Dr. Beverly Smallwood


New Morning Devotionals promotes deeper spiritual understanding, meaningful living, and practical Christianity at work and home

"This Wasn't Supposed to Happen to Me" Group Video Series



Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:34, The Message Bible)

What a powerful scripture!  Before you even read this devotional, read that passage slowly about three times.  In fact, if you can absorb those truths, you may not need to read any further.

For those of you who made it this far, I want to ask, “Are you a “worry-wart?”  Does your mind go over and over what could happen? Are your imaginations not on the good things that could be coming your way? Do you have trouble shutting it off when your head hits the pillow or if you happen to awaken during the night?

What good does it do?  And, what harm does it do?

There’s a great deal of difference between worry and problem-solving.  Most of the things you worry about have no solutions because they do not even exist.  The irony is that even without being real, these fantasies have the power to ruin your day or night because you are already experiencing them!  What happens in your mind is registered in your emotions and in your body.  So you habitually live – mentally, physically, and emotionally – in your worst nightmares.

The good news is, you can wake up from these nightmares.  Worry is futile.  Study God’s Word, and put so much of the Word in your mind that this is what comes up automatically.  Turn your worrying into praying.  Get up, get a pad, and begin to write all the things you are thankful for and your past experiences of God’s faithfulness.  For that matter, get busy, period!  Distract yourself with focus on something productive.

I would be negligent if I did not note that some people have a biological tendency toward obsessiveness, and there is good medicine to help that.  If you are absolutely unable to turn off intense worry and unwanted, even horrifying thoughts, you might consider that option.

But for most of us, worry is just a very bad mental habit that can be conquered with positive thought replacement, with distraction, and most of all, with focus on God’s Love and His provisions for us.  Let’s reread the passage from The Message Bible that began this devotional.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 5:34)

I say it over and over, Lord, “I trust You.”  I do not trust in the belief that bad things are coming my way.  I refuse to dwell on the negative possibilities.  I know that You are at work in me and in my circumstances right now, and I am certain that You will always walk with me through my future.


elephant in the room

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15)

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4: 15)

True confessions time…

If I don’t actively work on it, I can be a big conflict avoider. I sometimes choose the less stressful path (less stressful short-term, that is). Does this hit home with any of you?

Perhaps you tell yourself the same things that I sometimes do?

• Maybe it will get better on its own;
• I don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings;
• He/she wouldn’t react very well;
• He/she should already know;
• I’d rather just keep the peace.

But does it keep the peace to sweep under the rug the things that bother you in a relationship? I shared some of this with you yesterday, but it bears repeating.  One of two things will happen. Either the little resentments will grow, fester, and eventually explode, or they will evolve and simmer, and you will gradually withdraw from the relationship. Does either of those sound like the result is a peaceful relationship?

So as tough as it is, if this is a relationship you value and want to keep, you have to do the work of respectfully attempting to talk about the patterns that are interfering with a healthy connection. I’m not talking about harping on “every little thing.” However, if a problem persists, and it is coming between you and the person, it’s time to get up the courage to talk about it.

When you do, your approach must honor several principles.

1. An attitude of love and respect.

The goal is to attack the problem, not attack the person. The scripture describes this as “speaking the truth in love.” That’s what mature folks do.

Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4: 15)

That phrase, “speak the truth in love,” sums it up. Be willing to directly say what you mean, but you must do so in a spirit of humility and respect. ALWAYS recognize that you could have misunderstood, could have contributed to the problem, or could lack understanding about the struggles of the other person.

2. No assumption of motives.

We often make ourselves mad by telling ourselves what the other person was trying to do or obsessing about what he or she must certainly have been thinking.  Our fantasy typically has a negative or a malevolent twist. You can’t read another person’s mind! Often that individual has no clue that he/she hurt you, and usually there was certainly no thought-out plan to do so. “Stuff happens.”

