Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

This is how to find hope in the Bible when you desperately need it

The room was semi-dark; if I sat at the edge, nobody could really see my face. I liked it that way. In a room full of church leaders and staff, passionately praying for God to move and transform lives, I couldn’t connect with their zeal.

I was probably in a season of depression, or lone and homesick. Either way, I remember the emptiness and the soul-ache. Something about being surrounded by such passionate leaders always made it more acute.

Maybe it’s because I knew all the “right” things to say and do. I knew all the verses others promised would fill me with joy and “break off a spirit of depression.”

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

The joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10b)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4

Magic Words

Years before, I was taught to memorize them, to speak them, to use them to fight back against my emotions. The idea was that if I spent enough time in prayer and Bible study, it would solve all my problems. So I tried.

I knew the Bible says, “God’s word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” I knew God said of Scripture, “It will not return to me void,” meaning it wouldn’t come back without accomplishing everything he sent it to do.

Early on, I simply accepted it all at face value, believing it would work exactly as people told me. But when I spoke those words out, they fell empty from my lips, devoid of the power I’d been taught to expect.

Over time, I discovered that it never helped when I went to the Bible looking to feel better. It seemed that uttering verses like magic words was a fool’s errand. And that repeating memorized verses that people told me should fill me with joy…it never did.

I didn’t know there was something missing.

If I make my bed in hell

In that darkened room, I dutifully opened my Bible to Psalm 139, berating myself for not being able to just feel better. This passage is the home of some familiar anti-depression verses like I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made and the one about how God’s thoughts about us outnumber the grains of sand.

Suddenly, the words jumped off the page, shaping an image in my mind:

If I make my bed in hell, you are there.

And there I was, fetal-curled in the black depths of a pit, arms clinging tightly to myself, staring blankly. “If I make my bed in hell…” I knew that place well, though I’d never imagined it quite like that. It was more than familiar.

But what tightened my throat, made me catch my breath, stung my eyes, was the image of Jesus there. In my mind’s eye, he sat close behind me, sometimes laying a hand on my shoulder to remind me of his nearness, sometimes just sitting quietly with me.

“…you are there.”

None of the verses people told me to pray and recite have ever worked like the magic words I expected.

But when something comes alive, jumps off the page, and embeds itself deep into my soul? That’s powerful.

And, dear friend, perhaps you’re experiencing this, too. Perhaps you have the lists of verses and declarations tucked into your Bible or saved on your phone. Perhaps you’ve tried to read and pray and connect with God, but it all just seems so empty.

I’ve been there.

Find hope in scripture when you desperately need it

Here’s the secret:

The absolute best Bible verses for hard times are the ones that come alive to us.

See, we don’t need magic words or magic wands to make it all better (though I’ve wished for that so many times).

Instead, we need to meet with a God who doesn’t desert us in hard times. We need to hear from the mouth of God for ourselves as he breathes into some part of Scripture until it comes alive.

Because yes, God’s Word is living and active. Yes, it is powerful and accomplishes what he sent it to do. I believe that in the core of my being. But if I believe it’s his word, then he gets to choose what he does with it in my life.

And I’ve learned that Jesus comes alive in the pages of Scripture for me, and it’s always as Immanuel. That’s how he stands out to me, how he speaks to my heart. I’ve always found hope in verses about being him being present in the dark.

So he chose the raw, dark imagery of a verse that says, “If I make my bed in hell, you are there” instead of brighter verses like “rejoice in the Lord always” or “be anxious for nothing.”

Because God knows that sometimes, depression, anxiety, and grief feel hellacious to me. And he knows that reminding me he’s present in that darkness is more life-giving to me than the hope of getting out of it.

The Bible can be a well of hope and encouragement for you

There’s deeper peace when Scripture becomes experiential because we trust God to speak to our deepest needs and longings. 

Today, let go of some of the pressure. Today, give yourself permission to not read and recite the “right” verses. Give yourself permission to show up, honest and raw and vulnerable.

Next week, I’ll share the practical steps that have made me confident to hear from God in Scripture every single time I open my Bible. You can have that, too.

For now, what are your questions and struggles with finding hope and encouragement in the Bible? Let me know in the comments below!

30 Replies

  1. Anonymous

    I just want end.

