Disclaimer: New Growth Press (www.newgrowthpress.com) has sponsored this post by providing me a free copy of the book for review. I was not required to write a positive post. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC guidelines.
Hard times come to us all. Some are easy to see from an outside perspective. Others are not so easy to see. The Gospel In Hard Times for Students by Joni and Friends takes a look at suffering and how God works in the lives of those suffering. This small group Bible study looks at personal stories of how God can use suffering to bring His children closer to Him, deeper into their faith. How one responds to and reacts to suffering can have long-term, life-altering impacts and this study will help students see this reality.
“Why me, God? How can such tragedies be part of your plan? Looking back on more than fifty years as a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, having endured chronic pain, as well as a battle with breast cancer, I can assure you that God isn’t afraid of our questions,” writes Joni Eareckson Tada in the book’s foreword. “In fact, he wants us to cry out—scream out to him if we must—because when we turn to God and his Word for answers, we’ll find a loving Father who promises to never let us out of his sight and who wants to turn our tragedies into triumphs.”
Designed with an eight-lesson format, this study will help students take a look at the hard parts of suffering through the eyes of many who have “been there, done that.” The real-life testimony is one part of the study. Combined with leader’s notes, discussion, biblical application, suggested video clips, and action plans to demonstrate how Jesus identifies with our sorrow, students will learn how God’s plan can be seen and followed, even through suffering.
The need to for strong, faith-based communities is another aspect of suffering that is explored in the study. Our brothers and sisters in faith not only meet our physical needs, they help meet our spiritual and emotional needs as well. Carrying burdens and helping to seek Biblical answers to the hard questions is something that is needed during suffering. This study will help students explore this need.
The age level for this study is junior high to high school. Set up in eight lessons, each lesson would take a minimum of 2 hours if you cover every section and utilize the videos. The time frame could possibly be longer with in depth discussions or less if you choose to not use some of the sections or the students are not very talkative in the discussion. However, you will lose depth and understanding if you leave out any of the sections.
My recommendation is to use the entire study, including the videos found online. (There is a link in the study guide.) You can either plan for long, possibly open-ended sessions or plan to break the lessons up over multiple sessions. A good way to use this is in a Sunday school setting by starting the lesson during Sunday morning class time and continuing it on Wednesday night class times. You would have to spend a bit of time refreshing everyone on what was covered previously or catching up anyone who wasn’t there before but it is very doable.
This study is quite appealing to teenagers. My 15 year old daughter is looking forward to finding a time where she can go through the study. The videos really bring the hardship and attitudes to life. As a video was playing on the computer for one of the lessons, both our 15 year old and our 13 year old became interested and sat down to watch the video. After it was done, they asked to watch more videos. These are high interest, personal stories that really enhance the study. Don’t skip them.
The study is a strong and much needed topic among our youth today. Joni and Friends do a good job with making the information relevant to the students. They take on a hard topic head on and students will really benefit from it.
Also available is a version of this directed towards adults and it is titled The Gospel In Hard Times: study guide with leader’s notes.
About Joni And Friends:
Joni and Friends is an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community. Founded in 1979, their mission is to communicate the gospel and equip Christ-honoring churches worldwide to evangelize and disciple people affected by disability.
The organization authors numerous books including the new releases The Gospel in Hard Times and The Gospel in Hard Times for Students (study guides about suffering in which participants are guided to look to Jesus to understand who God is in the midst of their own suffering and the suffering of others), God Made Me Unique (a children’s book helping parents and caregivers teach children that God creates every person in the image of God), and a series of minibooks providing personal insight & encouragement for tough circumstances.
You can learn more about Joni and Friends at www.joniandfriends.org.
Lori, At Home.