“I had a dark moment.” Those five words capture the internal agony of a popular female celebrity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adjusting to a new normal was part of her challenge, and in her turmoil, she acknowledged that she wrestled with thoughts of suicide. Pulling out of the downward spiral included sharing her struggle with a friend who cared.
We’re all susceptible to tumultuous hours, days, and seasons. Valleys and hard places aren’t foreign but getting out of such places can be challenging. And seeking the assistance of mental health professionals is sometimes needed.
In Psalm 143, we hear and are instructed by David’s prayer during one of the dark times of his life. The exact situation is unknown, but his prayers to God are honest and hope-filled. “The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed” (vv. 3–4). For believers in Jesus, it’s not enough to acknowledge what’s going on within us to ourselves, to our friends, or to medical specialists. We must earnestly come to God (thoughts and all) with prayers that include the earnest petitions found in Psalm 143:7–10. Our dark moments can also be times for deep prayers—seeking the light and life only God can bring.
My trip to Simon’s house was unforgettable. Under the cover of a star-lit sky in Nyahururu, Kenya, we made our way to his modest home for dinner. The dirt floor and the lantern light reflected Simon’s limited means. What was on the menu, I don’t recall. What I can’t forget was Simon’s joy that we were his guests. His gracious hospitality was Jesus-like—selfless, life-touching, and refreshing.
In 1 Corinthians 16:15–18, Paul mentioned a family—the household of Stephanas (v. 15)—that had a reputation for their caregiving. They’d “devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people” (v. 15). While their service likely included tangible things (v. 17), the impact was such that Paul wrote that “they refreshed my spirit and yours also” (v. 18).
When we have opportunities to share with others, we rightly give attention to matters of food, setting, and other things that are fitting for such occasions. But we sometimes forget that although “the what” and “the where” matter, they’re not the most important things. Memorable meals are great and pleasant settings have their place, but food is limited in its capacity to fully nourish and encourage. True refreshment flows from God and is a matter of the heart; it reaches the hearts of others, and it continues to nourish long after the meal is over.
When Warren mentioned during our weekly ministry team call that he was “feeling dusty,” I sensed that this was his way of referencing the physical challenges associated with aging and ill-health. For Warren and his wife, both in their late sixties, 2020 included doctors’ visits, surgical procedures, and the rearranging of their home to accommodate in-home care. They were on the other side of the prime of life and they were feeling it.
One doesn’t have to live long before sensing our inadequacies, imperfections, and weaknesses—physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. God, in the person of His Son Jesus, stepped into our fallen world and cares for those who experience the liabilities of human existence (Psalm 103:13). Furthermore, David wrote, “He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (v. 14). The term dust takes us back to Genesis: “Then the
Are you feeling dusty these days? Welcome to the realities of earthly living. Remember, however, that when we feel most vulnerable, we’re not left alone. Our compassionate God “knows” and “remembers.” He demonstrated His love to us by sending His Son to provide forgiveness for earthly people like you and me. Whatever life may bring, may we trust in Him.
Like the unraveling of a rope, the threads in Doug’s life were breaking one by one. “My mother had lost her prolonged battle with cancer; a long-term romantic relationship was failing; my finances were depleted; my vocation was foggy. . . . The emotional and spiritual darkness around me and within me was deep and debilitating and seemingly impenetrable,” writes pastor and sculptor Doug Merkey. These collective events, combined with living in a cramped attic, became the setting from which his sculpture The Hiding Place emerged. It depicts Christ’s strong, nailed-scarred hands openly cupped together as a place of safety.
Doug explained the design of his artwork this way: The “sculpture is Christ’s invitation to hide in Him.” In Psalm 32, David wrote as one who had found the ultimate safe place—God Himself. He offers us forgiveness from our sin (vv. 1–5) and encourages us to offer prayer in the midst of tumult (v. 6). In verse 7, the psalmist declares his trust in God: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
When trouble shows up, where do you turn? How good it is to know that when the fragile cords of our earthly existence begin to unravel, we can run to the God who has provided eternal safety through the forgiving work of Jesus.
The unresolved hurt between Simon and Geoffrey had persisted for years, and Simon’s attempts to reenter the relationship had been resisted. Upon hearing the news of the death of Geoffrey’s mother, Simon traveled “up country” in Kenya to attend her funeral service. Simon reflected on their encounter: “I had no expectations at all in terms of how the whole thing would turn out, [but] after the service, we opened up and had a fruitful talk. We hugged, shared the moment, prayed together, and planned to meet again.” If only Simon and Geoffrey had been able to reconcile earlier, so much ongoing pain could have been avoided.
