“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34: 17-18).

Nancy Guthrie, Christian author and teacher, observed two opposite reactions when watching people go through tragic experiences. Their hearts will become hardened against the Lord or they became “more soft and pliable to the work of God.” When our hearts are broken, in our pain we often react by putting the blame on God or someone else. We may feel deserted, betrayed or both. Whether we blame God or someone else, we judge guilty and begin a process that can harden our hearts. We can become bitter and resentful, nurturing the enemy’s seeds in our soul.

To avoid that and “to nurture a soft heart,” Guthrie sends us to Paul’s circumstances: “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus…fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:6-8). Guthrie emphasizes how thankfulness changes everything: “Gratitude plows up the ground for God’s peace to grow. This is the kind of peace in the midst of pain that is foreign to the world. Peace is the gift of God, but we prepare ourselves to receive this gift as we pray about everything, cultivate gratitude, and refuse to surrender to worry.”

Adapted from The One Year Book of Encouragement