When Rebecca stood on stage to speak at a conference, her first sentence into the microphone echoed around the room. It was a bit unsettling for her to hear her own words come back at her, and she had to adjust to the faulty sound system and try to ignore the echo of every word she spoke.
Imagine what it would be like to hear everything we say repeated! It wouldn’t be so bad to hear ourselves repeat "I love you" or "I was wrong" or “Thank You, Lord” or "I'm praying for you." But not all of our words are beautiful or gentle or kind. What about those angry outbursts or demeaning comments that no one wants to hear once, let alone twice—those words that we would really rather take back?
Like the psalmist David, we long to have the Lord’s control over our words. He prayed, "Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips” (Ps. 141:3 nlt). And thankfully, the Lord wants to do that. He can help us control what we say. He can guard our lips.
As we learn to adjust to our own sound system by paying careful attention to what we say and praying about the words we speak, the Lord will patiently teach us and even empower us to have self-control. And best of all, He forgives us when we fail and is pleased with our desire for His help.
“I don’t think God is good,” my friend told me. She had been praying for years about some difficult issues, but nothing had improved. Her anger and bitterness over God’s silence grew. Knowing her well, I sensed that deep down she believed God is good, but the continual pain in her heart and God’s seeming lack of interest caused her to doubt. It was easier for her to get angry than to bear the sadness.
Doubting God’s goodness is as old as Adam and Eve (Gen. 3). The serpent put that thought in Eve’s mind when he suggested that God was withholding the fruit from her because “God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (v. 5). In pride, Adam and Eve thought they, rather than God, should determine what was good for them.
Years after losing a daughter in death, James Bryan Smith found he was able to affirm God’s goodness. In his book The Good and Beautiful God, Smith wrote, "God's goodness is not something I get to decide upon. I am a human being with limited understanding." Smith’s amazing comment isn’t naïve; it arises out of years of processing his grief and seeking God’s heart.
In times of discouragement, let’s listen well to each other and help each other see the truth that God is good.
A woman from Grand Rapids, Michigan, fell asleep on the couch after her husband had gone to bed. An intruder sneaked in through the sliding door, which the couple had forgotten to lock, and crept through the house. He entered the bedroom where the husband was sleeping and picked up the television set. The sleeping man woke up, saw a figure standing there, and whispered, "Honey, come to bed." The burglar panicked, put down the TV, grabbed a stack of money from the dresser, and ran out.
The thief was in for a big surprise! The money turned out to be a stack of Christian pamphlets with a likeness of a $20 bill on one side and an explanation of the love and forgiveness God offers to people on the other side. Instead of the cash he expected, the intruder got the story of God’s love for him.
I wonder what Saul expected when he realized it was Jesus appearing to him on the road to Damascus, since he had been persecuting and even killing Jesus’ followers? (Acts 9:1-9). Saul, later called Paul, must have been surprised by God’s grace toward him, which he called “a gift”: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power” (Eph. 3:7).
Have you been surprised by God’s gift of grace in your life as He shows you His love and forgiveness?
Joan was struggling with some difficult issues with her children when she sat down for a worship service. Exhausted, she wanted to "resign" from motherhood. Then the speaker began to share encouragement for those who feel like quitting. These four thoughts that Joan heard that morning helped her to keep going:
Look up and pray. Asaph prayed all night long and even expressed feelings that God had forgotten and rejected him (Ps. 77:9-10). We can tell God everything and be honest about our feelings. We can ask Him anything. His answer may not come right away or in the form we want or expect, but He won't criticize us for asking.
Look back and remember what God has done in the past for you and others. Asaph didn't talk to God only about the pain; he also recalled God's power and mighty works for him and God’s people. He wrote, "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago" (v. 11).
Look forward. Think about the good that might come out of the situation. What might you learn? What might God want to do? What do you know He will do because His ways are perfect? (v.13).
Look again. This time look at your circumstances with eyes of faith. Remind yourself that He is the God of great wonders and can be trusted (v. 14).
May these ideas help us gain perspective and keep moving in our faith journey with Jesus.
I couldn't take my actions back. A woman had parked her car and blocked my way of getting to the gas pump. She hopped out to drop off some recycling items, and I didn't feel like waiting, so I honked my horn at her. Irritated, I put my car in reverse and drove around another way. I immediately felt bad about being impatient and unwilling to wait 30 seconds (at the most) for her to move. I apologized to God. Yes, she should have parked in the designated area, but I could have spread kindness and patience instead of harshness. Unfortunately it was too late to apologize to her—she was gone.
