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Articles, Endurance for the Journey, Featured

Winter Storms
“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
His word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
When one rules over men in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings the grass from the earth.”
2 SAMUEL 2:2-4 (NIV)



Roaring winds, the spray of sleet and snow … Do you remember winter storms as a child? I sure do. I’d shiver under my quilt, listening to the creaking branches outside of my bedroom window. Moaning winds made me feel lonesome. I hoped sleep would let me escape the night, but every time I’d nod off, rattling windows would shake me awake. I watched the twisted shadows of branches jerk madly across the bedroom wall. Would morning ever come?



Yes, but with it came a different picture. I awoke to soft rays of sun warming my bed covers. The howling had ceased. Quiet called me out of bed and to the window, where I gasped at the dazzling white landscape. It was … beautiful. There are days when my soul feels windblown, raw and exposed – times when I’m tossed in a blustery tempest with everything breaking loose. But the God who brings beauty out of blizzards promises to bring peace after the storm. And when the beauty dawns, I hardly remember the fright of that stormy trial.


JONI EARECKSON TADA



I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart,
because I have overcome the world.
JOHN 16:33 (NLT)



On the journey with you,
Jan & Dave Dravecky

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Articles, Hope, Words of Endurance

Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty.
And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth,
the midwife said to her,
“Don’t be afraid, for you have another son.”
GENESIS 35:16-17 (NIV)



As we pray and immerse ourselves in the Bible, we can’t help but discover that we are of infinite worth to God. He cares so deeply about the needs of our hearts that he has seen fit to record the heart cries of others who struggled before us so that we would know we could express our deepest longings to him. He who has so tenderly numbered the hairs on our heads surely knows and understands our physical and emotional needs.



“What’s the price of a pet canary?
Some loose change, right?
And God cares what happens to it
even more than you do.
He pays greater attention to you,
down to the last detail –
even numbering the hairs on your head!
So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk.
You’re worth more than a million canaries.
MATTHEW 10:29-31 (THE MESSAGE)



ON THE JOURNEY WITH YOU,
JAN & DAVE DRAVECKY

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Anger, Articles, Depression, Words of Endurance

by Jan Dravecky



My anger at God grew into rage. I shook my fist and screamed, “I can’t feel you, I can’t see you, I can’t sense you, I don’t even know if you exist anymore. And if you do exist, why aren’t you helping me?” That’s how I felt after my husband Dave’s cancer returned in May 1990. I was absolutely exhausted and so depressed that I couldn’t leave the house. I looked for strength and comfort in the words of the Bible. But I did so with a heavy heart, as if scavenging for scraps of hope I didn’t really expect to find. I prayed I would soon return to my normal self, but things got worse. When Dave had surgery to remove the tumor in his arm, the doctor found more cancer. It was only a matter of time before Dave would lose his arm. One afternoon our kids came begging me to take them for a swim. I could see how much they wanted me to go with them, but I was numb. I couldn’t move. So Dave, who was suffering the effects of radiation treatments, took the kids to the pool without me. Something inside me snapped: “I can’t even go to the stinkin’ pool with my kids!” I was incapable of carrying one more burden or doing one more task, much less feeling joy in anything.



Provision of Time


Clinical depression often triggers a downward spiral. In my case, fellow Christians didn’t understand why I couldn’t “snap out of it” by praying or confessing my sin. But there’s no easy answer. God never said there would be. The truth is: suffering isn’t pretty. So how does a person endure through depression? Even though I couldn’t feel God’s presence, I kept turning to the Bible. I was desperate to reconnect with the One who had claimed me as His own and had promised to never let me go. Five years passed before I finally made it through that dark season. Looking back, I’ve learned that it takes time. Even with encouragement from the Bible. Even with counseling and treatment. And even if you have a friend who lets you honestly express your feelings without spiritualizing or sugar-coating them. Those things can eventually bring healing, but the seeds of endurance are buried deep under the surface. And it takes time for tender stems to push their way up out of the darkness—and even more time for joy to reach full bloom. I share my story so that others who struggle with depression will know that they are not alone and that they, too, can find the patience to endure.

