How to Nail It or Not: A Recipe for Finding Joy in Hardship

Doug Bender

November 02, 2023 | 3 minute read

Life comes with plenty of lemons. Learning how to live the sweet life no matter which ingredients get thrown your way can make all the difference. This easy-to-follow recipe can transform your vision for success and how you deal with failure, disappointment and stress.


  • Dash of Faith - amounts as small as a mustard seed can be effective
  • Generous Portion of Grace - Fill a large container with grace. Shake, press down and fill again 
  • Honey, Sparing Amount - Avoid overuse
  • Magic Birds - Click here for directions on delivery service
  • 2 Fish -  Any species will do

NOTE: You may use hope as a substitute for the above ingredients. Hope works as a perfectly sufficient substitute for every instance of need. 



The holiday season (like the rest of life) can come with plenty of stress and disappointment. You might be hoping to really nail upcoming family gatherings, holiday celebrations and gift giving this season. But there is a lot in this life that we have little to no control over. 

Trust that God is in complete control and you will see stress and disappointment lose all power in your life. Jesus taught that an amount of faith equal to a mustard seed is enough to move mountains. You don’t need much to see big effects in your life. Trust in God’s goodness and power for your life and the rest will fall into place. 


Jesus once described an image of a person holding out their shirt or apron to make a bowl. He told people to imagine filling that space with as much grace as they could imagine. Once their aprons were full, they were to press it down hard and shake their aprons until every empty space was filled. Then, they were to fill their aprons with even more grace until it overflowed. 

We often think of judging as being damaging to the person being judged (and it is). But it is just as damaging to the judge as it is to the judgee. How you judge others is a picture of how you are likely to judge yourself. If you view others through harsh and unrealistic standards, you are likely doing the same with yourself. This is a sure recipe for stress, disappointment and poor mental health, more generally. 


In the Bible, readers are told, “If you find honey, eat just enough. If you eat too much of it, you will throw up.” The American dream is one of excess and extravagance. Why would you want to only have “just enough” when you can have your fill and so much more? 

But true pleasure cannot fit in a bottle, a box, or inside a wrapped present. Continuing to indulge yourself with whatever you can, just because you can, pushes out the parts of your life that can actually lead to joy. Restraint and moderation train your soul to appreciate gifts when they come. Enjoy the season, eat some good food, buy yourself a nice present, but take care to never go beyond “just enough.” 

STEP 4: STIR IN MAGIC BIRDS (Or whatever else God decides to send your way)

The Bible has many odd stories. One of the oddest involves a man named Elijah and some ravens. Famine had stretched across the land and Elijah grew hungry. He had faithfully served God but still found himself in need. Then, God sent ravens to deliver food to his man. God could have chosen a thousand other ways to provide for Elijah. He could have sent a baker to bake him some bread. He could have led Elijah to a tree full of fruit. He could have just made a meal appear out of thin air. But instead, God made the bewildering choice of having ravens deliver food. 

The story typifies the creative tendency of God. You likely have needs in your life. You probably have prayers for things that have yet to receive the answer you expect. “Why hasn’t God healed me?” “Why am I still stuck in this crappy job?” “Why can’t I find a mate?” God hears your prayers, and he knows your needs. When you run into stress and disappointment, expect God to be there for you, just don’t expect him to show up in the way that you think. When dealing with God, expect ravens.


God wants you to join him. Jesus once fed 5,000 people starting with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. He didn’t actually need the bread and fish to feed this mass of people, but he enjoyed the participation of his people. He wanted his followers to be a part of his work. 

God has big things in store for you and your life. Most of what he intends to do through you is impossible for you to do. But he wants you to give him what you’ve got. Whatever little bits of talent, skill, ability or resources that you have, he wants you to give it all to him. He will take what you offer and do astounding things. But it starts with that meager offering of you and your life. Give to him and he will multiply your gifts. 

Finally, when all is said and done, and you just can’t see your way through the struggles, just cling to hope. If you’ve given what you have, trusted him but still not seen him, asked for the impossible and not seen anything, just hold onto hope. God will come through. He has his own timing and plans. But they are great plans, plans to make you prosper, to make you whole, and to give you more wondrous things than you can ever imagine.

Doug Bender

Doug Bender

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer and small groups coach. He developed many of the small group tools found at and has coached churches, organizations, and individuals to use I Am Second groups to share the message of Jesus with their friends and family. He also works with I Am Second's parent organization, e3 Partners, as a church planter and pastor in countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia, and the US. Doug and his wife, Catherine, have four children: Bethany, Samuel, Isabella, and Jesse.

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