Between a Rock and a Grace Place Participant's Guide: Divine Surprises in the Tight Spots of Life

Between a Rock and a Grace Place Participant's Guide: Divine Surprises in the Tight Spots of Life

by Carol Kent


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In this six-session video-based small group Bible study, bestselling author Carol Kent gives proof that you can experience grace and joy during even the lowest moments of your life.

This Participant’s Guide helps you decide where you stand when you are caught between a rock and a hard place: Will you place yourself in a posture of humility and complete dependence on God, or will you just “try harder” and stumble over what could be a transforming encounter with grace?

Carol Kent and her husband, Gene, are living what some would call a heartbreaking life—their son, Jason, a young man who initially had so much promise, is now living out a life sentence for murder in a maximum security prison. All their appeals have been exhausted. But despite their hopeless situation, the Kent’s live a life full of grace.

With hope, joy, and a sense of humor, Carol helps you find God’s “grace places” in the midst of your worst moments.

This Participant Guide provides individual and group activities, additional background material, and between-session personal studies that will enhance your experience of the video sessions.

Sessions include:

  1. Grace in the Hardest of Places – Surprised by Faith
  2. Angels in Disguise – Surprised by Mercy
  3. Longing for a Better Me – Surprised by Contentment
  4. The Secret Power of Gratitude – Surprised by Thanksgiving
  5. Why Do You Weep? – Surprised by Joy
  6. Dwelling in the Great Place – Surprised by Freedom

Designed for use with the Between a Rock and a Grace Place Video Study (sold separately).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310890331
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 08/28/2011
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 840,328
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.25(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Carol Kent is the bestselling author of When I Lay My Isaac Down and Becoming a Woman of Influence. Carol is an expert on public speaking, writing, and on encouraging people to hold on to hope when life’s circumstances turn out differently from their dreams. She speaks internationally on the subjects of her books. With vulnerable openness, restored joy, and a sense of humor, Carol helps people to discover the secret of maintaining an enduring faith in the middle of an imperfect world. She and her husband, Gene, live in Florida.

Read an Excerpt

Between a Rock and a Grace Place Participant's Guide

By Carol Kent


Copyright © 2011 Carol Kent
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-89033-1

Chapter One


Grace in the Hardest of Places


I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much! Mother Teresa


Welcome to session one of Between a Rock and a Grace Place. You are about to begin a spiritual and personal adventure with the members of your small group. If this is your first time together as a group, briefly introduce yourselves to each other before watching the video. Then let's get started!

VIDEO * Grace in the Hardest of Places: Surprised by Faith (20 MINUTES)

As you watch the video, use the outline beginning on page 12 to follow along or to take notes on anything that stands out to you.


All of us long to find "the sweet spot" of God's grace when we are between a rock and a hard place.

"Careful! I've put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can't get around. But the stone is me! If you're looking for me, you'll find me on the way, not in the way" (Romans 9:33).

Job's challenges: the unthinkable circumstances he encountered and how the story ended

What is faith? "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1 NIV).

A great declaration: "I keep a grip on hope. God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I'm sticking with God.... He's all I've got left" (Lamentations 3:21–24).

When we are caught between a rock and a hard place, we are given the chance to see our human limitations and our desperate need of divine intervention.

We have a choice: Will we place ourselves in a posture of humility and complete dependence on God, or will we just "try harder" and stumble over what could be a transforming encounter with grace?

As we unwrap more of the ultimate gift of God's grace, the benefits abound:

• Eyes to see the pain of others • A heart of compassion • A determination to provide tangible help to others

God works best through broken people who know they do not have all the answers. He can use people who have exhausted their own resources and finally realize that negotiating the tight spots of life is not something they do by themselves.

GROUP DISCUSSION * Grace in the Hardest of Places: Surprised by Faith (5 minutes)

If your group meets for two hours, allow 10 minutes for this discussion.

1. What part of the teaching impacted you most powerfully?

2. Which of the following deceptions from the enemy has been the most challenging for you and why?

• "If you had been a better parent, this would not have happened." • "If you had been less busy, you could have fixed this problem before it had a negative result." • "If you had read your Bible more consistently and prayed more often, this would not have become a problem."

Leaning into the Grace Place

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will encounter a situation that tests our faith and makes us wonder if God is busy elsewhere and has no idea how much we are hurting. You may not have a son in prison, but your own journey has landed you between a rock and a hard place. Life is definitely different than you anticipated, and you're not sure you can cope with the obstacles you face. Answers are not forthcoming, and you may be questioning God's ways or his character.

The most important question, however, is: How will you respond to your circumstances? Will you withdraw from your friends and family members? Will you "ease" your way out of situations in which you hear people talk about issues of hope and faith? or will you remain open to divine surprises in the tight spots of your life?

GROUP DISCUSSION * Challenging Circumstances (5 minutes)

If your group meets for two hours, allow 10 minutes for this discussion.

1. All of us have heard people say, "I'm between a rock and a hard place." Have you been there? If so, what does that expression mean to you?

2. Looking back, when did you first encounter a life situation that stopped you in your tracks? What happened and how did it impact your faith in God?

"The kind of faith God values seems to develop best when everything fuzzes over, when God stays silent, when the fog rolls in." Philip Yancey

GROUP DISCUSSION * The Story of Job (8 minutes)

If your group meets for two hours, allow 15 minutes for this discussion.