  2. Vickie

    Me too. Hang in there, friend. Life is an endurance race, not a sprint. I’m weary too. I don’t even want to get up in the morning. I ask God to help. Don’t give in. Ask God for strength. Find something to distract your mind, an uplifting video, a good sermon, a good read, even pretty pictures. *Don’t think about unhappy things.* Drag your mind back to the positive side; remember happy Christmases or puppies and kittens … or consider the fact that, out of ALL THE WORLD, God chose YOU to redeem. Read Philippians 4:8-9 and repeat it, over and over and over in your mind (or out loud) until you understand the importance of not allowing your mind to lead you into ugly pastures — I have to drag my mind back from dark wanderings too, so I completely understand. Jesus IS coming soon! Until then, hold your ground. Peace.

  3. Vickie

    Sarah, Thank you for your words. I think you did a very good job of describing the importance of “getting” scripture, so I was hoping to see more responses when I came to the comment section. I think you’re a very good writer. 🙂

    Peace and joy and blessings,

    1. Thanks so much, Vickie! You’re one of the first people to read it, so hopefully there will be some more discussion 🙂

  4. Well, that might be the most profound thing I’ve read in months. I’ve seen people with “I know the plans I have for you” tattoos, but I’ve never seen one that said, “If I make my bed in Hell . . . ” Such a great perspective – that if it’s God’s Word, He gets to decide how He uses it in my life. Thanks for not being trite – and for making a serious difference . . . !

    1. Hallo Mike and Sarah. yip, I agree too, what a perspective. There was a time that I too simply expressed “scripture passages”” or randomly opened my Bible with child like faith that something will jump at me. .. But reading this tonight reminds me that I have to draw a larger “frame” to find rest and peace ins saying / praying ” Psa 139:6  Knowledge too wondrous for me, It is high, I am unable to reach it. 
      Psa 139:7  Where would I go from Your Spirit? Or where would I flee from Your face?  Psa 139:8  If I go up into the heavens, You are there; If I make my bed in She’ol, see, You are there.” now that is something to stand still and think about. so many thanks Sarah ! for this blog entry.

  5. Kathy

    And if we consider the Apostles’ Creed saying Jesus descended into hell, then we may realize that there is no where Jesus has not gone before us. There is no where he can’t go to redeem us.
    So, if someone tells you that you will go to hell for having a thought or feeling, we may turn that into a reminder that even in hell, God’s promise is for you!

  6. Debbie Ogburn

    Thanks, Sarah, for these encouraging words. Mike Bechtle, you expressed what I was thinking, but you said it better than I could right now.

  7. Rebecca

    I don’t remember how it is I’m receiving this email but it felt like an answer this morning. I’m so tired of struggling to be a certain kind of person in a world where only ‘ positive ‘ is wanted. I needed the reminder and permission to show up before Him as honest, raw and vulnerable as I am. As far as struggles with finyhope and encouragement in the Bible ? I’m tired of having more questions than confidence and feeling that there something wrong with me that I have so little confidence

    1. Hey Rebecca, Just noticed your comment. Do you like to read — good books? If so, or if you’re willing to stretch out, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Sharon G Brown’s “Sensible Shoes” series. 4 books. Fiction. Incredible insight and superbly written.
      They follow 4 women who all end up at the same spiritual retreat and each have messy lives, or frozen, or stuck lives. And they just need to learn how to “get real” with God. For most of us that’s like unriddling a riddle, isn’t it!
      First 2 books are available in audio version if you’d rather ‘listen’ to your books.
      God bless you. . . praying for you as I hit SEND on this.

      1. Rebecca Goodman

        Thank you Pilgrim Journeyer for your response, recommendation and prayer! I love to read but a bit slow so I don’t get through many books a year. I will check it out!

  8. You left me with lots to ponder…. Thank you. Perfect timing too….

  9. Amy L Faughn

    Thanks for your honesty in sharing your struggles with not always being being encouraged by reading the scriptures. I’ve been there many times.Its so encouraging to know Iam not alone in this . As I allow myself to be more real and vulnerable and know that God accepts me as Iam,I seem to be learning to trust Him more deeply. Iam so glad He is there in the middle of our mess.Thanks again.

