The Gospel in Hard Times for Students

Joni and Friends
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The Gospel in Hard Times for Students, by Joni and Friends, is a faith-bolstering small group resource that illustrates how suffering is a catalyst that can deepen our understanding of God’s plan.

Through eight in-depth sessions, This resource points to Jesus, our Good Shepherd, for answers to today’s hard questions. 

This study guide includes leader’s notes, real-life stories for discussion, biblical application, suggested video clips, and action plans to demonstrate how Jesus identifies with our sorrow. This study guide invites readers to see that how we choose to react and manage hardship has life-altering potential.

In this small group resource, young men and women can learn how the church carries the burden of suffering, seeking gospel answers to questions such as, “Why am I going through this?” and “Where is God when I need him?”

The Gospel in Hard Times for Students explores how a loving faith community—one body with many parts—can not only meet our needs but also help us walk alongside others who are afflicted, disabled, and marginalized.


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 titles such as the Beyond Suffering Bible, Real Families, Real Needs, and a series of church resources entitled The Irresistible Church.

Chonda Ralston, MA, has served as a contributor and editor for numerous Joni and Friends resources over the past decade, including Life in the BalanceBeyond Suffering: A Christian View on Disability Ministry, the Beyond Suffering Bible, and Real Families, Real Needs.

Christen Morrow-Ara has led ministry with youth with varying abilities for over twenty years. She serves with Young Life, overseeing the Capernaum ministry in the Southwest. Christen and her husband Christian live in Central California with their three children.

Pat Verbal, MA, former senior manager of publishing and resources at Joni and Friends, draws from her many years of experience as a director of Christian education and school administrator. She served as managing editor/contributor for the Beyond Suffering Bible, and her other writings include Life in the BalanceSpecial Needs Ministry for Children, and Beyond Suffering: A Christian View on Disability Ministry.


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The Gospel in Hard Times for Students will absolutely give faith, courage, and endurance through any thorns we may face. You do not have to be in a wheelchair to have a disabled heart. Joni Eareckson Tada is the epitome of living! When one soul, who may have a ‘disabled’ body, puts GO in front of the word disable, it spells GOD IS ABLE. Hard times will always be there, but so will God!”
Nick Vujicic, Evangelist; founder of Life Without Limbs

“It’s easy to scroll through everyone else’s highlight reels on social media and feel alone in our suffering. The Gospel in Hard Times for Students offers an invitation to admit our brokenness and gives us a roadmap toward healing. Whether you are experiencing physical, spiritual, emotional, or social suffering, this small group study will facilitate deep conversations and point you to the only One who can truly heal.” 
Drew Hill, Pastor; award-winning author of Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel

“Do you ever feel alone in your struggles? Research shows that young people today are facing feelings of isolation as never before. The Gospel in Hard Times for Students is an excellent resource for small groups in which the author reminds us that we are not alone even when walking through suffering. Each lesson provides Scripture and relevant, current stories for discussion as demonstrations of the truth that God is always faithfully with us.”
Pamela A. Harmon, Vice President of Young Life Capernaum

“We will all suffer in this broken world. We don’t get to opt out of that. But we do get to choose whether we suffer in a redemptive way or a destructive way. I love this study guide because it shows us how to suffer in a redemptive way, just like Joni does. The Gospel in Hard Times for Students takes us into studying the Scriptures directly, where our roots most need to grow deeper in hard times.” 
David Lyons, International Vice President of The Navigators; author of Don’t Waste the Pain: Learning to Grow Through Suffering

“People who are suffering and those who want to help them will find The Gospel in Hard Times for Students to be a timely resource! This inspiring study illustrates how the power of God’s Word leads to hope. The sweetness of Christ’s presence as a fellow sufferer and the comfort of his people are wonderfully illustrated. People are encouraged to raise hard questions in safe communities that provide purpose, care, and dignity.” 
Dr. A. Charles Ware, President Emeritus, Crossroads Bible College; founder/CEO, The Grace Relations Network

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  • 5
    A look at suffering students can relate to.

    Posted by Lori on 12 29 2019

    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. 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.

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