It makes no logical sense, but when my parents died within a three-month period, I feared they would forget me. Of course they were no longer on earth, but that left me with a large uncertainty. I was a young, unmarried adult and wondered how to navigate life without them. Feeling really single and alone, I sought God.
One morning I told Him about my irrational fear and the sadness it brought (even though He knew it already). The Scripture passage that came in my reading for the day was Isaiah 49: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast . . . ? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (v. 15). God reassured His people through Isaiah that He had not forgotten them and later promised to restore them to Himself through sending His Son Jesus. But the words ministered to my heart too. It’s rare for a mother or a father to forget their child, yet it’s possible. But God? No way. “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,” He said.
God’s answer to me could have brought more fear. But the peace He gave because of His own remembrance of me was exactly what I needed. It was the start of discovering that God is even closer than a parent or anyone else, and He knows the way to help us with everything—even our irrational fears.
Donelan, a teacher, had always been a reader, but one day it literally paid off. She was planning a trip and reviewing her lengthy travel insurance policy when on page 7 she discovered a wonderful reward. As part of their “It Pays to Read” contest, the company was giving $10,000 to the first person to read that far into the contract. They also donated thousands of dollars to schools in Donelan’s area for children’s literacy. She says, “I’ve always been that nerd who reads contracts. I was the most surprised of anyone!”
The psalmist wanted his eyes opened to “see wonderful things” about God (Psalm 119:18). He must have had an understanding that God wants to be known, and so he longed for a deeper closeness to Him. His desire was to see more of who He is, what He had already given, and how to follow Him more closely (vv. 24, 98). He wrote, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97).
We too have the privilege of taking time to ponder God, His character, and His provisions—to learn about and grow closer to Him. God longs to instruct us, guide us, and open our hearts to who He is. When we search for Him, He rewards us with greater wonder at who He is and the enjoyment of His presence!
Disillusioned and wanting a more meaningful life, Leon quit his job in finance. Then one day he saw a homeless man holding up a sign at a street corner: KINDNESS IS THE BEST MEDICINE. Leon says, “Those words rammed straight into me. It was an epiphany.”
Leon decided to begin his new life by creating an international organization to promote kindness. He travels around the world, relying on strangers to provide him with food, gas, and a place to stay. Then he rewards them with good deeds of his own such as feeding orphans or building on to a school for underprivileged children. He says, “It’s sometimes seen as being soft. But kindness is a profound strength.”
Christ’s very essence as God is goodness, so kindness naturally flowed from Him. I love the story of what Jesus did when He came upon the funeral procession of a widow’s only son (Luke 7:11–17). The grieving woman most likely was dependent on her son for financial support. We don’t read in the story that anyone asked Jesus to intervene. Purely from the goodness of His nature (v. 13), Jesus was concerned and brought her son back to life. The people said of Him, “God has come to help his people” (v. 16).
When Peter Welch was a young boy in the 1970s, using a metal detector was only a hobby. But since 1990, he’s been leading people from around the world on metal-detecting excursions. They’ve made thousands of discoveries—swords, ancient jewelry, coins. Using “Google Earth,” a computer program that renders a 3D representation of Earth based on satellite imagery, they look for patterns in the landscape on farmland in the United Kingdom. It shows them where roads, buildings, and other structures may have been centuries ago. Peter says, “To have a perspective from above opens a whole new world.”
God’s people in Isaiah’s day needed “a perspective from above.” They prided themselves on being God’s people yet were disobedient and refused to give up their idols. God had another perspective. Despite their rebellion, He would rescue them from captivity to Babylon. Why? “For my own sake, . . . I will not yield my glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11). God’s perspective from above is that life is for His glory and purpose—not ours. Our attention is to be given to Him and His plans and to pointing others to praise Him too.
Having God’s glory as our own life’s perspective opens a whole new world. Only God knows what we will discover about Him and what He has for us. He’ll teach us what is good for us and lead us along the paths we should follow (v. 17).
Saydee and his family have an “open arms and open home” philosophy. People are always welcome in their home, “especially those who are in distress,” he says. That’s the kind of household he had growing up in Liberia with his nine siblings. Their parents always welcomed others into their family. He says, “We grew up as a community. We loved one another. Everybody was responsible for everybody. My dad taught us to love each other, care for each other, protect each other.”
