Months after suffering a miscarriage, Valerie decided to have a garage sale. Gerald, a neighbor craftsman a few miles away, eagerly bought the baby crib she was selling. While there, his wife talked with Valerie and learned about her loss. After hearing of her situation on the way home, Gerald decided to use the crib to craft a keepsake for Valerie. A week later he tearfully presented her with a beautiful bench. “There’s good people out there, and here’s proof,” Valerie said.
Like Valerie, Ruth and Naomi suffered great loss. Naomi’s husband and two sons had died. And now she and her bereft daughter-in-law Ruth had no heirs and no one to provide for them (Ruth 1:1–5). That’s where Boaz stepped in. When Ruth went to a field to pick up leftover grain, Boaz—the owner—asked about her. When he learned who she was, he was kind to her (2:5–9). Amazed, Ruth asked, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes?” (v. 10). He replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband” (v. 11).
Boaz later married Ruth and provided for Naomi (chap. 4). Through their marriage, a forefather of David—and of Jesus—was born. As God used Gerald and Boaz to help transform another’s grief, He can work through us to show kindness and empathy to others in pain.
After raising money all year for a “trip of a lifetime,” seniors from an Oklahoma high school arrived at the airport to learn that many of them had purchased tickets from a bogus company posing as an airline. “It’s heartbreaking,” one school administrator said. Yet, even though they had to change their plans, the students decided to “make the most of it.” They enjoyed two days at nearby attractions, which donated the tickets.
Dealing with failed or changed plans can be disappointing or even heartbreaking. Especially when we’ve invested time, money, or emotion into the planning. King David “had it in [his] heart to build” a temple for God (1 Chronicles 28:2), but God told him: “You are not to build a house for my Name . . . . Solomon your son is the one who will build my house” (vv. 3, 6). David didn’t despair. He praised God for choosing him to be king over Israel, and he gave the plans for the temple to Solomon to complete (vv. 11–13). As he did, he encouraged him: “Be strong and courageous, and do the work . . . for the
When our plans fall through, no matter the reason, we can bring our disappointment to God who “cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7). He will help us handle our disappointment with grace.
A twenty-nine-year-old swimming instructor in New Jersey saw a car sinking into Newark Bay and heard the driver inside screaming “I can’t swim” as his SUV quickly sank into the murky waters. As a crowd watched from shore, Anthony ran to the rocks along the edge, removed his prosthetic leg, and jumped in to rescue the sixty-eight-year-old man and help him safely to shore.
Our choices matter. Thanks to Anthony’s decisive action, another man was saved. Consider the patriarch Jacob, the father of many sons, who openly favored his seventeen-year-old son Joseph. He foolishly made Joseph “an ornate robe” (Genesis 37:3). The result? Joseph’s brothers hated him (v. 4); and when the opportunity arose, they sold him into slavery (v. 28). Yet because Joseph ended up in Egypt, God used him to preserve Jacob’s family and many others during a seven-year famine—despite Joseph’s brothers’ intention to harm him (see 50:20). The choice that set it all in motion was Joseph’s decision to be honorable and run from Potiphar’s wife (39:1–13). The result was prison and an eventual meeting with Pharaoh (ch. 41).
Anthony may have had the advantage of training when he made his decision, but he still had a choice. When we love God and seek to serve Him, He helps us make life-affirming and God-honoring choices. If we haven’t already, we can begin by entrusting our lives to His care.
Comedian John Branyan said, “We didn’t think up laughter; that wasn’t our idea. That was given to us by [God who] knew we were going to need it to get through life. ’Cuz He knew we were going to have hardship, He knew were going to have struggles, He knew . . . stuff was going to happen. . . . Laughter is a gift.”
A quick look at the creatures God made can bring laughter, whether because of their oddities (such as duck-billed platypuses) or antics (such as playful otters). God made mammals that live in the ocean and long-legged birds that can’t fly. God clearly has a sense of humor; and because we’re created in His image, we too have the joy of laughter.
We first see the word laughter in the Bible in the story of Abraham and Sarah. God promised this elderly couple a child: “A son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). And God had said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars . . . . So shall your offspring be” (v. 5). When Sarah finally gave birth at ninety, Abraham named their son Isaac, which means “laughter.” As Sarah exclaimed, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me” (21:6). It amazed her that she could nurse a child at her age! God transformed her skeptical laughter when she’d heard she’d give birth (18:12) into laughter of sheer joy.
Thank God for the gift of laughter!
Chuck, an actor and martial artist, honored his mother on her hundredth birthday by sharing how instrumental she’d been in his spiritual transformation. “Mom has been an example of perseverance and faith,” he wrote. She raised three boys on her own during the Great Depression; suffered the death of two spouses, a son, a stepson, and grandchildren; and endured many surgeries. “[She] has prayed for me all my life, through thick and thin.” He continued, “When nearly losing my soul to Hollywood, she was back home praying for my success and salvation.” He concluded, “I thank [my mom] for helping God to make me all I can and should be.”