Many of the Proverbs challenge us to think about how to respond when people get in the way of our plans. There’s the one that says, “Fools show their annoyance at once” (Prov. 12:16). And “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (20:3). Then there’s this one that goes straight to the heart: “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end” (29:11).
Growing in patience and kindness seems pretty difficult sometimes. But the apostle Paul says it is the work of God, the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23). As we cooperate with Him and depend on Him, He produces that fruit in us. Please change us, Lord.
While watching a fireworks display during a celebration in my city, I became distracted. Off to the right and the left of the main event, smaller fireworks occasionally popped up in the sky. They were good, but watching them caused me to miss parts of the more spectacular display directly above me.
Sometimes good things take us away from something better. That happened in the life of Martha, whose story is recorded in Luke 10:38-42. When Jesus and His disciples arrived in the village of Bethany, Martha welcomed them into her home. Being a good host meant that someone had to prepare the meal for the guests, so we don’t want to be too hard on her.
When Martha complained that her sister Mary wasn’t helping, Jesus defended Mary’s choice to sit at His feet. But the Lord wasn’t saying that Mary was more spiritual than her sister. On occasion Martha seems to have shown more trust in Jesus than Mary did (John 11:19-20). And He wasn’t being critical of Martha’s desire to look after their physical needs. Rather, what the Lord wanted Martha to hear is that in the busyness of our service, listening to Him is the main event.
My friend Meaghan is an accomplished equestrian, and I’ve been learning some interesting things about horses from her. For instance, despite having the largest eyes of all land mammals, horses have poor eyesight and can see fewer colors than humans. Because of this, they can’t always identify objects on the ground. When they see a pole, they don’t know if it’s a pole they can easily step over or a large snake that might harm them. For this reason, until they are properly trained horses are easily frightened and quick to run away.
We too may want to run from alarming circumstances. We may feel like Job who misunderstood his troubles and wished he’d never been born. Since he couldn’t see that it was Satan who was trying to break him down, he feared that the Lord, in whom he had trusted, was trying to destroy him. Overwhelmed, he cried out, “God has wronged me and drawn his net around me” (Job 19:6).
Like Job’s vision, ours is limited. We want to run away from the difficult situations that scare us. From God’s perspective, we are not alone. He understands what confuses and frightens us. He knows we are safe with Him by our side. This is our opportunity to trust His understanding rather than our own.
“Love Locks” is a growing phenomenon. Thousands of people in love have attached these love padlocks to bridges, gates, and fences around the world, including France, China, Austria, Czech Republic, Serbia, Spain, Mexico, Northern Ireland. Couples engrave their names on a padlock and then attach it in a public place to symbolize their everlasting love. Authorities of some landmarks frown upon them because of the danger they can cause if too many are attached. Some think they are acts of vandalism, while others view them as beautiful art and a picture of committed love.
The Lord showed us true “everlasting love” in a public place. He displayed His love on the cross when He gave His life to provide forgiveness of sin. And He continues to show us His love on a daily basis. Salvation is not only a promise that we’ll have eternity with God, but it is also a daily experience of forgiveness, assurance, provision, and grace in our relationship with Him. Jesus’ love for us is the basis of Paul’s challenge to “walk in the way of love” toward others (Eph. 5:2).
The love of our Father enables us to be patient and kind. In His Son He has given us the ultimate example and means of loving one another—forever.
Roger had been through a lot. He had open-heart surgery to repair a leaky valve. Then, within just a couple of weeks, doctors had to perform the surgery again because of complications. He had just begun to heal with physical therapy when he had a biking accident and broke his collarbone. Added to this, Roger also experienced the heartbreak of losing his mother during this time. He became very discouraged. When a friend asked him if he had seen God at work in any small ways, he confessed that he really didn’t feel he had.
I appreciate Roger’s honesty. Feelings of discouragement or doubt are part of my life too. In Romans, the apostle Paul says, “We can rejoice . . . when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (5:3-4 nlt). But that doesn’t mean we always feel the joy. We may just need someone to sit down and listen to us pour out our hearts to them, and to talk with God. Sometimes it takes looking back on the situation before we see how our faith has grown during trials and doubts.
Knowing that God wants to use our difficulties to strengthen our faith can help us to trust His good heart for us.