While traveling in Asia, my iPad (containing my reading material and many work documents) suddenly died, a condition described as “the black screen of death.” Seeking help, I found a computer shop and encountered another problem—I don’t speak Chinese and the shop’s technician didn’t speak English. The solution? He pulled up a software program in which he typed in Chinese, but I could read it in English. The process reversed as I responded in English and he read in Chinese. The software allowed us to communicate clearly, even in different languages.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m unable to communicate and express my heart when I pray to my heavenly Father—and I’m not alone. Many of us struggle sometimes with prayer. But the apostle Paul wrote, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27).
How amazing is the gift of the Holy Spirit! Better than any computer program, He clearly communicates my thoughts and desires in harmony with the Father’s purposes. The work of the Spirit makes prayer work!
In Boston, Massachusetts, a plaque titled “Crossing the Bowl of Tears” remembers those who braved the Atlantic to escape death during the catastrophic Irish potato famine of the late 1840s. More than a million people died in that disaster, while another million or more abandoned home to cross the ocean, which John Boyle O’Reilly poetically called “the bowl of tears.” Driven by hunger and heartache, these travelers sought some measure of hope during desperate times.
In Psalm 55, David shares how he pursued hope. While we are uncertain about the specifics of the threat he faced, the weight of his experience was enough to break him emotionally (vv. 4–5). His instinctive reaction was to pray, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (v. 6).
Like David, we may want to flee to safety in the midst of painful circumstances. After considering his plight, however, David chose to run to his God instead of running from his heartache, singing, “As for me, I call to God, and the
When trouble comes, remember that the God of all comfort is able to carry you through your darkest moments and deepest fears. He promises that one day He Himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). Strengthened by this assurance, we can confidently trust Him with our tears now.
In his book The Call, Os Guinness describes a moment when Winston Churchill, on holiday with friends in the south of France, sat by the fireplace to warm himself on a cold night. Gazing at the fire, the former prime minister saw pine logs “crackling, hissing, and spitting as they burned. Suddenly, his familiar voice growled, ‘I know why logs spit. I know what it is to be consumed.’”
Difficulties, despair, dangers, distress, and the results of our own wrongdoings can all feel consuming. Circumstances slowly drain our hearts of joy and peace. When David experienced the consuming consequences of his own sinful choices, he wrote, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. . . . My strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3–4).
In such difficult times, where do we turn for help? For hope? Paul, whose experiences were filled with ministry burdens and brokenness, wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).
How does that work? As we rest in Jesus, the Good Shepherd restores our souls (Psalm 23:3) and strengthens us for the next step of our journey. He promises to walk that journey with us every step of the way (Hebrews 13:5).
On February 18, 1952, a massive storm split the SS Pendleton, a tanker ship, into two pieces about ten miles off the Massachusetts coast. More than forty sailors were trapped inside the ship's sinking stern in the midst of fierce winds and violent waves.
When word of the disaster reached the Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts, Boatswain’s Mate First Class Bernie Webber took three men on a lifeboat to try to save the stranded crew against nearly impossible odds-and brought thirty-two of the seemingly doomed sailors to safety. Their courageous feat was deemed one of the greatest rescues in United States Coast Guard history and was the subject of the 2016 film The Finest Hours.
In Luke 19:10, Jesus declared His own rescue mission saying, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The cross and the resurrection became the ultimate expression of that recue, as Jesus took upon Himself our sins and restored to the Father all who trust Him. For 2,000 years, people have embraced His offer of abundant life now and eternal life with Him. Rescued!
As followers of Jesus we have the privilege, with the Holy Spirit's help, to join our Savior in the greatest rescue mission in all of human history. Do you know someone who needs His rescuing love?
My brothers and I grew up on a wooded hillside in West Virginia that provided a fertile landscape for our imaginations. Whether swinging from grapevines like Tarzan or building tree houses like the Swiss Family Robinson, we played out the scenarios we found in the stories we read and movies we watched. One of our favorites was building forts and then pretending we were safe from attack. Years later, my kids built forts out of blankets, sheets, and pillows—constructing their own “safe place” against imaginary enemies. It seems almost instinctive to want a hiding place where you can feel safe and secure.