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Articles, Loss, Words of Endurance

by Dave Dravecky



All I had ever done was play baseball. So when I lost my pitching arm, I lost a lot more too—my career, my position and my sense of identity. Who was I if I was not a pro baseball player? It was a long and difficult journey to identify the real Dave Dravecky. Before my surgery, I looked forward to the amputation. My arm had become useless and was a source of great pain. I wanted to be rid of it. But I had no idea what the consequences would be. After the amputation, I put on a brave face and “sucked it up.” I adjusted to my new “normal” life, but inside—even though I was not aware—I struggled with denial and anger, resulting in depression. Everything familiar had been washed away, and I was face to face with what I had really lost. So much of my identity and worth was wrapped up in that arm and what it had been capable of doing. It had brought me joy. It had brought me financial security. It had brought me the fulfillment of my boyhood dream. My questions could not be held at bay: “Who am I? Why am I here? And now what am I supposed to do with my life?” Individuals and caregivers who deal with long-term illness or disability will inevitably face life-changing losses—often including relationships, skills and resources that have been an essential part of who we are and that have given us joy and purpose in living.



Provision of Perspective


The wake-up call for me came through the counseling that my wife, Jan, sought during her recovery from depression. As I listened to Jan pour out her heart, I thought, “Hey, what she’s going through is similar to what’s happening to me.” Over a period of 18 months of counseling, I began to understand my feelings and, for the first time in my life, learned how to express them—and that wasn’t easy for a jock like me. I also found encouragement and motivation through the hope I have in Jesus Christ. Even as a follower of Jesus Christ, I sometimes wanted to crawl into a corner, paralyzed by fear. But I learned to trust that no tragedy or trauma could ever diminish my worth. My worth is not in what I did, but in who I am—a child of God. With this true perspective of myself, I gained the ability to endure the changes and challenges of living without my left arm. And I laid down my ball and glove. Now, more than 20 years later, I’ve come to recognize that God has a special purpose for my life in offering His comfort, encouragement and hope to others—perhaps even to you or someone you know—on the journey of suffering. Please share this to encourage a friend or loved one.

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Articles, Counsel, Words of Endurance

Seeking Wise Counsel


The Bible clearly encourages us to “seek wise counsel.” In addition to seeing your medical doctor, obtaining good Christian counseling, when effective, can shed light on the source(s) of emotional pain and offer practical, biblical steps toward healing. Much like choosing a physician, selecting the right counselor can be a process. We encourage anyone seeking counseling to proceed with wisdom and prayer. Do contact your insurance company as many policies cover counseling but may have specific guidelines or prerequisites. The following organizations provide either direct Christian counseling or referral to local sources.



Local Churches


Many churches provide free counseling. The quality of counseling, however, can vary greatly. Listed below are some suggested guidelines for choosing a local church counselor.


  1. Do they use the Bible and Biblical principles as their primary counseling tool?
  2. Does the church have experience dealing with your particular issue?
  3. How long has their counseling department been providing counseling? Are their counselors trained? If so, how much and what kind of training do they receive?
  4. Do they believe in medical intervention if it is warranted? Will they refer counselees for medical care?
  5. Are there situations when they refer counselees to professional Christian counselors? If so, what are those situations?
  6. Do they have an initial in-depth screening to determine appropriate counselor placement?



American Association of Christian Counselors


AACC represents thousands of evangelical professionals, pastoral and lay counselors nationwide who are dedicated to promoting excellence and unity in Christian counseling. To find a Christian Counselor in your area, you can access their website or call AACC.



New Life Ministries


New Life Ministries is a non-profit ministry that seeks to provide resources that will help you with your life challenges. New Life has a large network of professional, Christian counselors located throughout the country. The network counselors have gone through an extensive application and credentials verification process. The Network Counselors agree with New Life’s Statement of Faith and meet the professional standards set for the members in the counseling network. Let New Life Ministries help you locate and connect with a New Life Network Counselor in your area. Personalized and confidential referrals are given by phone only. Call New Life at 800-639-5433 TODAY!