  10. Love this Sarah!

    Brings back some EXCELLANT memories. . .super tough, long-term period in my life. . . about the 6th year in. . .NOTHING WORKING. . . MAJOR discouraging. . .and one of those KEY PHRASES that ONLY HIS SPIRIT knows how to high-lite to us is high-lighted in my soul during one of my reading periods.

    And man-oh-man, I FED on that PHRASE for months. It sustained me. It enabled me to keep on keeping on until my eventual breakthrough came. That was still a full year or more off.

    Later, I realized I had been given some of the “hidden manna” that scriptures reference. It was both BEYOND PRECIOUS as well as DEEPLY NEEDED.
    (In this case it felt exceedingly precious because it was a phrase that came from Christ’s own suffering soul, the night before He was to be crucified.)

    Thanks for spelling out these GREAT thoughts for us all.
    So, not only is HIS WORD powerful, living, n’ active, but HIS SPIRIT is too.

    And AMEN for Him, in and with US!!

    Blessings, PJ

  11. Anna

    I love this post. I have learned to embrace the broken hard places in life because that is where I have met the Lord. I could not agree more, instead of trying to run from or positive think, recite, declare or rebuke our way out of the pit embrace what the Lord can do in us through the refining, redemption process. That is where traits like realness vulnerability and beauty are birthed.

  12. Erin

    Thank you for these great reminders! In my recent season of depression, I’ve been reading the Psalms. Just like you said, David was so honest about his feelings but also how faithful God is, even in darkness.

  13. Jason

    Sarah – thank you for sharing these words. Tears came to my eyes when I realized that Jesus is there in the most dark place or pit of my life. The enemy also does a great job at making me think there’s something wrong with me for feeling depressed or in despair. It’s a great comfort knowing that right there in that despair is where Jesus is WITH me. And I am NEVER alone.

  14. Cara Cicconi

    None of my family cares about me. They ignore me and cause me more pain. I’m very lonely.

  15. Vickie

    Cara Cicconi, I know what that feels like. 🙁 When I feel “lonely,” I try to distract myself. I look for stuff to watch on computer or read or write (I think keeping a journal can be SO helpful! You can tell it *everything* and it *always* listens! LOL).

    I wish we could have a cup of coffee or something. You know, Cara, family can be more painful than anyone or anything else. It’s not supposed to be that way, but it often is. Maybe we (people) just have too many thoughts and feelings about how things are “supposed” to be … which more or less ruins the things about family that are already good … you know? Family knows you at your worst, they’ve seen you cry and laugh, throw fits and play; they’ve seen you with the flu, hair all greasy, nose all red … and they’ve seen you in gorgeous new outfits or beautifully styled hair … they’ve seen YOU, warts and all, as they say. But, Cara, they don’t see ALL of you. No one can do that but God. And that’s the best place to go when you feel lonely, really. God, unlike family, is ALWAYS there. I have learned (and am still learning!) to take comfort from this. Isn’t it funny that we (people) can be “alone,” but *not* “lonely” … yet we can feel “lonely” in a crowd! Anyway, I hope you’re feeling better. Peace.

  16. Bethany

    Sarah…. I’m practically speechless. I lost count of just how many times I found myself taken back by certain things you shared that I so completely identified with…. it’s like you read my mind and then came alongside me.

    That, alone, is Divine intervention. I only recently subscribed to your blog and to have found this particular posting…at this particular time??? Our Father….. our Abba…. is So Faithful.

    God Bless you, Sarah.

    1. Oh, Bethany! I’m so very grateful to hear that. Thank you for letting me know how God used this for you. That’s exactly why I do this. Take good care of yourself <3 Sarah

  17. Tony Prezioso

    This was a great encouragement to me Sarah. When His word comes alive to me I get so overwhelmed by His grace ,love and peace. When feelings of dark depression, fear, anxiety and loneliness come over me He lifts me up out of the “miry clay” and the darkness in me can’t “comprehend” it (John1:5). That’s God’s amazing love for us!

  18. wade

    Encourage Read. I love those verses in Psalms I’ve memorized psalms 139:1-18 in the past. Ive struggled for many years with doubt & unassurance of my salvation. I fear its just a head knowledge & not a heart knowledge. Ive prayed & asked God to save me so many times, and read so much scripture like john 6:37, etc and nothing seems to help. It’s brought about anxiety & depression & hopelessness that I’m pretty much a lost cause. I’ve even came to the thought that its scrupulosity, but i don’t know. I just want Christ to be tangible to me & be able to live in freedom, but at 34 that doesn’t look like its going to happen. Thank you for this article, it gives me a tiny bit of hope.