3. Clear communication about what happened and how it affected you.

Just describe what happened without assignment of motives. Then tell how that affected you or the relationship. No hinting or beating around the bush here. Just respectfully talk about the events that hurt you, angered you, interfered with the “flow” in the relationship, or negatively impacted the results the two of you are trying to achieve. This makes for less defensiveness and more open communication about the issues.

4. Requests for change – with hope for the relationship.

Be prepared to tell the individual specifically what you want and need in the future and how that will help. Be open to his/her suggestions about improvements, and don’t forget to be open to hearing how you contributed to the problem as well!

Conflicts are inevitable in even the best of relationships. It’s not whether you’ll have conflicts, it’s whether you will be willing to do the work to make them work for you instead of allowing them to destroy the relationship.

It’s easy to stew on the person’s actions, feel sorry for yourself, or just tell yourself it’s no use and leave. Yes, it’s harder and somewhat risky to address it – but much less riskier than avoidance, the sure path of eventual relationship destruction.

Ask God today for wisdom, love, and courage, and respectfully name the elephants that have taken up residence in the room.

God, You know that in my past and sometimes today, I can be an avoider.  I just keep wishing and hoping that something will change.  Remind me that Your ways are best and that You gave us instructions in relationships for good reason.  In You, Lord, I choose to talk about issues that persistently bother me.  Help me to do so with courage, with truth, and with love.



airplane in clouds

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  (Matthew 18: 15)

Some years ago, I had an experience on a Chicago-Atlanta fight that I’ve never forgotten.  I’ve been reminded of it in the past two weeks in my clinical office as there seems to have been a rash of “explosions” that had been simmering for a while within conflict avoiders.  Sometimes those explosions involve projectile vomiting of everything resentment that’s been stored but not discussed.  Other times the quiet, simmering resentments manifest in some kind of acting out, like an affair.  Still others just put up walls until those barriers become so thick, they are impenetrable.  At that point, the relationship is pretty much doomed.  None of this has to happen, and it’s a crying shame when it does.

Back to my lesson on the Delta flight.  I was sitting by the window like I always do as we neared our destination.  I could see dark clouds down below.  About that time, the Captain came on the intercom and announced, “We have some bad weather in the Atlanta area that is going to prevent a landing right now.  We are going to be circling for a bit.”

“O.K., fine,” I thought, “I had a layover anyway.  No problem.”

But we circled – and we circled – and we circled.  Still no clearance to land.  I was starting to get a little nervous, not necessarily because of my connection schedule but because I was realizing, “At some point we’re just going to have to take a deep breath and endure some turbulence if we are going to be able to land.”  Then the catastrophizing side of my brain whispered, “Or else we will crash.”

Then it happened, as it has happened to me too many times to count.  God nudged me and said, “This is like…”

On this day that still, small Voice said, “This is like when a person is in a relationship and avoids confronting issues, circling and circling around them in hopes that those ‘clouds’ will just go away.  But as the circling continues, the fuel in the relationship is getting lower and lower.  At some point you just have to get up the courage to take the risk and go through the turbulence if you ever hope to get the issues resolved and save the relationship from crashing.”  And then I heard the punch line, and I knew what I had to do in a situation I was facing.  That Voice said, “And that person is you.

Jesus Himself instructed that if there is a problem between anyone and another person, the way to handle it is to go to the individual and talk about it.  In Joshua 1:9 we read,

Be strong and of good courage, for the Lord your God is with you.

I wonder if I was reminded of this experience in order to share it with someone who needs it today.  By any chance, is that someone you?

God, relationships are hard. But I know that You’ve ordained that we do the work to be in healthy relationships with others. Give us the courage to push past “comfort” that is no comfort and to confront respectfully




Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ., through Whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, proven character, and hope.  And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who was given to us.  (Romans 5: 1-5)

HOPE:  The confident expectation of good.

How can you have this hope when tragedy takes your breath away? How can you maintain it in the face of enduring pain and long, long waits?