Focus on the Family


Focus On The Family is an educational organization consisting of fifty-two separate ministries, each dedicated to the preservation of the home. Recognizing that many families face emotional and spiritual issues that require counseling, Focus On The Family has developed a nationwide network of Christian counselors and Pastors who specialize in counseling. After a free phone assessment, their trained staff can provide a list of counselors in your area and information on cost, including sliding fee scales and voluntary services.

National Association For Christian Recovery (NACR)


The NACR exists to acknowledge and honor the inner challenges of healing. They provide referrals to counselors nationwide and produce a quarterly magazine, STEPS, which is dedicated to issues involving recovery from depression and other disabilities.

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Articles, Cancer

by Jan and Dave Dravecky



Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.
GALATIANS 6:2



Cancer is a life-changing experience. It changes how we view ourselves and our future. It changes our daily routine—perhaps for a few months, perhaps for as long as we live. It may change the kind of work we do or where and how we live. And, as is true for all long-term trials, cancer changes our relationships.



Of all the discomfort, turmoil, and uncertainty that accompany cancer, the struggle to deal with changing relationships often brings us the deepest pain. All too often it seems that just when we need people the most—just when our suffering becomes more than we can bear—people scatter. This is the burden we want to address through this and the next issue of The Encourager.



Through our experiences and the suffering we have witnessed in the lives of others, we have learned that we NEED one another. God never intended for us to go it alone. At the very beginning of the human race, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” so He made Eve. Thousands of years have passed, but our need for one another hasn’t changed. We still need family members and friends to help us bear life’s burdens. Yet bearing one another’s burdens isn’t easy to do. In the face of cancer, amputation, or the death of a loved one, it can be a real struggle for both the person who is suffering and the friend or family member who comes alongside.



By its nature, suffering brings uncertainty, confusion, and isolation. It is difficult to talk about these things, so many people who suffer feel that they need to bear their burden alone. After all, if they don’t understand what is happening, how can anyone else understand’? Others who suffer are afraid to ask for help or don’t want to be a burden to others, so they push away anyone who comes close to them.



Those who would come alongside and help bear the burden may find themselves facing situations and emotions they have never experienced before. They may have no idea how to relate to a friend who has lost a child. They may not know what to say to someone who has lost a limb or is confined to a wheelchair. They may not have the spiritual or emotional stamina to stay the course and stick with a friend who suffers for many months or even years. They may, perhaps for the first time, face their own mortality as they watch a friend fight to live. They may feel they have failed if their friend doesn’t respond positively to their efforts.



All of these things make it challenging to share and bear our burdens. Despite our best efforts, we will all disappoint one another in our relationships. We won’t always be there in the way a friend or loved one needs us; we won’t always accept the gift of true friendship, even when we know we need it. But we can forgive one another and keep trying. We can offer encouragement and step in to lighten the load for one another. May God give us the grace to come alongside one another and bear our burdens together.



“Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.”
CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON

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Articles, Depression

Practical Support


The most important practical thing you can do for a friend who may be depressed is to help him or her get both a medical and a counseling evaluation to create a treatment plan. The sooner treatment is started, the sooner the depression will be relieved. You can also help your friend in the recovery process. Here are some suggestions.


  • Encourage your friend to complete the entire course of treatment (counseling, medication, etc.). Many people battling with depression want to quit treatment when their symptoms begin to improve. However, stopping treatment prematurely can result in a worsening of symptoms and a longer recovery.
  • If your friend’s symptoms aren’t improving after a few weeks, encourage him or her to consult their physician and/or counselor again as treatment plans often need to be adjusted, especially if the plan includes medication.
  • If your friend is struggling to keep treatment appointments, offer to accompany him or her.


Emotional Support


You can also offer your friend much needed emotional support. Here are some suggestions.


