Endurance for the Journey, Featured, Pain

A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit

Which pain is worse, emotional or physical? Like you, I’ve faced both kinds: crushing physical pain with no position in which I can get comfortable; crushing heartache in which my head spins with grief and I can’t stop the tears. As Proverbs says, “Heartache crushes the spirit.”

You can almost distract yourself from physical pain. Even in a wheelchair, I’ve devised clever ways to forget about my paralysis. But inside suffering – that’s another matter. You can’t put mental anguish or heartache behind you. Those hurts create an emptiness that refuses to be pushed or crowded out of your thoughts. It bites. Gnaws. Grinds away at your spirit.

I’m convinced emotional pain is much worse than physical pain. But I’m also convinced it does something to our heart that physical pain often can’t. Inner anguish melts the heart, making our souls pliable and bendable. Because we can’t drive it from our thoughts, it forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.


The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
PSALM 34:18 (NLT)

On the journey with you,
Jan & Dave Dravecky


Grace, Hope, Pain, Words of Endurance

Available at: Amazon.com/author/debbiewoods

When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said,
“Lord if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Some Christians love to retell their life story before Jesus. Whose was more abused, neglected, sad, tragic, and heartbreaking? Or whose was more sinful, wicked, shameful and scandalous? Although I didn’t often speak of my back- story, in my heart I focused more on the “before” than the “after.” I allowed questions, sorrow, and self-pity to dominate my narrative.

Then I met Lazarus (See John 11). I imagined his back-story: “I loved Jesus; I was his friend. My sisters and I served him faithfully. We were braver and more devoted than anyone. We were part of his inner circle. Then I got sick. You can’t imagine how I suffered. My doctor said he had never seen a more agonizing case! My sisters were devastated. When the doctor said it would be fatal, we sent for Jesus, but He didn’t even bother to come! Can you believe it? After all we did for Him? Well, He came later and resurrected me, but have you ever heard of such unnecessary suffering? I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”

But Jesus had withheld His blessing to increase it. He did not hurry to restore Lazarus and relieve his sisters’ sorrow. He waited for the glory of God. He had His eye on the eternal spectrum, not on their personal comfort. Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave by name so that others might believe in the One who had sent Him.

And so it is with me. Jesus waited, as I was dead in sin. But in the fullness of time, He commanded others to roll the stone away, removing the obstacle between us, called me by name out of death and into life. He commanded others to unbind me from my grave clothes and teach me to walk by faith. Jesus set me at liberty to testify to the miracle and His glory.

Lazarus did not tarry or go back to his putrid bindings, and neither should I. The grave of this world is no place for those whom Christ has quickened. We must come forth laying aside every hindrance. Satan calls me back to focus on old pain, injustice, and unkindness to distract from the mercy and grace of Jesus, saying, “Look at those old bindings and smell them again. Remember what you went through?”

No, God gives us the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. He has rewoven me and put me in working order again.

To all who mourn in Israel,
He will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
That the Lord has planted for his own glory.



Grace, Grief, Pain, Words of Endurance



Be gentle with one another, sensitive.

By God’s design and to my surprise, I have become deeply involved with a delightful young family. The first son and his twin brothers are only twenty months apart in age – quite a challenge for any mom right there. But in addition, the eldest has autism, and the twins have craniosynostosis, a genetic disorder that affects the skull, neck, head, face, mouth, teeth and hands. Multiple surgeries and complicated orthodontia are required, along with various ongoing physical and speech therapies. Later their sister was born. She, too, has developmental needs. Each child is a delight with unique talents, gifts, and personalities. They enrich my life.

I have spent thousands of hours with these kids, frequently out in public for an adventure together. Generally, I’m too busy directing and supervising them to notice those around us. But over the years, I’ve drawn a conclusion regarding people observing us. When the children with an unusual appearance act inappropriately, I see sympathetic smiles and nods. Some people will comment on my patience or kindness in the situation.

