I work with a team to put on an annual community event. We spend eleven months plotting many details to ensure the event’s success. We choose the date and venue. We set ticket prices. We select everything from food vendors to sound technicians. As the event approaches, we answer public questions and provide directions. Afterward we collect feedback. Some good. Some that is hard to hearand more details are available to the public, our team hears excitement from attendees and also fields complaints. The negative feedback complaints can be is discouraging and sometimes tempts us to give up.
Nehemiah had critics too as he led a team to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. They actually mocked Nehemiah and those working alongside him saying, “Even a fox climbing up on it would break down [your] wall of stones” (Nehemiah 4:3). His response to the critics helps me handle my own: Instead of feeling dejected or trying to refute their comments, he turned to God for help. Instead of responding directly, he asked God to hear the way His people were being treated and to defend them (v. 4). After entrusting those concerns to God, he and his co-laborers continued to work steadily on the wall “with all their heart” (v. 6).
We can learn from Nehemiah not to be distracted by criticism of our work. When we’re criticized or mocked, instead of responding to our critics out of hurt or anger, we can prayerfully ask God to defend us from discouragement so we can continue with a whole heart.
After being laid off from an editorial job, I prayed, asking for God to help me find a new one. But when weeks went by and nothing came of my attempts at networking and filling out applications, I began to pout. “Don’t You know how important it is that I have a job?” I asked God, my arms folded in protest at my seemingly unanswered prayer.
When I talked to my father, who had often reminded me about believing God’s promises, about my job situation, he said, “I want you to get to the point where you trust what God says.”
My father’s advice reminds me of Proverbs 3, which includes wise advice from a parent to a beloved child. This familiar passage was especially applicable to my situation: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). To “make . . . paths straight” means God will guide us toward His goals for our growth. His ultimate goal is that I become more like Him.
This does not mean that the paths He chooses will be easy. But I can choose to trust that His direction and timing are ultimately for my good.
Are you waiting on God for an answer? Choose to draw near to Him and trust that He will guide you.
My friend and I sat in the sand, near the ever-rhythmic ocean. As the sun sank in the distance, wave after wave curled, paused and then ripped toward our extended toes, stopping just short each time. “I love the ocean,” she smiled. “It moves so I don’t have to.”
What a thought! So many of us struggle to stop. We do, do, do and go, go, go, somehow afraid that if we cease our efforts we will cease to be. Or that by stopping we will expose ourselves to the ever-present realities we work to keep at bay.
In Psalm 46:8–9, God flexes His omnipotent muscles, putting His power on display. “Come and see what the Lord has done . . . . He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” God is a busy God, who works to create calm within the chaos of our days.
And then in verse 10 we read, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Of course it’s possible to know God while running here and there. But the psalmist’s invitation to cease striving beckons us into a different kind of knowing. A knowing that we can stop—and still be—because God never stops. A knowing that it is God’s power that gives us ultimate value, protection, and peace.
What keeps you awake at night? Lately I’ve been losing sleep, tossing and turning on my bed, trying to work out a solution to an issue. Eventually I began fretting about not getting enough rest to handle the challenges of the next day!
Sound familiar? Troubled relationships, an uncertain future, whatever it is—we all give in to worry at one point or another.
King David was clearly in distress when he penned Psalm 4. People were ruining his reputation with groundless accusations (v. 2). And some were questioning his competency to rule (v. 6). David probably felt angry for being treated so unfairly. Surely he could have spent nights stewing about it. Yet we read these remarkable words: “In peace I will lie down and sleep” (v. 8).
Charles Spurgeon explains verse 8 beautifully: “In thus lying down, . . . [David] resigned himself into the hands of another; he did so completely, for in the absence of all care, he slept; there was here a perfect trust.”
What inspired this trust? From the start, David was confident that God would answer his prayers (v. 3). And he was sure that since God had chosen to love him, He would lovingly meet his needs.
May God help us to rest in His power and presence when worries threaten. In His sovereign and loving arms, we can “lie down and sleep.”
Sometimes life deals us a tremendous blow. Other times the miraculous happens.
Three young men, captives in Babylon, stood in front of the fearsome king of that land and boldly proclaimed that under no circumstances would they worship the giant image of gold towering above them. Together they declared: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know . . . we will not . . . worship the image” (Daniel 3:16–18).
These three men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—were hurled into the fiery furnace; and God miraculously delivered them so that not a hair of their head was singed and their clothing was smoke-free (vv. 19–27). They had been prepared to die but their trust in God was unwavering—“even if” He had not saved them.