When King David was in need he found this type of loving care in God. Second Samuel 22 (and Psalm 18) records his song of praise to God for the ways He had been a refuge for him throughout his life. He recalled, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears” (2 Samuel 22:7). God had delivered him from his enemies, including King Saul many times. He praised God for being his fortress and deliverer in whom he took refuge (vv. 2–3).
While our distresses may be small in comparison to David’s, God welcomes us to run to Him to find the shelter we long for. His arms are always open. Therefore we “sing the praises of [His] name” (v. 50).
Debbie, the owner of a housecleaning service, was always searching for more clients to build up her business. On one call she talked with a woman whose response was, “I won’t be able to afford that now; I’m undergoing cancer treatment.” Right then Debbie decided that “no woman undergoing cancer treatment would ever be turned away. They would even be offered a free housecleaning service.” So in 2005 she started a nonprofit organization where companies donated their cleaning services to women battling cancer. One such woman felt a rush of confidence when she came home to a clean house. She said, “For the first time, I actually believed I could beat cancer.”
A feeling of being cared for and supported can help sustain us when we’re up against any difficulty. An awareness of God’s presence and support can especially bring us hope to encourage our spirit. Psalm 46, a favorite of many people going through trials, reminds us: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (v. 1). “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; . . . I will be exalted in the earth.’ The
Reminding ourselves of God’s promises and His presence with us can be a means to help renew our hearts and give us the courage and confidence to go through hard times.
You might know what it’s like. The bills keep arriving after a medical procedure—from the anesthesiologist, the surgeon, the lab, the facility. Jason experienced this after an emergency surgery. He complained, “We owe thousands of dollars after insurance. If only we can get these bills paid, then life will be good and I’ll be content! I feel like I’m playing the arcade game Whack-a-Mole”—where plastic moles pop up from their holes, and the player hits one after another with a mallet.
Life can come at us like that at times. The apostle Paul certainly could relate. He said, “I know what it is to be in need,” yet he’d “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12). His secret? “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (v. 13). When I was going through a particularly discontented time, I read this on a greeting card: “If it isn’t here, where is it?” That was a powerful reminder that if I’m not content now, what makes me think I’d be if only I were in another situation?
How do we learn to rest in Christ? Maybe it’s a matter of focus. Of enjoying and being thankful for the good. Of learning more about a faithful Father. Of growing in trust and patience. Of recognizing that life is about God and not me. Of asking Him to teach me contentment in Him.
Some years after the tragic loss of their first spouses, Robbie and Sabrina fell in love, married, and combined their two families. They built a new home and named it Havilah (a Hebrew word meaning “writhing in pain” and “to bring forth”). It signifies the making of something beautiful through pain. The couple says they didn’t build the home to forget their past but “to bring life from the ashes, to celebrate hope.” For them, “it is a place of belonging, a place to celebrate life and where we all cling to the promise of a future.”
That’s a beautiful picture of our life in Jesus. He pulls our lives from the ashes and becomes for us a place of belonging. When we receive Him, He makes His home in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17). God adopts us into His family through Jesus so that we belong to Him (1:5–6). Although we’ll go through painful times, He can use even those to bring good purposes in our lives.
Daily we have opportunity to grow in our understanding of God as we enjoy His love and celebrate the life He’s given us. In Him, there’s a fullness to life that we couldn’t have without Him (3:19). And we have the promise that this relationship will last forever. Jesus is our place of belonging, our reason to celebrate life, and our hope now and forever.
As five-year-old Eldon listened to the pastor talk about Jesus leaving His heavenly kingdom and coming to earth, he gasped when the pastor thanked Him in prayer for dying for our sins. “Oh, no! He died?” the boy said in surprise.
From the start of Jesus’s life on earth, there were people who wanted Him dead. Wise men came to Jerusalem during the reign of King Herod inquiring, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). When the king heard this, he became fearful of one day losing his position to Jesus. So he sent soldiers to kill all the boys two years old and younger around Bethlehem. But God protected His Son and sent an angel to warn His parents to get out of the area. They fled, and He was saved (vv. 13–18).
When Jesus completed His ministry, He was crucified for the sins of the world. The sign placed above His cross, though meant in mockery, read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (27:37). Yet three days later He rose in victory from the grave. After ascending to heaven, He sat down on the throne as King of kings and Lord of lords (Philippians 2:8–11).
The King died for our sins—yours, mine, and Eldon’s. Let’s allow Him to rule in our hearts.