But when the child who appears normal is behaving oddly, I see critical looks and disdain. I believe the assumption is that the child isn’t well trained or disciplined, in need of correction. No mercy or compassion is offered.

It occurs to me that we are all special needs people. We are all fighting a battle, whether seen or unseen. We are all wounded, whether the scars are obvious or not. Dressed in our Sunday best – the tragedy, abuse, violence, pain, neglect, injustices, mental illness, physical illness, and spiritual torment of our lives are neatly tucked in and covered up. Add a smile and “we clean up real good.”

Others assume we are well balanced, well trained, and well prepared to be well behaved in any situation. If we aren’t, criticism and disapproval abound. If our “disorders” and “developmental needs” were known, perhaps others would respond with compassion instead of judgment.

As God, The Great Physician, tends to each of us, let us remember to show grace, kindness, and gentleness to His other patients. Do not be fooled by the Sunday Best; there are stitches, scars, and braces holding us all together beneath the coverings. We are a brotherhood of The Mended.

Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic,
be loving, be compassionate, be humble.
That goes for all of you, no exceptions.
No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm.
Instead, bless – that’s your job, to bless.
You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.



Grace, Pain, Words of Endurance


His family all tried to comfort him,
but he refused to be comforted.
“I will go to my grave mourning for my son,”
he would say, and then he would weep.
Meanwhile, the Medianite traders arrived in Egypt,
Where they sold Joseph to Potiphar,
an officer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.
GENESIS 37:35-36 (NLT)

When Jacob saw Joseph’s bloody coat of many colors he cried that without a doubt, his precious son had been ripped to pieces. He tore his own clothes, put on sackcloth, mourned, and refused to be comforted. But, as always, all the known facts are not all the facts. Meanwhile, God was working in Egypt.

Joseph had actually been sold to Potiphar. The Lord was with him, showed him mercy, and gave him favor. It was God’s perfect plan to humble and mature Joseph and later save Israel, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham. Years later, when Jacob and Joseph were reunited, Jacob glorified God, saying, “I had not thought to see your face; but in fact God has also shown me your sons!” GENESIS 48:11

My family home was not a place of nurturing. There was barely supervision. I fumbled along, following others, finding my way. I ached for attention and guidance. Meanwhile, God was working in Egypt. Other-mothers were being prepared and sent to foster me. “Adopted” soul sisters came along to safeguard me. And Young Life leaders were being equipped to direct me to Jesus. The Lord was with me, like Joseph, showing great mercy and giving me favor. Precious unseen mending.

Exodus 14:22 says, “So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!” God shielded the Israelites from danger that surrounded them. He did the same for me. The unspeakable pain of a teenage pregnancy and the adoption of my unseen, unnamed baby left me confused, hopeless, and suicidal. Meanwhile, God was working unseen.

By His grace and divine intervention, He protected me from enemies behind and the terrifying waters ahead. He shielded me as I walked through the middle of the “sea” on dry ground and allowed me to meet my husband and graduate with high honors from the university I attended. Both were unimaginable victories – miracles, really. Then later, to be blessed with three sons? That was just God showing off! And tenderly mending.

As life unfolds – whether through illness, aging parents, the challenges of a prodigal son, or tragedy – I am certain that all the known facts are not all the facts. I am confident that God is working unseen …

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
PSALM 27:13 (NLT)



Grace, Grief, Pain, Words of Endurance


Even before he made the world,
God loved us and chose us in Christ
to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

My parents had no interest in me, leaving a hole in my heart and a hunger for straight A’s: Acceptance, Attention, Approval, Appreciation. They could not or would not be available to me. I tried singing, dancing, playing piano, defeating my brother in challenges, keeping a clean room, being punctual, being seen but not heard, being not seen and not heard. Still no affirmation, no confirmation. I tried and kept on trying because an unconnected life is not worth living. I would look elsewhere.