The words of Jesus in Matthew 5:21–26 help to put unresolved relational tensions in perspective. The anger that can lead to such rifts is a serious matter (v. 22). Furthermore, getting things in order relationally is a fitting prelude to worshiping God (vv. 23–24). The wise words of Jesus to “settle matters quickly with your adversary” (v. 25) remind us that the sooner we do what we can to work toward reconciliation the better for all.
Relationships are risky; they demand work—in our families, in the workplace, in educational settings, and among people who share our faith in Christ. But as those who represent Him, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), may we find ourselves going out of our way to extend our hearts and hands to those with whom we have unresolved conflict.
After Prem Pradham’s (1924–1998) plane was shot down during World War II, he was wounded in the leg by ground fire while parachuting to safety. As a result, he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. He once noted, “I have a lame leg. Isn’t it strange of God that He called [me] to preach the gospel in the Himalaya Mountains?” And preach in Nepal he did—but not without opposition that included imprisonment in “dungeons of death” where prisoners faced extreme conditions. In a span of fifteen years, Prem spent ten years in fourteen different prisons. His bold witness, however, bore the fruit of changed lives for Christ that included guards and prisoners who took the message of Jesus to their own people.
Peter faced opposition due to his faith in Jesus and for being used by God to heal a “man who was lame” (Acts 4:9). But he used the opportunity to boldly speak for Christ (vv. 8–13). Though some today will also face the ire of hardhearted religious leaders (vv. 10–11), we also encounter individuals and groups who are spiritually destitute. Family members, co-workers, fellow students, and others we share life and space with need to hear about the One in whom “salvation is found” (v. 12), who died as payment for our sins and was raised from the dead as proof of His power to forgive (v. 10). May they hear as we prayerfully and boldly proclaim this good news of salvation found in Jesus (v. 12).
“Son, I don’t have much to give you. But I do have a good name, so don’t mess it up.” Those wise, weighty words were uttered by Johnnie Bettis as his son Jerome left home for college. Jerome quoted his father in his Professional American Football Hall of Fame acceptance speech. These sage words that Jerome has carried with him throughout his life have been so influential that he closed his riveting speech with similar words to his own son. “Son, there’s not much that I can give you that’s more important than our good name.”
A good name is vital for believers in Jesus. Paul’s words in Colossians 3:12–17 remind us about who it is that we represent (v. 17). Character is like clothing that we wear, and this passage puts the “Jesus label” of clothing on display: “As God’s chosen people . . . clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another. . . . And over all these virtues put on love” (vv. 12–14). These are not just our “Sunday clothes”—we’re to wear them everywhere, all the time as God works in us to reflect Him. When our lives are characterized by these qualities, we demonstrate that we “have His name.” May we prayerfully and carefully represent Him as He provides what we need.
J. I. Packer (1926–2020), in his classic work Knowing God, spoke of four well-known believers in Christ whom he called “beavers for the Bible.” Not all were trained scholars, but each one exercised great care to know God by gnawing into the Scripture, like a beaver digs in and gnaws away at a tree. Packer further noted that knowing God through Bible study is not just for scholars. “A simple Bible reader and sermon hearer who is full of the Holy Spirit will develop a far deeper acquaintance with his God and Savior than a more learned scholar who is content with being theologically correct.”
Unfortunately, not all who study the Bible do so with humble hearts with the goal of getting to know the Savior better and becoming more like Him. In Jesus’ day there were those who read the Old Testament Scriptures, yet they missed the very One they spoke of. “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39–40).
Do you sometimes find yourself stumped as you read the Bible? Or have you given up studying the Scriptures altogether? Bible “beavers” are more than Bible readers. They prayerfully and carefully gnaw away at Scripture in ways that open their eyes and hearts to see and love Jesus—the One revealed in it.
Robert was embarrassed when he showed up for a breakfast meeting and realized he’d forgotten his wallet. It bothered him to the point that he pondered whether he should eat at all or simply get something to drink. After some convincing from his friend, he relaxed his resistance. He and his friend enjoyed their entrees, and his friend gladly paid the bill.
Perhaps you can identify with this dilemma or some other situation that puts you on the receiving end. Wanting to pay our own way is normal, but there are occasions when we must humbly receive what’s graciously being given.
Some kind of payback may have been what the younger son had in mind in Luke 15:17-24 as he contemplated what he would say to his father. “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants” (v. 19). Hired servant? His father would have no such thing! In his father’s eyes, he was a much-loved son who’d come home. As such he was met with a father’s embrace and an affectionate kiss (v. 20). What a grand gospel picture! It reminds us that by Jesus’ death He revealed a loving Father who welcomes empty-handed children with open arms. One hymnwriter expressed it like this: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.”