Job had a large family—ten children! At one point he also owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, one thousand cows, and five hundred donkeys. Now, that's a lot of livestock! He also had many servants to help him manage his huge estate.

Then, quite unexpectedly, everything changed. Check out his list of losses:

• His donkeys were stolen.

• Most of his faithful servants were killed.

• Lightning struck his shepherds and his sheep — and they all died.

• Marauders stole his camels.

• A fierce storm killed ALL TEN of his children.

• His health disintegrated.

• Painful, repulsive sores broke out all over his body, and he wound up sitting in a dump where he used a broken piece of pottery to scrape his oozing wounds.

Job's words reveal his plight in living color: "If my misery could be weighed, if you could pile the whole bitter load on the scales, it would be heavier than all the sand of the sea! Is it any wonder that I'm screaming like a caged cat?" (Job 6:2–3).

1. Job encountered unthinkable circumstances! His wife said, "Curse God and be done with it!" (Job 2:9). Have you ever experienced a time when you were furious with God? If so, did you have "a safe place" to vent your feelings?

2. Job's response is shocking in light of his trials. He said, "We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?" (Job 2:10b). When you encounter a major crisis, is your response more like Job's or like Job's wife, or somewhere in between?

3. Read Job 42:12–13. Describe the latter part of Job's life.

INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITY * Facing Our Fears (5 minutes)

Complete this activity on your own.

1. When a crisis hits, we face many fearful reactions: anxiety, stress, shock, paralysis, and sometimes anger. Carol found herself "sometimes angry, often hurt, always broken." What were some of your initial responses to your situation? Which were constructive and which were destructive?

CONSTRUCTIVE RESPONSES DESTRUCTIVE RESPONSES ______________________ ________________________ ______________________ ________________________ ______________________ ________________________ ______________________ ________________________

GROUP DISCUSSION * Describing Faith (8 minutes)

If your group meets for two hours, allow 15 minutes for this discussion.

1. Pastor and poet Patrick overton says, "When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly." Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Why?

2. What is your definition of faith?

3. Read Hebrews 11:1 and summarize the biblical definition of faith.

4. Read Lamentations 3:22–24. What encourages you in these verses?

5. On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how would you rate your current faith in God?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 No faith Some faith, Certain that God but with uncertainty is still in control

Do you think that it's okay to question your faith? Why or why not?

GROUP DISCUSSION * A Question of Attitude (5 minutes)

If your group meets for two hours, allow 10 MINUTES for this discussion.

Jason Kent wrote: "Mom, I hate prison. But I refuse to waste prison. I choose to believe that God still has a purpose for me in spite of what I have done and the consequences I am living with. I am committed to looking for opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of the men around me" (Between a Rock and a Grace Place, p. 41).

1. Have you ever been in a difficult situation where you knew God didn't plan what took place (either due to living in a fallen world or through your own wrong choices), but you refused to waste the pain? What happened?

2. List some positive action steps we can choose for ourselves or to help others when they are between a rock and a grace place.

INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITY * What I Want to Remember (2 minutes) Complete this activity on your own.

1. Briefly review the outline and the notes you took while you watched this session's video.

2. In the space below, write down the most significant thing you gained in this session (from the teaching, activities, or discussions).

What I want to remember from this session ...


Close your time together with prayer.

"Faith is not simply a belief we embrace with our intellect; it is a living, breathing approach to whatever is in front of us in the here and now. Developing a faith that works in the hard places of life requires practice ... to get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other, trusting that God is still at work in our situation." Carol Kent, Between a Rock and a Grace Place, p. 39


Optional Take-Home Assignment

• You may have already read chapter 1 in the book Between a Rock and a Grace Place. By session two, try to read both chapters 1 and 2 in preparation for your next small group meeting.

• Memorize Hebrews 11:1 (NIV): "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Write this verse on a 3 x 5 card or on a sticky note and place it where you will see it several times a day. You may discover that you will memorize the verse without even trying and it will become a permanent part of your response to God when you face difficult circumstances.

• Oswald Chambers said: "Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time." Sometimes the best place to start rebuilding your faith is by writing out your experience of a difficult impasse that, humanly speaking, seems unfair, unreasonable, and too much to bear. Then write down where you are in your walk with God. Describe what you currently believe about his character and how that impacts your ability to hold on to your faith. If you are in too much pain to take this action step right now, that's all right. Simply acknowledging that you're in a painful place and you don't have all the answers is a good place to start, too. In fact, it can be a humble first step to being surprised by faith in the midst of an unexpected journey. A journal page—"exploring My Grace Place"—has been provided for your personal reflections.

EXPLORING MY GRACE PLACE ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________


Excerpted from Between a Rock and a Grace Place Participant's Guide by Carol Kent Copyright © 2011 by Carol Kent. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

About the Study: A Word from Carol Kent 7

How to Use This Guide 9

Session 1 Grace in the Hardest of Places: Surprised by Faith 11

Session 2 Angels in Disguise: Surprised by Mercy 25

Session 3 Longing for a Better Life: Surprised by Contentment 37

Session 4 The Secret Power of Gratitude: Surprised by Thanksgiving 51

Session 5 Why Do You Weep?: Surprised by Joy 65

Session 6 Liberty of the Heart: Surprised by Freedom 79

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