  • Learn about depression so you are better able to understand what your friend is experiencing, why he or she may be reacting in certain ways and what to expect while your friend is in treatment.
  • It’s okay to ask someone who is battling depression how they are feeling. However, if you ask, stick around to really listen. Your friend needs to know that you aren’t just asking out of courtesy but that you really care about how he or she is doing.
  • Don’t dismiss negative and disparaging remarks. Your friend is being honest. It’s okay, however, to gently respond with truth-based and hopeful comments. However, if your friend or loved one makes comments that are self-destructive, seek immediate help. Depression can be life-threatening.
  • Initiate activities with your friend that he or she likes, especially if those activities involve physical exercise such as golfing, swimming, hiking, etc.
  • Don’t be forceful with your friend about participating in social events and activities. Encourage but don’t push. You may cause your friend to feel overwhelmed and guilty. One woman described her depression as the equivalent of driving a car down the freeway in first gear. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t use a higher gear. Don’t expect your friend to drive faster than he or she is capable.
  • Offer encouragement and praise when your friend takes positive steps towards recovery such as joining a support group, exercise or art class.



Spiritual Support


Prayer is a powerful weapon in the depression battle. One of the most troubling symptoms of depression is the lack of emotion and feeling. That numbness often occurs in your friend’s relationship with God. So knowing that someone else is standing in the gap for them in prayer can be especially encouraging.


  • Ask you friend for prayer specifics: “How can I be praying for you right now?”
  • Follow up on your prayers, “I’ve been praying specifically about (fill in the blank). How is that going?”
  • Offer to pray with your friend, especially when he or she hits a recovery road block or needs an injection of hope and encouragement.



Copyright © 2011 by Endurance with Jan and Dave Dravecky. Portions Adapted from National Institute of Mental Health web site, nimh.nih.gov. NIMH is a part of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Articles, Counsel

When people are suffering, safe, healthy relationships make a world of difference. Relationships that offer:

  • heartfelt encouragement
  • faithful companionship
  • compassionate understanding
  • wise and caring support

can provide blessings of refreshment and hope even during the dark days of a difficult journey.


These special relationships may be with close friends and family members. Some people may have several such relationships. Other people may have no one.

Whether or not a person already has such relationships, a support group can help fill important relational needs that are hard to meet under the pressure of difficult circumstances. When people who walk the path through suffering come together to share their lives and experiences—their triumphs as well as pitfalls, the glimpses of hope as well as the heartbreaks—they provide and receive help through one another.

Answering the Call

There is no shortage of need for support for people who are suffering, but you want to be certain that starting a support group is the right thing for you to do at the present time. If you think you may be interested in starting a support group, please prayerfully consider these key questions:


Why do I want to do this? Is it the right thing?
Some people want to start a group because they know they need one. While there is nothing wrong with that, your motivation needs to be bigger than your personal needs. You need to care deeply about meeting the needs of others and be committed to following God’s leading in meeting those needs. Some people want to start a group because they believe their experiences can benefit others. This, too, can be a good motivation as long as you realize that your personal experience isn’t the “answer” for everyone. In a support group, people benefit one another—sometimes “giving,” sometimes “receiving.”


Should I be doing this? Is it the right time?

Not everyone who experiences suffering or cares deeply about helping others who hurt should start or help lead a support group.


If your treatment protocol will require periodic treatment for an extended time, if you have children living at home or other family members who need your care, or if your job has a demanding travel schedule perhaps the responsibilities of forming or leading a support group need to be in the hands of others.


Forming a Support Group


Beneficial support groups come in all varieties and sizes—there’s no one-size-fits-all. But there is a structure to the process that can help you start well.


Establish Your Leadership
Leadership needs to be a shared responsibility. You don’t want a support group to flounder because the “leader” can’t sustain the effort. So a leadership team of at least 2 people each of whom have specific responsibilities is most helpful.


People have different ideas of what a support group is, what it should provide, and how it should function. So before any meetings are held, the leadership team should discuss and write down the mission, priorities, essential beliefs and values for the group. Some of the questions this process will address may include:

  • Will your group focus on the needs of people with a specific illness, depression, or disability?
  • Who is welcome to attend the meeting? Is it for patients only, or may family and friends or caregivers participate?
  • How will your group handle out-of-meeting needs such as offering prayer support or assistance for urgent needs?