God desires that we cling to Him—even if our loved one isn’t healed, even if we lose our job, even if we are persecuted. Sometimes God rescues us from danger in this life, and sometimes He doesn’t. But the truth we can hold firmly is this: “The God we serve is able,” loves us, and is with us in every fiery trial, every even if.
As I continue trusting God through my struggles with chronic pain, even the simplest setback can feel like a fierce enemy attacker. Problem One jabs me from the right. Problem Two shoves me from behind. Problem Three punches me square in the nose. During these times, when my strength wanes and immediate relief evades me, running and hiding can seem like a good idea. But since I can’t escape my pain, change my circumstances, or ignore my emotions, I’m learning slowly to rely on God to carry me through.
When I need encouragement, comfort, and courage, I prayerfully read through the songs of the psalmists, who honestly bring their situations to God. In one of my favorite psalms, King David flees from Absalom, his son who wanted to kill him and take his kingdom. Though David lamented his painful situation (Psalm 3:1–2), he trusted God’s protection and expected Him to answer his prayers (vv. 3–4). The king didn’t lose sleep worrying or fearing what could happen, because he trusted God to sustain and save him (vv. 5–8).
Physical and emotional pain can often feel like aggressive adversaries. We may be tempted to give up or wish we could escape when we’re weary and can’t see the end of our current battle. But, like David, we can learn to trust that God will hold us up and help us rest in His constant and loving presence.
Amy Carmichael (1867–1951) is known for her work of rescuing orphaned girls in India and giving them a new life. In the midst of this exhausting work there were times she called “moments of vision.” In her book Gold by Moonlight, she wrote, “In the midst of a crowded day we are given almost a glimpse of ‘the land of far distances,’ and we stand still, arrested on the road.”
The prophet Isaiah spoke of a time when God’s rebellious people would turn back to Him. “Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar” (Isaiah 33:17). To view this “land of far distances” is to be lifted above the circumstances of the immediate present and to gain an eternal perspective. During difficult times, the Lord enables us to see our lives from His viewpoint and regain hope. “For the
Each day, we can choose to look down in discouragement or lift our eyes to “the land of far distances,” to the Lord who is “our Mighty One” (v. 21).
Amy Carmichael spent more than fifty years in India helping young women in great need. How did she do it? Each day she fixed her eyes on Jesus and placed her life in His care. And so can we.
It is pitch dark when Ah-pi starts her day. Others in the village will wake up soon to make their way to the rubber plantation. Harvesting latex is one of the main sources of income for people living in Hongzhuang village, China. To collect as much latex as possible, the trees must be tapped very early in the morning, before daybreak. Ah-pi will be among the rubber tappers, but first, she will spend time communing with God.
Ah-pi’s father, husband, and only son have passed away, and she—with her daughter-in-law—is providing for an elderly mother and two young grandsons. Her story reminds me of another widow in the Bible who trusted God.
The widow’s husband had died and left behind a huge debt (2 Kings 4:1). In her distress, she looked to God for help by turning to His servant Elisha. She believed that God cared and that He could do something about her situation. And God did. He provided miraculously for the dire needs of this widow (vv. 5–6). This same God also provided for Ah-pi—though less miraculously—through the toil of her hands, the produce from the ground, and gifts from His people.
Though life can make various demands on us, we can always draw strength from God. We can entrust our cares to Him, do all we can, and let Him amaze us with what He can do with our situation.
“Ruthlessly eliminate hurry.” When two friends repeated that adage by the wise Dallas Willard to me, I knew I needed to consider it. Where was I spinning my wheels, wasting time and energy? More important, where was I rushing ahead and not looking to God for guidance and help? In the weeks and months that followed, I remembered those words and reoriented myself back to the Lord and His wisdom. I reminded myself to trust in Him, rather than leaning on my own ways.
After all, rushing around frantically seems to be the opposite of the “perfect peace” the prophet Isaiah speaks of. The Lord gives this gift to “those whose minds are steadfast,” because they trust in Him (v. 3). And He is worthy of being trusted today, tomorrow, and forever, for “the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal” (v. 4). Trusting God with our minds fixed on Him is the antidote to a hurried life.
How about us? Do we sense that we’re hurried or even hasty? Maybe, in contrast, we often experience a sense of peace. Or perhaps we’re somewhere in between the two extremes.
Wherever we may be, I pray today that we’ll be able to put aside any hurry as we trust the Lord, who will never fail us and who gives us His peace.