Paul writes to the Romans about God’s grace and our faith in all He is and our acceptance of all He has provided for us.  He says that even in tribulations, we can praise God, vor He is faithful at all times.   We can know, even when our hearts are torn in two, that He will be absolutely faithful to bring us through it when we desperately cling to him and if we trust in Him. That kind of hope is like a powerful, giant magnet, pulling you through the tunnel of pain and gradually into the light.

Paul goes on to say something that looks very weird at first glance.  He says we can also exult in our tribulations and sufferings.  Whaaat??  Is he advocating some kind of masochism?  Who would be glad to be going through intense pain and heartache?

Paul is saying, “Take the longer view of these circumstances and of God’s work in your life. This is hurting now, but the Lord is up to something.  He will take what you are going through and produce strength and character within you that would have been virtually impossible to develop in happier times.” That principle is full of hope!

Does any of this mean that God caused this tragedy to happen?  I don’t purport to know all of God’s plans.  Sometimes He sees into the future as we don’t, and He intervenes.

However, though God is caught off guard by nothing, often in these tragic situations, God was not the initiator at all.  Satan can inspire others to actions that rob you of people or of things precious.  We live in a fallen world, and we are not immune from its troubles.  God has promised to straighten all this in another season in our earth’s history when Jesus will return and reign.  But for now, we live in this world as it is.  However, as believers, we have spiritual resources, potential peace beyond human understanding, and the confident expectation of ultimate good.  It’s called HOPE.

Romans 8:28 sums it up:  “For we know God causes ALL things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”  

No, not “all things ARE good,” but He miraculously takes us through the process of turning even the most difficult of events for our good if we love Him and remain true to our calling to purpose in Him.

Does all the pain go away?  God is our Jehovah Rapha, our Healer.  However, the truth is that sometimes pain over the deepest losses does not completely dissipate.  Yes, as you work through the grief process, the overwhelming intensity subsides over time so that you can function, but dull and sometimes intense ache is still there.  However, when the tsunami of grief gets triggered again, you can still have HOPE in the One Who does not waver in His commitment to you.  He is at work – even now..

O Lord, I yield everything to You.  Everything. My hope is totally in You, God.





fear vs. faith

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.  (II Timothy 1: 7)

Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  (I Peter 5: 7)

The storm predictions on weather reports get on my last nerve.  Having a history of two trees on the house in two years from two tornadoes brings on a little post-traumatic anxiety.  Many folks have been through completely horrific life events that bring on plenty more than a little post-traumatic anxiety.  That’s understandable.  Let me say that God brings to those who ask, comfort even when some frightening memory is triggered and when fear grabs the body.

Other people have a habit of fear, just because…

~worry and anxiety were modeled in their families;

~they have the thought habit of jumping to the worst conclusions;

~they have become hyper-sensitized to “evidence” of dreaded situations (whether or not that evidence truly points to the feared circumstance at all);

~they are on overload (like me right now), and everything seems to cause an overreaction.

Fear is constantly lurking in the shadows of every area of our lives, ready to spring out and sabotage our hopes, our vision, and our courage. Be wise, and take into account legitimate dangers, but don’t give in to paralyzing fear.

Faith is the opposite of fear. Faith moves you into action, and it generates deep peace even when you’re feeling nervous about something.  (Yes, that’s possible; those are not mutually exclusive.) Faith knows that there will always be a way when you’re on a God-given track. Faith knows that no matter how cloudy it looks, if you just keep walking, you’ll ccome out of the fog. Faith believes and persists, even when circumstances tempt you to give up. Faith empowers you to carry out the encouragement with which I sign my book, This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me: “Always embrace hope, one choice at a time.”

Faith involves believing in God’s provision and protection, no matter what it looks like and no matter what it feels like.  I love what Denis Waitley said:  “Faith is doing within while you’re doing without.”

Fear or faith?  About that worry you went to bed with last night and woke up with this morning, which of the two will you choose?

Lord, You know that as I’ve gotten older and have experienced a few frightening and shattering life experiences, I’ve had a greater personal battle with anxiety in certain circumstances. At the same time, the further I go, the more I’ve come to know and trust You as the One Who never leaves me, always Loves me, and always provides for me.  I choose faith in You, Lord, over fear.  By Your Spirit, I will walk that faith and trust out in my life situations in which I become anxious.   I will stand tall and not run. For You, O Lord, are more than enough!  







