My father-in-law turned seventy-eight recently, and during our family gathering to honor him, someone asked him, “What's the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?” His answer? “Hang in there.”
Hang in there. It might be tempting to dismiss those words as simplistic. But my father-in-law wasn’t promoting blind optimism or positive thinking. He spoke those words as someone who’d endured tough things in his eight decades. His determination to press on wasn't grounded in some vague hope that things might get better, but in Christ’s work in his life.
“Hanging in there”—the Bible calls it perseverance—isn’t possible through mere willpower. We persevere because God promised, over and over, that He is with us, that He will give us strength, and that He will accomplish His purposes in our lives. That’s the message He spoke to the Israelites through Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
What does it take to “hang in there”? According to Isaiah, the foundation for hope is God’s character. Knowing God’s goodness allows us to release our grip on fear so we can cling to the Father and His promise that He will provide what we need each day: strength, help, and God’s comforting, empowering, and upholding presence.
My supervisor is huge fan of a certain college basketball team. This year, they won the national championship, so another coworker texted him congratulations. The only problem was my boss hadn’t yet had a chance to watch the final game! He was frustrated, he said, knowing the outcome beforehand. But, he acknowledged, at least when he watched the game he wasn’t nervous when the score stayed close to the end. He knew who won!
We never really know what tomorrow will hold. Some days can feel mundane and tedious, while other days are filled with joy. Still other times, life can be grueling, agonizing even, for long periods of time.
But despite life’s unpredictable ups and downs, we can still be securely grounded in God’s peace. Because, like my supervisor, we know the end of the story. We know who “wins.”
Revelation, the Bible’s final book, lifts the curtain on that spectacular finale. After the final defeat of death and evil (20:10,14), John describes a beautiful victory scene (21:1–3) where God makes His home with His people (v. 3) and wipes “every tear from their eyes” in a world with “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (v. 4).
On difficult days, we can cling to this promise. No more loss or weeping. No more what-ifs or broken hearts. Instead, we’ll spend eternity together with our Savior. What a glorious celebration that will be!
Most summer mornings, a delightful drama plays out in the park behind our house. It involves a sprinkler. And a bulldog. About 6:30 or so, the sprinklers come on. Shortly thereafter, Fifi the bulldog (our family's name for her) arrives.
Fifi's owner lets her off her leash. The bulldog sprints with all her might to the nearest sprinkler, attacking the stream of water as it douses her face. If Fifi could eat the sprinkler, I think she would. It's a portrait of utter exuberance, of Fifi's seemingly infinite desire to be drenched by the liquid she can never get enough of.
There are no bulldogs in the Bible, or sprinklers. Yet, in a way, Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3 reminds me of Fifi. There, Paul prays that Ephesian believers might be filled with God's love and “have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” He prayed that we might be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (vv. 18–19).
Still today, we are invited to experience a God whose infinite love exceeds anything we can comprehend, that we too might be drenched, saturated, and utterly satisfied by His goodness. We are free to plunge with abandon, relish, and delight into a relationship with the One who alone can fill our hearts and lives with love, meaning, and purpose.
On July 18, 1983, a US Air Force captain disappeared from Albuquerque, New Mexico, without a trace. Thirty-five years later, authorities found him in California. The New York Times reports that, “depressed about his job,” he’d simply run away.
Thirty-five years on the run! Half a lifetime spent looking over his shoulder! I have to imagine that anxiety and paranoia were this man’s constant companions.
But I have to admit, I also know a bit about being “on the run.” No, I've never abruptly fled something in my life . . . physically. But at times I know there’s something God wants me to do, something I need to face or confess. I don’t want to do it. And so, in my own way, I run too.
The prophet Jonah is infamous for literally running from God’s assignment to preach to the city of Nineveh (see Jonah 1:1–3). But, of course, he couldn’t outrun God. You’ve probably heard what happened (vv. 4,17): A storm. A fish. A swallowing. And, in the belly of the beast, a reckoning, in which Jonah faced what he’d done and cried to God for help (2:2).
Jonah wasn’t a perfect prophet. But I take comfort in his remarkable story, because, even despite Jonah’s stubborn waywardness, God never let go of him. The Lord still answered the man’s desperate prayer, graciously restoring His reluctant servant (2:2)—just as He does with us.
“Dad, what time is it?” my son asked from the back seat. “It's 5:30.” I knew exactly what he'd say next. “No, it's 5:28!” I watched his face light up. Gotcha! his beaming smile said. I felt delight, too—the kind that comes from knowing your child the way only a parent can.
Like any attentive parent, I know my children I know how they'll respond when I wake them up. I know what they’ll want in their lunches. I know countless interests, desires, and preferences.
But for all that, I'll never know them perfectly, inside and out, the way our Lord knows us.
