Diane listened as the others in the group asked for prayers for their family members and friends facing challenges or illness. She had a family member who had been struggling with an addiction for years. But Diane kept her request silent. She couldn’t bear to see the looks on people’s faces or hear the questions or advice that often followed whenever she spoke the words aloud. She felt that this request was usually better left unspoken. Others simply did not understand how her loved one could be a Christian and still struggle daily.
Although Diane did not share her request with that group, she did have a few trusted friends she asked to pray with her. Together they asked God to set her loved one free from the very real bondage of addiction that he might experience freedom in Christ—and that God would give Diane the peace and patience she needed. As she prayed, she found comfort and strength from her relationship with the Lord.
Many of us have earnest, persistent prayers that seem to go unanswered. But we can be assured that God does care and He does hear all our requests. He urges us to continue to walk closely with Him, being “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). We can lean on Him.
In 2005, Collins falsified a report that resulted in McGee being thrown in prison for four years; and McGee vowed to find Collins when he got out and “hurt him.” McGee was eventually exonerated, but not before he lost everything. Meanwhile, Collins’s many falsified reports were uncovered, he lost his job, and he too spent time behind bars. But both men came to faith in Christ while in prison.
In 2015, the two discovered they were working together in the same faith-based company. Collins recalls, “I [told McGee], ‘Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I’m sorry.’” It was “pretty much what I needed to hear,” said McGee, who graciously forgave him. The men were able to reconcile because both had experienced the incomparable love and forgiveness of God, who empowers us to “forgive as the Lord forgave [us]” (Colossians 3:13).
Now the two are great friends. “We have this joint mission . . . of letting the world know that if you owe an apology to somebody, put your pride down and go apologize,” said Collins. “And if you’re holding something against somebody, let go of the bitterness because it’s like drinking poison and hoping it’s hurting them.”
God calls believers to live in peace and unity. If we “have a grievance against someone,” we can bring it to Him. He will help us to reconcile (vv. 13–15; Philippians 4:6–7).
Our grandkids, enraptured, got a close-up look at a rescued bald eagle. They were even allowed to touch him. As the zoo volunteer told about the powerful bird perched on her arm, I was surprised to learn this male had a wingspan of about 6 ½ feet, yet because of its hollow bones it weighed only about eight pounds.
This reminded me of the majestic eagle I had seen soaring above a lake, ready to swoop down and snatch its prey in its talons. And I pictured in my mind another big bird—the spindly legged blue heron I had spied standing motionless on the edge of a pond. It was poised to dart its long beak into the water. They are just two among the nearly 10,000 species of birds that can direct our thoughts to our Creator.
In the book of Job, Job’s friends are debating the reasons for his suffering and ask, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God?” (see 11:5–9). In response Job declares, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you” (Job 12:7). Animals testify to the truth that God designed, cares for, and controls His creation: “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (v. 10).
Since God cares for birds (Matthew 6:26; 10:29), we can be assured He loves and cares for you and me, even when we don’t understand our circumstances. Look around and learn of Him.
Sometimes trying to do the right thing can be exhausting. We may wonder, Do my well-intentioned words and actions make any difference at all? I wondered this recently when I sent a prayerfully thought-out email meant to encourage a friend, only to have it met with an angry response. My immediate reaction was a mixture of hurt and anger. How could I be so misunderstood?
Before I responded out of anger, I remembered that we won’t always see the results (or the results we desire) when we tell someone about how Jesus loves them. When we do good things for others hoping to draw them to Him, they may spurn us. Our gentle efforts to prompt someone to right action may be ignored.
Galatians 6 is a good place to turn when we’re discouraged by someone’s response to our sincere efforts. Here the apostle Paul encourages us to consider our motives—to “test our actions”—for what we say and do (vv. 1–4). When we have done so, he encourages us to persevere: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (vv. 9–10).
God wants us to continue living for Him, which includes praying for and telling others about Him—“doing good.” He will see to the results.
