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We really needed to hear from God. Having been asked to foster two young children as an emergency measure just for 3 months, a decision had to be made about their future. With three older children of our own, becoming foster parents to preschoolers didn’t seem to fit with our life plan and having our family almost double in size had been hard work. Our book of daily readings by the veteran missionary Amy Carmichael directed us to some unfamiliar verses in Numbers 7.
“I wonder how the Kohathites felt?” Amy wrote. “All the other priests had ox-carts to carry their parts of the tabernacle through the desert. But the sons of Kohath had to trudge along the rocky tracks and through the burning sand, with the ‘holy things for which they were responsible’ on their shoulders. Did they ever grumble inwardly, feeling that the other priests had an easier task? Perhaps! But God knows that some things are too precious to be carried on ox-carts and then He asks us to carry them on our shoulders.”
My husband and I knew this was our answer. We had often thought of sponsoring a child from an undeveloped country, but we hadn’t done so. That would have been easier, much like the ox-cart. Now we had two needy children in our own home to carry “on our shoulders” because they were so precious to Him.
God has different plans for each of us. We might feel that others have an easier assignment, or a more glamorous role to play. But if our loving Father has handpicked us for our task, who are we to whisper, “I can’t do this”?
An article in the Surgical Technology International journal says that looking down at a smart phone with your head bent forward is the equivalent of having a 60-pound weight on your neck. When we consider that millions of people around the world spend an average of 2-4 hours daily reading and texting, the resulting damage to neck and spine becomes a growing health concern.
It is also easy to become spiritually bowed down by the burdens of life. How often we find ourselves discouraged by the problems we face and the needs of those we love. The psalmist understood this weight of concern yet saw hope as he wrote about “the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—[who] remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous” (Ps. 146:6-8).
When we consider God’s care, His great power, and His loving heart, we can begin to look up and praise Him. We can walk through each day knowing that “the Lord reigns forever . . . for all generations” (v. 10).
He lifts us up when we are bowed down. Praise the Lord!
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Several years ago I received a letter from an Our Daily Bread reader after I had written about a family tragedy. “When you told about your tragedy,” this person wrote, “I realized that the writers were real people with real problems.” How true that is! I look across the list of men and women who pen these articles, and I see cancer and wayward children and unfulfilled dreams and many other kinds of loss. We are indeed just regular, real people writing about a real God who understands our real problems.
The apostle Paul stands out in the Real People Hall of Fame. He had physical problems. He had legal issues. He had interpersonal relationship struggles to deal with. And in all of this messy reality, he was setting an example for us. In Philippians 3:17, he said, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”
Those around us who need the gospel—who need Jesus—are looking for believable people who can point them to our perfect Savior. And that means we must be real.
A recurring difficulty on our journey of life is becoming so focused on what we need at the moment that we forget what we already have. I was reminded of that when our church choir sang a beautiful anthem based on Psalm 103. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (v. 2 nkjv). The Lord is our forgiver, healer, redeemer, provider, satisfier, and renewer (vv. 4-5). How could we forget that? And yet we often do when the events of daily life shift our attention to pressing needs, recurring failures, and circumstances that seem out of control.
The writer of this psalm calls us to remember, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious . . . He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” (vv. 8,10-11).
In our walk of faith, we come to Jesus Christ humbled by our unworthiness. There is no sense of entitlement as we receive His grace and are overwhelmed by the lavishness of His love. They remind us of all His benefits.
“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name” (v. 1).
Trying to stay aware of current events has its downside because bad news sells better than good news. It’s easy to become overly concerned about the criminal acts of individuals, crowds, or governments over whom we have no control.
Psalm 37 gives perspective to the daily news. David begins by saying, “Do not fret because of those who are evil” (v. 1). Then he proceeds to outline for us some alternatives to becoming overly anxious. In essence, David suggests a better way of thinking about negative news in our world.
What would happen if, instead of worrying about events beyond our control, we chose to trust in the Lord? (v. 3). Wouldn’t we be better off to “take delight in the Lord” (v. 4) rather than fret without limits? Imagine the freedom from worry we could have if we would “commit [our] way to the Lord” (v. 5). And how calm we could be by learning to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him”! (v. 7).
News of trouble we cannot change offers us an opportunity to set boundaries for our concerns. As we trust God, commit our ways to Him, and rest in Him, our outlook brightens. The struggles and trials may not disappear, but we will discover that He gives us His peace in the midst of them.
The high school I attended required 4 years of Latin instruction. I appreciate the value of that discipline now, but back then it was a grind.
Our teacher believed in drill and repetition. “Repetitio est mater studiorum,” she intoned over us several times a day, which simply means, “Repetition is the mother of learning.” “Repetitio est absurdum,” we muttered under our breath. “Repetition is absurd.”
I realize now that most of life is simply that: repetition—a round of dull, uninspiring, lackluster things we must do again and again. “Repetition is both as ordinary and necessary as bread,” said Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. But he went on to say, “It is the bread that satisfies with benediction.”
It’s a matter of taking up each duty, no matter how mundane, humble, or trivial, and asking God to bless it and put it to His intended purposes. In that way we take the drudgeries of life and turn them into holy work, filled with unseen, eternal consequence.
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said, “To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a [pitchfork] in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give Him glory, too. God is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean that they should.”
If whatever we do is done for Christ, we’ll be amazed at the joy and meaning we’ll find in even the most ordinary tasks.