. Read Philippians 3:7–11. What words did Paul use to describe earthly accomplishments and things? Why? List all the words in this passage that Paul used to reflect his deepest desires. What was his ultimate goal?
5. Read 2 Corinthians 4:16–18. What does the “outer man” represent? What does the “inner man” represent? What does your outer self look like right now? How does it compare to your inner self ?
6. What does affliction lead to, according to verse 17?
7. What things do you “see” in your pain today (verse 18)? What things are happening through your pain that you cannot see? Which will last for eternity?
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: THE HURT YET TO COME
1. When have you experienced pain or persecution because of your religious beliefs? Did the pain surprise you? Why or why not?
2. Read 1 Peter 2:19–25. For what purpose has God called you? How do you know?
3. How did Christ respond to suffering? What purpose did His suffering have? What does this say about the value of our suffering as Christ followers?
4. Read 1 Peter 3:14–18. What did Paul instruct us to do when we suffer for God’s glory? What are we not to do?
5. How can you tell if your suffering is because of righteousness or because of sin? Why does it make a difference?
6. Read 1 Peter 5:10. What does God promise to do for you? Why does He want you to know this promise?
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: HOW CAN JESUS POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND YOUR PAIN?
1. Read Matthew 26:36–46. Describe a time when your soul was “deeply grieved.” Did you go to a particular place to pray or cry?
2. What did Jesus ask His friends to do? Why? How did Jesus respond when He found His friends sleeping?
3. Have you ever asked a friend to be with you when you were grieving or waiting for difficult news? What happened? Why does loneliness so often accompany grief ?
4. How many times did Jesus pray the same prayer? What is the “cup” He referred to? What do His prayers suggest about His relationship with His Father?
5. Which aspect of Jesus’ suffering did you identify with the most? Why?
6. What difference does it make in your perspective on pain to know that Jesus understands your suffering because He, too, suffered?
7. Think over everything you learned in this chapter. How will you respond to the Father and the Son in light of these truths? Write out or pour out in prayer the words on your heart.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: WILL THE HURT EVER GO AWAY?
1. Read Hebrews 10:11–23. What did the priests do again and again? What was the result? What have you done or said over and over to try to redeem pain in your life? How well did that work?
2. How many sacrifices did Jesus make (vv. 12–13)? For how long? How does Jesus’ sacrifice influence you? What does this imply about your ability to redeem your pain?
3. The Holy Spirit testifies that Jesus’ sacrifice is a sign of God’s covenant (v. 16). What does God do to seal this covenant with us?
4. Why can we draw near to God with confidence? How does this confidence lead to hope?
5. Read Ephesians 4:31–5:2. What does bitterness lead to? Why?
6. Why does God call us to forgive others? How does our forgiveness of others remind us of God’s forgiveness of us? Does God expect us to forgive others out of our own power? Why or why not?
7. When have you seen the inability to forgive cause someone greater pain? In what way does forgiveness loosen the grip of the past on our lives?
CONCLUSION: LIFE-PRESERVING WORDS
1. Read Romans 5:1–5. What are we called to exult in? What result does tribulation ultimately bring?
2. When has disappointment caused you to dwell in pain rather than risking hope?
3. According to this passage, what kind of hope does God give? Why? How might a confidence in God’s hope free you to have joy again—to exult?
4. Throughout this study, we have looked at passages that contrast dwelling on the past with hoping in the future. Why does hoping in the future make such a difference in our healing? What do we learn from the fact that God speaks words of hope so often in Scripture?
5. What practical changes could you make (such as meeting more regularly with a community of believers, getting more sleep, memorizing Scripture) that would further God’s work of healing in your life?
6. Looking back on the twelve healing truths outlined in this book (see pages 195–96 for the full list), which ones resonate with you the most right now? What could you do to remember these truths when you need them most?