Determine the Logistics
Where is the best setting for your support group? A home, a church, a medical office or hospital, a public building (such as library meeting room)? A home provides an inviting, comfortable setting. A church, office, or library may not offer as inviting an atmosphere, but it may be more accessible to people.


When is the best time, frequency, and length for your meetings? This depends on the availability of your selected facility and the times when support group members are most likely to be able to participate (physically as well as emotionally/spiritually).


What supplementary services might be needed to facilitate attendance? Child care if your group is likely to include parents of young children, easy wheelchair accessibility, or transportation if your group is likely to include people who suffer from physical limitations or seizures that prevent their driving, for example.


Plan your Program

Every part of the support group meeting should fulfill a purpose in enabling participants to feel welcome, safe, informed, cared for, and valued so that they will discover how to live through their difficult experience with greater peace and success (however they may define it). As you plan the format of your meetings, consider the time frame and how you will conduct the following components:


  • Fellowship time and refreshments
  • Introductions and announcements
  • Program
  • Group discussion
  • Personal sharing
  • Group prayer
  • Closing


It will also be helpful to determine a focus or topic for each meeting. In some cases, you may be able to have a speaker present a program and initiate group discussion. In other cases, you will need to choose resource information or study materials to facilitate group discussion.


You will also need to give someone the responsibility for facilitating the meeting—keeping on schedule, implementing whatever formal teaching may take place, redirecting conversations (the gatekeeper).


Design Your Communication/Promotion


The right people need to learn about your support group. How will you let them know about it?


  • Church bulletins or websites
  • Information in provider’s offices
  • Lists or websites with local service groups, local newspapers or community websites

  • Once a person becomes part of your support group, how will you communicate?

    • How much information do you need to know about people in the group (and will they be willing to share)?
    • Will you have a website with meeting cancellations or will you use a phone chain or establish another policy?
    • Do you need phone numbers/email/addresses?
    • How informed does your group want to be of hospitalizations and deaths?


    Special Considerations


    At times, providing a healthy, supportive atmosphere in the midst of diverse needs may seem like tip-toeing through a mine field. So before you start, it’s important to consider how you will respond to the challenges that every support group faces.


    Acknowledging the Diversity of Needs

    Some people are more needy, self-focused, or difficult than others. Some people have most of the personal, relational, and financial resources they need to face their difficulties while others desperately hang on, barely able to survive. Some people have a hard time respecting other people and will step on others’ toes. Some people will need far more help than a support group can provide and will need encouragement to seek professional help.


    Providing Day to Day Support


    There will be times when a daily phone call, note, or prayer from someone in the support group will be very helpful to a person in need. Determine ahead of time what support your group is capable of providing. Will a specific person (or several) be assigned to provide support for a specific period of time or will the support you provide occur naturally through the relationships that develop within the group?


    Managing Sharing Time


    Some people will tend to dominate a group, and you don’t want your group to be all about one person’s needs, one person’s experience, or one person’s solutions. You may need to set time limits on how long one person may speak. You may need to establish boundaries on how much “advice” is permitted during times of group sharing (what people do outside the group is their personal business). You may need to remind people of the private nature of what is shared in the group.


    Responding to Financial Needs


    This will come up. Although a support group is not responsible to meet the financial needs of its members, there may be times when an individual or the group may want to meet a specific need of a group member. It will be helpful to determine ahead of time how you will handle such needs.


    Sharing Medical Advice


    This will happen during the course of sharing and encouraging one another. Everyone has an opinion regarding alternative, traditional, and spiritual remedies for healing. A support group, however, is not intended nor is it qualified to provide medical advice, so set guidelines for how you will handle the discussion when it goes in this direction.


    Clues for Professional Intervention


    People who live under the stress of acute or chronic illness, depression, or disabilities may at times have personal needs that go far beyond what a support group can provide. At times, an individual may need counseling or professional intervention (such as suicide prevention), so it is essential that you develop a list of local professional and pastoral resources to which you can refer people with acute needs.


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