And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13: 13)

If you’re too busy to give the people you love most, the freshest, “bestest” parts of you – you’re too busy.

If you come home to family after an exhausting day, and there’s nothing left to give – something’s gotta give.

If your good intentions are constantly having to substitute for your good performance in treasured relationships – be careful!  The relation can become a sinking ship!

If good things are perpetually crowding out the best things – regroup!

This message is short and to the point.  First things first! Prioritize your time, your energy, and your communications.

Don’t serve your loved ones the leftovers of you! 

Lord, You know I want to get my priorities in order – the order that is Your will and plan for me.  I want to be what You want me to be to the world, but most importantly I deeply desire to bring my best to those You have entrusted to me in love.  Give me insight.  Give me courage.  Give me a laser focus on what and who matters most.





And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12: 9-10)

Recently I was talking with a friend who was about to go on a mission trip to a dangerous location and to a difficult people.  He was excited but nervous about the possibilities – or actually, the “impossibilities.”  We were talking about some of the “impossible” situations he was likely to encounter and how at first look, they can feel overwhelming.

I know from experience, every feeling of inadequacy you ever thought about having rises to the top when you encounter cultural norms and human life experiences way beyond your capability to understand. However, I’ve made an excited discovery when I am way in over my head and far above my pay grade.  That’s when God gives me a hug and says, “Good! Now you’re living where you need to be staying all the time – in total awareness that if you do not totally depend on Me to do it, you’re sunk.”

In fact, having now come through a good portion of my life, I’ve come to believe experientially the Biblical truth that this is the only way to live the Christian life successfully. It’s way too easy to believe the cultural lies and the insidious deceptions of self-confidence that whisper, “With your knowledge and experience, YOU’VE GOT THIS!” I’m trying to learn to rely desperately and trust fiercely every day.  I’m not just talking about when I’m obviously in over my head, such as when I’m working in dangerous foreign places, but all the time.  If God doesn’t do it through me, I’m sunk!

I’m also working to develop the discernment to tackle only the tasks that are God’s ideas, not simply my own hair-brained “good ideas.” He empowers and divinely implements the former. I’ve trapped myself in a frustrating place many a time with the latter. When God truly calls you to an assignment, though, it’s not unusual for it to be a humanly impossible one.

Paul described this situation in this way:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12: 9-10)

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” Hmmm…seems like a paradox. However, embedded in that riddle is this most important truth. As long as I perceive that I am strong and capable to handle something on my own, I’m not likely to live in total dependence on the Holy Spirit. It’s only when I fully recognize the truth of my inadequacy on my own that I cry out, “Help, Lord! I can’t do this. YOU do it!” And that’s when real strength is deployed.

People often misquote a scripture about temptation by saying philosophically, “God won’t put more on you than you can stand.” Oh, yes indeedy, both God and the realities of life on the planet will often present situations that are more than you can stand and beyond your own capabilities to solve. The gift imbedded in such a challenge is the opportunity to learn just what can happen when you desperately rely on God in the myriad of times when you are clueless. In case you haven’t already gotten the message here, that’s all the time!

Is that where you are right now – smack in the middle of an impossible situation? Take heart! You are facing a learning opportunity extraordinaire. Just turn all of yourself and your situation over to the One for Whom nothing is impossible, then watch what happens over time.

Experiencing and learning about the faithfulness of God in the face of the impossible is the gift that keeps on giving!

Lord God, I trust You in the face of the impossible situations I’m facing!  I humbly acknowledge before You that without You, all of my life assignments are impossible!  I thank You for the treasure of Your Presence. I praise You that You chose to enter into covenant with me such that my problems are Your problems, and Your resources are my resources.  I am Yours, and You are mine.  That is astounding, Lord! Simply unfathomable!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

March 2018
« Feb