Zach was funny, smart, and well-liked. But he secretly struggled with depression. After he committed suicide at age fifteen, his mom, Lori, said of him, “It’s just hard to comprehend how someone that had so much going for him would come to that point. Someone like Zach . . . was not exempt from suicide.” There are moments in the quiet when Lori pours out her sorrow to God. She says that the deep sadness after suicide is “a whole different level of grief.” Yet she and her family have learned to lean on God and others for strength, and now they’re using their time to love others who are grappling with depression.
Lori’s motto has become “Love and lean.” This idea is also seen in the Old Testament story of Ruth. Naomi lost her husband and two sons—one who was married to Ruth (Ruth 1:3–5). Naomi grew bitter and depressed and urged Ruth to return to her mother’s family where she could be cared for. Ruth, though also grieving, “clung” to her mother-in-law and committed to staying with her and caring for her (vv. 14–17). They returned to Bethlehem, Naomi’s homeland, where Ruth would be a foreigner. But they had each other to love and lean on; and God provided for them (2:11–12).
During our times of grief, God’s love remains steady. We always have Him to lean on as we also lean on and love others in His strength.
The Croods, an animated caveman family, believe that “the only way to survive is if the pack [their small family] stays together.” They are afraid of the world and others, so when looking for a safe place to live they’re filled with fear after discovering a strange family already in the area they’ve chosen. But they soon learn to embrace the differences of their new neighbors, draw strength from them, and survive together. They find that they actually enjoy them and that they do need others to live life fully.
It can be risky to be in relationship—people can and do hurt us. Yet it’s for good reason God put His people together in a body, the church. In fellowship with others we grow to maturity (Ephesians 4:13). We learn to depend on Him to help us be “humble and gentle” and “patient” (v. 2). We help each other by building each other up “in love” (v. 16). When we gather together, we use our gifts and learn from others who use theirs, which in turn equips us in our walk with God and service for Him.
Look for your place among God’s people if you haven’t found it yet as He leads you. You’ll do more than survive; in shared love you’ll bring honor to God and grow to be more like Jesus. And may we all depend on Him as we walk through a growing relationship with Jesus and others.
Billy, a loving and loyal dog, became an internet star in 2020. His owner, Russell, had broken his ankle and was using crutches to walk. Soon the dog also began to hobble when walking with his owner. Concerned, Russell took Billy to the vet, who said there was nothing wrong with him! He ran freely when he was by himself. It turned out that the dog faked a limp when he walked with his owner. That’s what you call trying to truly identify with someone’s pain!
Coming alongside others is forefront in the apostle Paul’s instructions to the church in Rome. He summed up the last five of the Ten Commandments in this way: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9). We can see the importance of walking with others in verse 8 as well: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.”
Author Jenny Albers advises: “When someone is broken, don’t try to fix them. (You can’t.) When someone is hurting, don’t attempt to take away their pain. (You can’t.) Instead, love them by walking beside them in the hurt. (You can.) Because sometimes what people need is simply to know they aren’t alone.”
Because Jesus, our Savior, walks alongside us through all our hurt and pain, we know what it means to walk with others.
Anne, the lead character in the Anne of Green Gables stories, longed for a family. Orphaned, she had lost hope of ever finding a place to call home. But then she learned that an older man named Matthew and his sister Marilla would take her in. On the buggy ride to their home, Anne apologized for chattering on and on, but Matthew, a quiet man, said, “You can talk as much as you like. I don’t mind.” This was music to Anne’s ears. She felt no one had ever wanted her around, much less wanted to hear her chatter. After arriving, her hopes were dashed when she learned the siblings had thought they were getting a boy to help as a farmhand. She feared being returned, but Anne’s longing for a loving home was met when they made her a part of their family.
We’ve all had times when we felt unwanted or alone. But when we become a part of God’s family through salvation in Jesus, He becomes for us a secure home (Psalm 62:2). He delights in us and invites us to talk with Him about everything: our worries, temptations, sorrows, and hopes. The psalmist tells us we can “find rest in God” and “pour out [our] hearts to him” (vv. 5, 8).
Don’t hesitate. Talk to God as much as you like. He won’t mind. He delights in our hearts. In Him you’ll find a home.
Kevin walked into the nursing facility after his dad passed away to pick up his belongings. The staff handed him two small boxes. He said he realized that day that it really didn’t take an abundance of possessions to be happy.
His dad, Larry, had been carefree and always ready with a smile and an encouraging word for others. The reason for his happiness was another “possession” that didn’t fit into a box: an unshakable faith in his Redeemer, Jesus.
