Everything felt drastically different in their new country—new language, schools, customs, traffic, and weather. They wondered how they would ever adjust. People from a nearby church gathered around them to help them in their new life in a new land. Patti took the couple shopping at a local food market to show them what’s available and how to purchase items. As they wandered around the market, their eyes widened and they smiled broadly when they saw their favorite fruit from their homeland—pomegranates. They bought one for each of their children and even placed one in Patti’s hands in gratefulness. The small fruit and new friends brought big comfort in their strange, new land.
God, through Moses, gave a list of laws for His people, which included a command to treat foreigners among them “as your native-born” (Leviticus 19:34). “Love them as yourself,” God further commanded. Jesus called this the second greatest commandment after loving God (Matthew 22:39). For even God “watches over the foreigner” (Psalm 146:9).
Besides obeying God as we help new friends adapt to life in our country, we may be reminded that we too in a real sense are “strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). And we’ll grow in our anticipation of the new heavenly land to come.
A young mom followed behind her daughter, who pedaled her tiny bike as fast as her little legs could go. But picking up more speed than she wanted, the little girl suddenly rolled off the bike and cried that her ankle hurt. Her mom quietly got down on her knees, bent down low, and kissed it to “make the pain go away.” And it worked! The little girl jumped up, climbed back on her bike, and pedaled on. Don’t you wish all our pains could go away that easily!
The apostle Paul experienced the comfort of God in his continual struggles yet kept going. He listed some of those trials in 2 Corinthians 11:23–29: floggings, beatings, stonings, sleep deprivation, hunger, care for all the churches. He learned intimately that God is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,” as he first declared in chapter one, verse three. Another version translates those verses this way: “He is the Father who gives tender love” (
God’s loving ways of comforting us are many and varied. He may give us a Scripture verse that encourages us to continue on or a special note or phone call from a friend that touches our spirit. While the struggle may not go away, because God bends down low to help us, we can get up and pedal on.
A tornado blew through a community on a June evening in 2021, destroying a family’s barn. It was a sad loss because the barn had been on the family property since the late 1800s. As John and Barb drove by on their way to church the next morning, they saw the damage and wondered how they might help. So they stopped and learned that the family needed assistance with cleanup. Turning their car around quickly, they headed back home to change clothes and returned to stay for the day to clean up the mess the violent winds had created. They put their faith into action as they served the family.
James said that “faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26). He gives the example of Abraham, who in obedience followed God when he didn’t know where he was going (v. 23, see Genesis 12:1–4; 15:6). James also mentions Rahab, who showed her belief in the God of Israel when she hid the spies who came to check out the city of Jericho (2:25; see Joshua 2; 6:17).
“If someone claims to have faith but has no deeds,” it does them no good (James 2:26). “Faith is the root, good works are the fruits, and we must see to it that we have both” (Matthew Henry Commentary). God doesn’t need our good deeds, but our faith is proven by our actions.
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.