My young grandsons enjoy dressing themselves. Sometimes they pull their shirts on backwards and often the younger one puts his shoes on the wrong feet. I usually don’t have the heart to tell them; besides, I find their innocence endearing.
I love seeing the world through their eyes. To them, everything is an adventure, whether walking the length of a fallen tree, spying a turtle sunning itself on a log, or excitedly watching a fire truck roar by. But I know that even my little grandsons are not truly innocent. They can make up a dozen excuses about why they can’t stay in their beds at night and are quick to yank a wanted toy from the other. Yet I love them dearly.
I picture Adam and Eve, God’s first people, as being in some ways like my grandchildren. Everything they saw in the garden must have been a marvel as they walked with God. But one day they willfully disobeyed. They ate of the one tree they were forbidden to eat (Genesis 2:15–17; 3:6). And that disobedience immediately led to lies and blame shifting (3:8–13).
Yet still, God loved and cared for them. He sacrificed animals in order to clothe them (v. 21)—and later He provided a way of salvation for all sinners through the sacrifice of His Son (John 3:16). He loves us that much!
I have friends who’ve received partial healing but still struggle with painful aspects of their disease. Other friends have been healed of an addiction but still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing. And I wonder, Why doesn’t God heal them completely—once and for all?
In Mark 8:22–26, we read the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. Jesus first took the man away from the village. Then He spit on the man’s eyes and “put his hands on him.” The man said he now saw people who looked “like trees walking around.” Then Jesus touched the man’s eyes again, and this time he saw “everything clearly.”
In His ministry, Jesus’s words and actions often amazed and baffled the crowd and His followers (Matthew 7:28; Luke 8:10; 11:14) and even drove many of them away (John 6:60–66). No doubt this two-part miracle also caused confusion. Why not immediately heal this man?
We don’t know why. But Jesus knew what the man—and the disciples who viewed his healing—needed in that moment. And He knows what we need today to draw us closer in our relationship with Him. Though we won’t always understand, we can trust that God is working in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. And He will give us the strength, courage, and clarity we need to persevere in following Him.
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.
The little girl moved joyfully and gracefully to the music of praise. She was the only one in the aisle but that didn’t keep her from spinning and waving her arms and lifting her feet to the music. Her mother, a smile on her lips, didn’t try to stop her.
My heart lifted as I watched, and I longed to join her—but didn’t. I’d long ago lost the unselfconscious expression of joy and wonder of my childhood. Even though we are meant to grow and mature and put childish ways behind us, we were never meant to lose the joy and wonder, especially in our relationship with God.
When Jesus lived on Earth, He welcomed little children to Him and often referred to them in His teaching (Matthew 11:25; 18:3; 21:16). On one occasion, He rebuked His disciples for attempting to keep parents from bringing their children to Him for a blessing, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). Jesus was referring to the childlike characteristics that ready us to receive Christ—joy and wonder, but also simplicity, dependence, trust, and humility.
Childlike wonder and joy (and more) open our hearts to be more receptive to Him. He is waiting for us to run into His arms.
As a child, I looked forward to our church’s Sunday evening services. They were exciting. Sunday night often meant that we got to hear from missionaries and other guest speakers. Their messages inspired me because of their willingness to leave family and friends—and at times, homes, possessions, and careers—to go off to strange, unfamiliar, and sometimes dangerous places to serve God.
Like those missionaries, Elisha left many things behind to follow God (1 Kings 19:19–21). Before God called him into service through Elijah, we don’t know much about Elisha—except that he was a farmer. When the prophet Elijah met him in the field where he was plowing, he threw his cloak over Elisha’s shoulders (the symbol of his role as prophet) and called him to follow. With only a request to kiss his mother and father goodbye, Elisha immediately sacrificed his oxen, burned his plowing equipment, said good-bye to his parents—and followed Elijah.
Though not many of us are called to leave family and friends behind to serve God as fulltime missionaries, God wants all of us to follow Him and to “live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to [us], just as God has called [us]” (1 Corinthians 7:17). As I’ve learned, serving God can be thrilling and challenging no matter where we are—even if we never leave home.