When David, the singer-poet of Israel, sought a safe place, he looked no further than God. Psalm 46:1–2 asserts, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” When you consider the Old Testament record of David’s life and the almost constant threats he faced, these words reveal an amazing level of confidence in the Lord. In spite of those threats, he was convinced his true safety was found in God.
We can know that same confidence. The God who promises to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) is the One we trust with our lives every day. Although we live in a dangerous world, our God gives us peace and assurance—both now and forever. He is our safe place.
Artist Sigismund Goetze shocked Victorian-era England with a painting entitled “Despised And Rejected Of Men.” In it, he portrayed the suffering, condemned Jesus surrounded by people of Goetze’s own generation. They were so consumed by their own interests—business, romance, politics—that they were shockingly oblivious to the Savior’s sacrifice. Indifferent to Christ, the surrounding crowd, like the mob at the foot of Jesus’s cross, had no idea what—or who—they had missed.
In our day as well, believers and unbelievers alike can easily become distracted from the eternal. How can followers of Jesus cut through this fog of distraction with the truth of God’s great love? We can begin by loving one another as fellow children of God. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35
But real love doesn’t stop there. We extend that love by sharing the gospel in hopes of drawing people to the Savior. As Paul wrote, “We are Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
In this way, the body of Christ can both reflect and project God’s love, the love we so desperately need, to both each other and to our world. May both efforts, empowered by His Spirit, be a part of cutting through the distractions that hinder us from seeing the wonder of God’s love in Jesus.
Anne Frank is well known for her diary describing her family’s years of hiding during World War II. When she was later imprisoned in a Nazi death camp, those with her said “her tears [for them] never ran dry,” making her “a blessed presence for all who knew her.” Because of this, scholar Kenneth Bailey concluded that Anne never displayed “compassion fatigue.”
Compassion fatigue can be one of the results of living in a badly broken world. The sheer volume of human suffering can numb even the best intentioned among us. Compassion fatigue, however, was not in Jesus’s makeup. Matthew 9:35–36 says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Our world suffers not only from physical needs but also from spiritual brokenness. Jesus came to meet that need and challenged His followers to join Him in this work (vv. 37–38). He prayed that the Father would raise up workers to respond to the needs all around us—people who struggle with loneliness, sin, and illness. May the Father give us a heart for others that mirrors His heart. In the strength of His Spirit, we can express His compassionate concern to those who are suffering.
My parents taught me to love all sorts of music—from country to classical. So, my heart beat rapidly as I walked into the Moscow Conservatory, one of Russia’s great music halls, to hear the Moscow National Symphony. As the conductor drove the musicians through a masterful Tchaikovsky piece, themes developed that gradually built to a powerful crescendo—a profound and dramatic musical climax. It was a magical moment, and the audience stood to roar its approval.
The Scriptures move toward the most powerful crescendo of history—the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the moments following Adam and Eve’s fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, God promised that a Redeemer would come (Genesis 3:15), and throughout the Old Testament that theme moved forward. The promise rang out in the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:21), the hopes of the prophets (1 Peter 1:10), and the longings of the people of God.
First John 4:14 confirmed where that story had been going: “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” How? God accomplished His promised rescue of His broken world when Jesus died and rose again to forgive us and restore us to our Creator. And one day He will come again and restore His whole creation.
As we remember what God’s Son has done for us, we celebrate the great crescendo of God’s grace and rescue for us and His world—Jesus!
Teresa Prekerowa was just a teenager when the Nazis invaded her native Poland at the dawn of World War II. This was in the beginnings of the Holocaust when her Jewish neighbors began to disappear—arrested by the Nazis. So Teresa and other Polish countrymen risked their lives to rescue those neighbors from the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi purge. Teresa would become one of the premier historians of the war and the Holocaust, but it was her courage to stand against the tide of evil that would list her with the Righteous Among the Nations at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
Courage is needed to stand against evil. Paul told the church at Ephesus, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). Clearly this unseen opposition is more than any of us can face alone, so God has given us the necessary spiritual resources (the “full armor of God”) to enable us to “stand against the devil’s schemes” (v. 11).
What might that courageous stand involve? It may be working against injustice or intervening on behalf of someone you know who is vulnerable or victimized. Whatever form the conflict may take, we can have courage—our God has already provided what we need to stand for Him and against evil.