Straight A’s: Acceptance. Attention. Approval. Appreciation. Maybe school teachers and classmates could fill the hole. I had a new audience. Give ‘em the old razzle-dazzle right? Years of high grades, honor societies, leadership positions, athletic successes, homecoming queen nominations, and finally graduation from the university magna cum laude with straight A’s. Acceptance. Attention. Approval. Appreciation. But not for long.

Grown-up, real life does not offer report cards. What’s up with that? How will I earn my straight A’s? Where will I find validation? How will I fill this hole in my heart? Who will give the acceptance and approval I crave?

Jesus. Only Jesus. God, the Creator of all things, has chosen me, by His grace, and made me acceptable in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6). Therefore, I am free from the tyranny of public opinion! …

… Not one drop of my worth depends on the acceptance, attention, approval or appreciation of others. I no longer let others define me. I no longer need straight A’s. My heart has been filled by the grace of God and I am acceptable in the Beloved.

Debbie’s Challenge For Us:
Today I will stop striving to win
the acceptance, attention, approval, or appreciation
of other people and bask in the contentment of knowing
that God loves and accepts me already.



On the Journey Together, Pain, Prayer, Words of Endurance

And we are confident that he hears us
whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.
1 JOHN 5:14 (NLT)

I have not always been confident in my prayers. There have been many dark seasons of my life where I felt like there was a concrete ceiling between God and me. During those dark sleepless nights my heartfelt, desperate prayers just seemed to bounce back – unanswered – to my waiting and then disappointed heart.

But during this last season of darkness, when I would wake up in the middle of the night in desperation, I found myself not having any words to express my pain. All I could do was groan because I did not know how to or what to pray for – I just knew that I wanted deliverance. But I learned that God heard my prayers despite my inability to express my prayers in words.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.
For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for.
But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings
that cannot be expressed in words.
ROMANS 8:26-27 (NLT)

So I started praying without words – praying with my tears and my painful groans (I was glad that no one could hear but Him). I trusted Him at His Word.

I trusted that my prayers did not rely on me but on the Holy Spirit within me to pray. Knowing that my prayers were heard – not because of me but because of the Helper within me – I could trust that all my prayers would be heard.

We are confident of all this because of
our great trust in God through Christ.



Anger, Healing, On the Journey Together, Pain, Words of Endurance

“There will be a time of Reckoning.
Words are powerful;
Take them seriously.
Words can be your salvation.
Words can also be your damnation.”
MATTHEW 12:36-37

Jan and I are on this journey together in this new season. However my challenges – at least at this point – are quite different from hers.

I never realized the impact of my words. But over the last five years I have begun to recognize more than ever just how powerful my words have been and how I have used them to control others to meet my high expectations. When I look back on my life as a husband and a father, I regretfully now know that my words have had an affect on the people that matter most to me.

Upon further reflection I have seen how I have used my words and my anger to manipulate to get my way. I have seen how my words have been critical and judgmental which has caused much discouragement and pain to the recipients. I’ve seen how my words have destroyed and torn down the ones I love the most when all my heart meant to do was challenge them to do better. But what God desires for me to do is the exact opposite with my words.

So why did I struggle so much with my words towards my loved ones? To be honest I don’t really know how to answer that. I am sure some of you as you read these confessions are probably trying to help me out right now. And I don’t blame you because before I had these revelations I would have been doing the same thing – I would have tried to fix me too!

I do know that my perfectionism and the need to control has been a significant part of my story. As an athlete I had high expectations of myself and I needed to be in control. When I lost control I feared failure. That is how I felt about my family. In the end I guess you could say I’ve been extremely selfish in my life wanting life to go my way. It has been hard to realize that our family life isn’t all about Dave.

These are really hard things for me to share with you because I’m not sure what you will think of me after you read this. But I have discovered there is great freedom in being known for who you truly are – there is freedom in not hiding.

Watch the way you talk.
Let nothing foul or dirty
come out of your mouth.
Say only what helps,
each word a gift.