We catch a glimpse of the kind of intimate knowledge Jesus has of His people in John 1. As Nathanael, who Philip had urged to meet Jesus, moved toward Him, Jesus pronounced, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (v. 47). Startled, Nathanael responded, “How do you know me?” Somewhat mysteriously, Jesus replied that He’d seen him under the fig tree (v. 48).
We may not know why Jesus chose His knowledge of this particular moment to share, but it seems Nathaniel did! Overwhelmed, he responded, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God” (v. 49).
Jesus knows each of us like this: intimately, completely, and perfectly—the way we long to be known. And He accepts us completely—inviting us to be, not only His followers, but His beloved friends (John 15:15).
“Must. Go. Faster.” That’s what Dr. Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum, says in an iconic scene from the 1993 movie Jurassic Park as he and two other characters flee in a Jeep from a rampaging tyrannosaurus. When the driver looks in the rearview mirror, he sees the raging reptile’s jaw—right above the words: “OBJECTS IN MIRROR MAY BE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.”
The scene is a masterful combination of intensity and grim humor. But sometimes the “monsters” from our own past feel like they’ll never stop pursuing us. We look in the “mirror” of our lives and see our mistakes looming right there, threatening to consume us with guilt or shame.
The apostle Paul understood the past’s potentially paralyzing power. He’d spent years trying to live perfectly apart from Christ, and even persecuted Christians (Philippians 3:1–9). Regret over his past could easily have crippled him.
But Paul found such beauty and power in his relationship with Christ that he was compelled to let go of his old life (vv. 8–9). That freed him to look forward in faith instead of backward in fear or regret: “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal” (vv. 13–14).
Our redemption in Christ has freed us to live for Him. We don’t have to let those “objects in (our) mirror” dictate our direction as we continue forward.
Turns out that crooked church steeples make people nervous. When we visited with some friends, they shared how, after a fierce windstorm, their church's proud steeple was . . . crooked, causing some alarm.
Of course, the church quickly repaired the flagging spire, but the humorous image got me thinking. Often church is seen as a place where everything is expected to look perfect; it’s not seen as a place where we can show up… crooked. Right?
But in a fallen, broken world, all of us are “crooked,” each with our own collection of natural weaknesses. We might be tempted to keep our vulnerabilities under wraps, but Scripture encourages the opposite attitude. In 2 Corinthians 12, for example, Paul suggests that it’s in our weaknesses—for him, an unnamed struggle he calls a “thorn in the flesh” (v. 7)—that Christ is most likely to reveal His power. For Jesus had told Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness" (v. 9). So Paul concluded, "For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (v. 10).
We may not like our imperfections, but hiding them only denies Jesus’s power to work within those aspects of ourselves. When we invite Christ into the crooked places in us, He gently mends and redeems in ways our effort could never accomplish.
The news was grim.
My father had been having chest pains, so his doctor had ordered a test to peer into his heart. The result? Blockage in three arteries.
Triple-bypass surgery was scheduled for February 14. My dad, though anxious, saw that date as a hopeful sign: "I'm getting a new heart for Valentine's Day!" And he did! The surgery went perfectly, restoring life-giving blood flow to his struggling heart. A “new” heart. A second chance.
My father's surgery reminded me that God offers us a new life as well. Because sin clogs our spiritual "arteries"—our capacity to connect with God—we need spiritual "surgery" to clear them.
That's what God promised His people in Ezekiel 36:26. He assured the Israelites, "I will give you a new heart. . . I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." He also promised, "I will cleanse you from all your impurities" (v. 25) and "put my Spirit in you" (v. 27). To a people who'd lost hope, God promised a fresh start as the One who could renew their lives.
That promise was ultimately fulfilled through Jesus's death and resurrection. When we trust in Jesus, we receive a new spiritual heart, one that's cleansed of our sin and despair. Filled with Christ's Spirit, our new heart beats with the spiritual lifeblood of Jesus, that "we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4).
Are you kidding me? I was already late. But the road sign ahead instructed me to adjust my expectations: “Expect Delays," it announced. Traffic was slowing down.
I had to laugh: I expect things to work on my ideal timeline; I don’t expect road construction.
On a spiritual level, few of us plan for crises that slow us down or reroute our lives. Yet, if I’m paying attention, I can recall many times when circumstances redirected me—in big ways and small. Delays happen.
Solomon never saw a sign that said, “Expect Delays.” But in Proverbs 16, he does contrast our plans with God's providential guidance. The Message paraphrases verse one as follows: “Mortals make elaborate plans, but
How do I lose track of this spiritual truth? I make my plans, sometimes forgetting to ask God what His plans are. I get frustrated when interruptions interfere.
But in place of that fretting, we could, as Solomon teaches, grow in simply trusting that God guides us, step by step, as we seek prayerfully Him, await His leading, and—yes—allow Him to continually redirect us.