The prayers of Chuck’s mother helped him to find salvation—and a godly wife. She prayed fervently for her son, and God heard her prayers. We don’t always get our prayers answered the way we’d like, so we cannot use prayer as a magic wand. However, we are assured by James that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (5:16). Like this mom, we are to continue to pray for the sick and those in trouble (vv. 13–15). When, like her, we commune with God through prayer, we find encouragement and peace and the assurance that the Spirit is at work.
Does someone in your life need salvation or healing or help? Lift your prayers to God in faith. He’s listening.
In an interview, a musician who’s a believer in Christ recalls a time he was urged to “stop talking about Jesus” so much. Why? It was suggested that his band could be more famous and raise more money to feed the poor if he stopped saying his work was all about Jesus. After thinking it through, he decided, “The entire point of my music is to share my faith in Christ. . . . No way [am I] going to be silent.” He said his “burning calling [is] to share the message of Jesus.”
Under much more threatening circumstances, the apostles received a similar message. They’d been jailed and miraculously delivered by an angel, who told them to continue telling others about their new life in Christ (Acts 5:19–20). When the religious leaders learned of the apostles’ escape and that they were still proclaiming the gospel, they reprimanded them: “We gave you strict orders not to teach in [Jesus’] name” (v. 28).
Their reply: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (v. 29). As a result, the leaders flogged the apostles and “ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus” (v. 40). The apostles rejoiced that they were worthy of suffering for Jesus’ name, and “day after day . . . never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news” (v. 42). May God help us to keep following their example!
In the sixties-era program The Andy Griffith Show, a man tells Andy he should let his son Opie decide how he wants to live. Andy disagrees: “You can’t let a young’un decide for himself. He’ll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it. Then, when he finds out there’s a hook in it, it’s too late. Wrong ideas come packaged with so much glitter that it’s hard to convince them that other things might be better in the long run.” He concludes that it’s important for parents to model right behavior and help “keep temptation away.”
Andy’s words are related to the wisdom found in Proverbs: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (22:6). These words aren’t a promise but a guide. All of us are called to make our own decision to follow Christ. But we can help lay a biblical foundation through our love for God and Scripture. And we can pray that as little ones under our care mature, they choose to receive Jesus as Savior and walk in His ways and not “in the paths of the wicked” (Proverbs 22:5).
Our own victory over “flashy things” through the Holy Spirit’s enabling is also powerful testimony. Christ’s Spirit helps us to withstand temptation and molds our lives into examples worth imitating.
Amanda works as a visiting nurse who rotates among several nursing homes—often bringing her eleven-year-old daughter Ruby to work. For something to do, Ruby began asking residents, “If you could have any three things, what would you want?” and recording their answers in her notebook. Surprisingly, many of their wishes were for little things—Vienna sausages, chocolate pie, cheese, avocados. So Ruby set up a GoFundMe to help her provide for their simple wishes. And when she delivers the goodies, she doles out hugs. She says, “It lifts you. It really does.”
When we show compassion and kindness like Ruby’s, we reflect our God who “is gracious and compassionate . . . and rich in love” (Psalm 145:8). That’s why the apostle Paul urged us, as God’s people, to “clothe [our]selves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Because God has shown great compassion to us, we naturally long to share His compassion with others. And as we do so intentionally, we “clothe” ourselves in it.
Paul goes on to tell us: “over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (v. 14). And he reminds us that we are to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 17), remembering that all good things come from the Lord. When we are kind to others, our spirits are lifted.
In March of 2020, while walking his dog in New York City’s Central Park, Whitney, a retired financial expert, saw trucks, stacks of tarps, and white tents, each bearing a cross and the name of a charity he’d never heard of before. When he discovered the group was building a field hospital for his fellow New Yorkers with COVID-19, he asked if he could help. For weeks, he and his family pitched in wherever they could, despite differing faiths and politics. Whitney stated, “Every single person I’ve met has been a genuinely nice person.” And he applauded the fact that no one was paying them to “help my city in our hour of deep, deep need.”
In response to the tremendous needs resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, unlikely partners in service were brought together, and believers in Jesus were given new opportunities to share Christ’s light with others. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His followers to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds” (Matthew 5:16). We shine Christ’s light by letting the Spirit guide us in loving, kind, and good words and actions (see Galatians 5:22–23). When we allow the light we’ve received from Jesus to shine clearly in our daily lives, we also “glorify our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
This day and every day may we shine for Christ, as He helps us be His salt and light in a world that desperately needs Him.