Jesus urges us to “store up . . . treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). He didn’t say we couldn’t own a home or buy a car or save for the future or have numerous possessions. But He urged us to examine the focus of our hearts. What was Larry’s heart set on? On loving God by loving others. He would wander up and down the halls where he lived, greeting and encouraging those he met. If someone was in tears, he was there with a comforting word or listening ear or heartfelt prayer. His mind was focused on living for God’s honor and the good of others.
We might want to ask ourselves if we could be happy with far fewer things that clutter and distract us from the more important matters of loving God and others. “Where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart will be also” (v. 21). What we value is reflected in how we live.
Gary was experiencing some balance issues while walking. His doctor ordered physical therapy to improve his balance. During one session his therapist told him, “You’re trusting too much in what you can see, even when it’s wrong! You’re not depending enough on your other systems—what you feel under your feet and your inner-ear signals—which are also meant to help keep you balanced.”
“You’re trusting too much in what you can see” brings to mind the story of David, a young shepherd, and his encounter with Goliath. For forty days, Goliath, a Philistine champion, “strutted in front of the Israelite army,” taunting them to send someone out to fight him (1 Samuel 17:16 NLT). But what the people focused on naturally caused them fear. Then young David showed up because his father asked him to take supplies to his older brothers (v. 18).
How did David look at the situation? By faith in God, not by sight. He saw the giant but trusted that God would rescue his people. Even though he was just a boy, he told King Saul, “Don’t worry about this Philistine . . . . I’ll go fight him!” (v. 32 NLT). Then he told Goliath, “The battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands” (v. 47). And that’s just what God did.
Trusting in God’s character and power can help us to more closely live by faith rather than by sight.
The professor ended his online class in one of two ways each time. He’d say, “See you next time” or “Have a good weekend.” Some students would respond with “Thank you. You too!” But one day a student responded, “I love you.” Surprised, he replied, “I love you too!” That evening the classmates agreed to create an “I love you chain” for the next class time in appreciation for their professor who had to teach to a blank screen on his computer. A few days later when he finished teaching, the professor said, “See you next time,” and one by one the students replied, “I love you.” They continued this practice for months. The teacher said this created a strong bond with his students, and he now feels they’re “family.”
In 1 John 4:13–21, we, as part of God’s family, find several reasons to say “I love you” to Him. He sent His Son as a sacrifice for our sin (v. 10). He gave us His Spirit to live in us (vv. 13, 15). His love is always reliable (v. 16), and we never need to fear judgment (v. 17). He enables us to love Him and others “because he first loved us” (v. 19).
The next time you gather with God’s people, take time to share your reasons for loving Him. Making an I love you chain for God will bring Him praise and bring you closer together.
Linus, in the Peanuts comic strip, is best known for his blue security blanket. He carries it everywhere and isn’t embarrassed at needing it for comfort. His sister Lucy especially dislikes the blanket and often tries to get rid of it. She buries it, makes it into a kite, and uses it for a science fair project. Linus too knows he should be less dependent on his blanket and lets it go from time to time, always to take it back.
In the movie A Charlie Brown Christmas, when a frustrated Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, with his security blanket in hand, steps center stage and quotes Luke 2:8–14. In the middle of his recitation as he says, “Fear not,” he drops his blanket—the thing he clung to when afraid.
What is it about Christmas that reminds us we don’t need to fear? The angels that appeared to the shepherds said, “Do not be afraid . . . a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:10–11).
Jesus is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). We have His very presence through His Holy Spirit, the true Comforter (John 14:16), so we don’t need to fear. We can let go of our “security blankets” and trust in Him.
Collin and his wife, Jordan, wandered through the craft store, looking for a picture to hang in their home. Collin thought he’d found just the right piece and called Jordan over to see it. On the right side of the ceramic artwork was the word grace. But the left side held two long cracks. “Well, it’s broken!” Jordan said as she started looking for an unbroken one on the shelf. But then Collin said, “No. That’s the point. We’re broken and then grace comes in—period.” They decided to purchase the one with the cracks. When they got to the checkout, the clerk exclaimed, “Oh, no, it’s broken!” “Yes, so are we,” Jordan whispered.
What does it mean to be a “broken” person? Someone defined it this way: A growing awareness that no matter how hard we try, our ability to make life work gets worse instead of better. It’s a recognition of our need for God and His intervention in our lives.
The apostle Paul talked about our brokenness in terms of being “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). The answer to our need to be forgiven and changed comes in verses 4 and 5: “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, makes us alive . . . it is by grace [we] have been saved.”
God is willing to heal our brokenness with His grace when we admit, “I’m broken.”