On The Journey With You,
Dave Dravecky


Grace, Guilt, On the Journey Together, Pain, Words of Endurance

Christ has set us free to live a free life.
So take your stand!
Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

My entire adult life, my harness of slavery has been people pleasing. I have felt it my responsibility to make others happy. I love making my family and friends happy – happy with themselves and also happy with me. I always have tried to truthfully build up and encourage rather than tear down and criticize. I never wanted to hurt their hearts because when their hearts hurt so did mine.

I have a highly sensitive heart and if I would sense that someone was experiencing any anger or disappointment with me that would crush my heart. I would immediately feel it was my fault. I would apologize and fix whatever I had done or eliminate my behavior. Unfortunately, this is how I lost myself when I put on masks to make others happy with me. After so many years those masks had become my identity.

So when Dave gave me the freedom to be “me” I honestly did not know who “me” was anymore. I realized that I was so busy making everybody else happy that I had totally forgotten who I was – my gifts – what I enjoyed – I had “self-forgot”.

God does not want us to “self-forget” because each one of us is “marvelously made” by Him. While that may be hard for some of us to believe we need to remember and ask God to let it sink deep into our hearts that He loves us and accepts us for who we truly are – warts and all. What freedom!

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made.

On The Journey With You,
Jan Dravecky


Hope, On the Journey Together, Pain, Words of Endurance

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.
1 Peter 1:18 (THE MESSAGE)

For 25 years we have been sharing our journey with others and for 25 years others have been sharing their journeys with us. No two journeys are the same but we all have the same destination – eternal life with God. And along the way together we have traveled with a deep consciousness of God. Of course there are many seasons to our journeys and we all have experienced many – some joyful and some sad – some easy and some difficult – some were fulfilling and some found us empty and thirsting – some life giving and some life taking.

We shared last week that we currently find ourselves in a season of blessings yet we also find ourselves on a journey of discovery – trusting God and others with who we truly are. This has been quite a long and sometimes painful process – especially for Jan. It is difficult to trust others with who you truly are when you don’t know who you are. This was Jan’s dilemma.

We are still in the midst of this journey and it has affected but strengthened our marriage significantly. We plan on sharing with you this part of our story – no matter how difficult. We would love as we share that you will share with us and ask yourself the question “Do I trust God and others with who I truly am?”

And so this is still a live promise. The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God.


Grief, Pain, Prayer, Relationships, The Treasure of Relationships, Words of Endurance

Then the Lord God said,
“It is not good for the man to be alone.”

It is not good for anyone to do life alone but there was a time in my life when I thought I didn’t really need relationships. Sure I appreciated my family and friends but I had no idea that having healthy relationships was absolutely essential to a healthy life. I didn’t realize God had created us in such a way that we simply cannot live without relationships but my need for close healthy relationship would be enlightened when Dave and I entered our valley of suffering.

I discovered that when we go through times of adversity or suffering our need for others intensifies – and that can be a problem. Why? Because any kind of pain, adversity or suffering will test our relationships.

We aren’t at our best when we hurt. Our weaknesses, flaws and ugliness rise to the surface and the result isn’t pretty. We offend others more easily and we are more easily offended. Under that pressure, relationships can crumble. At the very time we need good relationships the most, those relationships often become more difficult.

The good news is that it is possible to honestly and lovingly work through the relational difficulties that suffering exposes. Relationships can grow and mature to become true treasures under the pressure of suffering. We can emerge from the darkness of suffering with healthier, stronger relationships – I know that from my own personal experience.

My prayer is that in the upcoming Words of Endurance that they will help you see the true value of your relationships and enable you to deal with the inevitable relational challenges one faces in the darkness. I know personally the refining process may be difficult and painful but I also know the rewards of stronger and healthier relationships are absolutely unbelievable and priceless!

Friends love through all kinds of weather,
and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.

Praying for all who are seeking the treasure,
Jan Dravecky