  19. Telcia

    I’ve just found your blog with a super long, prayer-like Google search…I’ve read two posts and you are just like me and I’m very encouraged. Can we meet? I LOVE redemption too.
    I did go to a depression program this past year that was Christ centered and science based and it helped my whole life. It’s Nedley Depression Recovery. I thought people coming here should know about it. Thanks for your words!

  20. I found your blog the other day through your “The Darkness May Always Be There…” post on Live Original. I’ve been binge-reading in my spare minutes ever since! This post especially struck a chord with me because I didn’t realize I’m not the only one who gets more encouraged by verses like the one you shared than by all the “right” verses for battling anxiety and depression. One of my favorites is Psalm 139:12
    “even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.”
    It gets me EVERY TIME because it’s incomprehensible to my human mind how God isn’t scared by our struggles with darkness!

    Thank you for being courageous enough to share your story!! I haven’t found very many blogs that seem to be speaking just to me, but yours has done that and I’m so grateful:)

    God Bless,
    M @ In Beautiful Chaos

  21. Darle

    I lost my husband and both my son’s. I lost my extended family and my 2 best friends. I am without hope for my future and nothing seems to help. I’ve done therapy and anti depressants and Church and more. But, my reality never changes, my loved ones are dead and I am alone and I just wish I could be with them. It’s hard to get up and face another day, every single day.

  22. Vickie

    My heart hurts for you — and with you. I hear your pain and see your reality and it is, indeed, a harsh one. My reality is no “walk in the park” either. Life can be very, very brutal … and then it’s so *overwhelming* to try and find God somewhere in that mess! There IS purpose to pain and suffering. It feels awful and goofy-stupid and useless and endless …
    But still *it has purpose.* And God will use it. He IS using it. You just can’t see how or to what end.
    Darle, it is all about trust. Trust and obedience. Life can be a drudgery, a gazillion mile death march; gray, ugly, miles and miles of unchanging scenery, a whole DESERT of nothing but more of the same. (I remember thinking: “oh! so *that’s* why the bible is always talking about “endurance”! My life wasn’t *always* this difficult … but it’s always been difficult. Life is not easy. Period.)

    TRUST God. He is preparing a thing for you. Jesus gives a blessing to those who *don’t* see but believe.” <– it is a special blessing because it is *especially* difficult to do.

    I think sometimes we are called to lead "extraordinary lives" that **no one sees but God.** This is how He draws us exceptionally close. Remember when you first met your husband, how you just wanted to be *alone with him?* It is the same way with God … He wants to be alone with you. He wants ALL of your attention.

    Darle, He must love you very much to trust you with such tests. I mean, God *knows* you want to draw back. He. Knows. But press in closer instead. Allow Him. He wants you closer to Him. You are being "purified" for this purpose … and who knows what *other* purpose or purposes He has for you??? (There is excitement in the possibilities if you'll dare to allow these thoughts.)

    We go through "difficult things" so God can build something FOR us. He NEVER SLEEPS, Darle. He is *building* for you a thing you can't see. There is pain, yes. That is the "price" of love. We all know the people we love are going to die … and we have to live and love anyway because that's the heart gives humans. Life is uncertain … death is NOT.

    Trust God. You may see "deliverance" in this world … it may not come till the next, but there IS "purpose" to the trials of your life and God's beautiful Plan isn't easy to understand but His Plan **definitely* "includes" YOU and a full heart at some point — and MORE!

    Strength in this world, happiness in the next.

    Trust God … but don't trust your "feelings" in hardship. Feelings lie. Your "feelings" are lying to you **any time they are pushing you away from God. HE is your "fortress." Don't be deceived into leaving His safety.

    I'm sorry this is so long! If you ever need a friend or sympathetic ear, just let me know (via this comment section) and we can email, if you'd like ..?

    You belong to God. You are my sister. You are NOT alone. Ever. "Friendship" is a blessing I enjoy. 🙂

    Peace and Hope to you.


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