One of my daily chores when I lived with my grandfather in northern Ghana was taking care of sheep. Each morning I took them out to pasture and returned by evening. That was when I first noticed how stubborn sheep can be. Whenever they saw a farm, for instance, their instinct drove them right into it, getting me in trouble with the farmers on a number of occasions.
Sometimes when I was tired from the heat and resting under a tree, I observed the sheep dispersing into the bushes and heading for the hills, causing me to chase after them and scratching my skinny legs in the shrubs. I had a hard time directing the animals away from danger and trouble, especially when robbers sometimes raided the field and stole stray sheep.
So I quite understand when Isaiah says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way" (53:6). We stray in many ways: desiring and doing what displeases our Lord, hurting other people by our conduct, and being distracted from spending time with God and His Word because we are too busy or lack interest. We behave like sheep in the field.
Fortunately for us, we have the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us (John 10:11) and who carries our sorrows and our sins (Isa. 53:4-6). And as our shepherd, He calls us back to safe pasture that we might follow Him more closely.
My son had just started nursery school. The first day he cried and declared, “I don’t like school.” My husband and I talked to him about it. “We may not be physically there, but we are praying for you. Besides, Jesus is with you always.”
“But I can’t see Him!” he reasoned. My husband hugged him and said, “He lives in you. And He won’t leave you alone.” My son touched his heart and said, “Yes, Jesus lives in me.”
Kids are not the only ones who suffer from separation anxiety. In every stage of life we face times of separation from those we love, sometimes because of geographical distance and sometimes because of death. However, we need to remember that even if we feel forsaken by others, God hasn’t forsaken us. He has promised to be with us always. God sent the Spirit of truth—our Advocate and Helper—to dwell with us and in us forever (John 14:15-18). We are His beloved children.
My son is learning to trust, but so am I. Like my son, I can’t see the Spirit, but I feel His power as each day He encourages me and guides me as I read God’s Word. Let us thank God for His wonderful provision, the Spirit of Christ who is with us and in us. We are certainly not alone!
Charity Island is the largest island in Saginaw Bay in the Michigan waters of Lake Huron. For many years the island has provided a lighthouse for navigational aid and a safe harbor for those sailing these waters. The island received its name because sailors believed it was there “through the charity of God.”
Sometimes in life we have to navigate through seas of troubling circumstances. Like those sailors we need guidance and a place of safety; we might wish for our own Charity Island. The psalmist understood that God is the one who can bring tranquility to troubled waters and guide us to safe harbors. He wrote, “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven” (Ps. 107:29-30).
While no one asks for the storms of life, they can multiply our appreciation for the guidance and refuge God provides. He offers the light of His Spirit and His Word to guide us. It is the safe harbor of His love that we long for. He alone can be our ultimate “Charity Island.”
There is rarely a problem-free season in our lives, but sometimes the onslaught is terrifying.
Rose saw her entire family, except for her two little daughters, slaughtered in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Now she is a widow among many widows with little money. But she refuses to be defeated. She has adopted two orphans and simply trusts God to provide for the food and school fees for her family of five. She translates Christian literature into the local language and organizes an annual conference for other widows. Rose wept as she told me her story. But for every problem in her life she has one simple remedy. “For this,” she said, “I have Jesus.”
God knows exactly what you are facing today. Isaiah reminds us that God’s knowledge of us is so intimate that it is as if our names were written on the palms of His hands (Isa. 49:16). We may sometimes neglect the needs of others, even those who are closest to us, but God is aware of every detail of our lives. And He has given us His Spirit to guide, to comfort, and to strengthen us.
Think of the challenges you face at this moment, and then write these words beside each one as a reminder of His faithfulness and care: “For this, I have Jesus.”
A fishing buddy of mine told me about an alpine lake located high on the north flank of Jughandle Mountain here in Idaho. Rumor had it that large cutthroat trout lurked up there. My friend got a pencil and scrap of napkin and drew a map for me. Several weeks later I gassed up my truck and set out to follow his directions.
His map put me on one of the worst roads I’ve ever driven! It was an old logging road that had been bulldozed through the forest and never regraded. Washouts, fallen timber, deep ruts, and large rocks battered my spine and bent the undercarriage of my truck. It took half a morning to reach my destination, and when I finally arrived I asked myself, “Why would a friend send me up a road like this?”
But the lake was magnificent and the fish were indeed large and scrappy! My friend had put me on the right road—one I would have chosen myself and patiently endured had I known what I knew at the end.
There is a faithful saying: “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant” (Ps. 25:10). Some of God’s paths for us are rough and rugged, others tedious and boring, but all are filled with His love and faithfulness. When we come to the end of our journey and know what we then will know, we will say, “God’s path was best for me.”
Two workmen were asked what they were building together. One said he was building a garage. The other replied that he was building a cathedral. A day later there was only one man laying bricks. When asked where the second was, the first replied, “Oh, he got fired. He insisted on building a cathedral instead of a garage.”
Something similar happened on the ancient worksite of Babel. A group of people decided they would build a city and a tower that would reach to the heavens and unite their world (Gen. 11:4). But God didn’t want them working on a grand, self-centered plan based on the idea that they could rise to the heights of God and solve all of their own problems. So He came down, stopped the project, scattered the people “over all the earth,” and gave them different languages (vv. 8-9).
God wanted people to see Him as the solution to their problems, and He revealed His plan for them to Abraham (12:1-3). Through the faith of Abraham and his descendants, He would show the world how to look for a city “whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:8-10).
Our faith does not rise out of our own dreams and solutions. The foundation of faith is in God alone and what He can do in and through us.
In recent years, my daughter has become fascinated with the history of the indigenous people in northern Michigan where she lives. One summer afternoon when I was visiting, she showed me a road that had a sign designating “Trail Trees.” She explained to me that it’s believed that long ago the Native Americans bent young trees to point the way to specific destinations and that they continued to grow in an unusual shape.