I awoke to pitch darkness. I hadn’t slept more than thirty minutes and my heart sensed that sleep wouldn’t return soon. A friend’s husband lay in the hospital, having received the dreaded news, “The cancer is back—in the brain and spine now.” My whole being hurt for my friends. What a heavy load! And yet, somehow my spirit was lifted through my sacred vigil of prayer. You might say I felt beautifully burdened for them. How could this be?
In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus promises rest for our weary souls. Strangely, His rest comes as we bend under His yoke and embrace His burden. He clarifies in verse 30, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When we allow Jesus to lift our burden from our backs and then tether ourselves to Jesus’s yoke, we become harnessed with Him, in step with Him and all He allows. When we bend under His burden, we share in His sufferings, which ultimately allow us to share in His comfort as well (2 Corinthians 1:5).
My concern for my friends was a heavy burden. Yet I felt grateful that God would allow me to carry them in prayer. Gradually I ebbed back to sleep and awoke—still beautifully burdened but now under the easy yoke and light load of walking with Jesus.
The butterfly flitted in and out of my mother’s panda-faced pansies. As I child, I longed to catch it. I raced from our backyard into our kitchen and grabbed a glass jar, but on my hasty return, I tripped and hit the concrete patio hard. The jar smashed under my wrist and left an ugly slash of flesh that would require eighteen stitches to close. Today the scar crawls like a caterpillar across my wrist, telling the story of both wounding and healing.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His death, He brought His scars. John reports Thomas wanting to see “the nail marks in his hands” and Jesus inviting Thomas to “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side” (John 20:25, 27). In order to demonstrate He was the same Jesus, He rose from the dead with the scars of His suffering still visible.
The scars of Jesus prove Him to be the Savior and tell the story of our salvation. The pierced marks through His hands and feet and the hollow in His side reveal a story of pain inflicted, endured, and then healed—for us. He did it so that we might be restored to Him and made whole.
Have you ever considered the story told by Jesus’s scars?
Thomas Edison invented the first practical electric light bulb. Jonas Salk developed an effective polio vaccine. Amy Carmichael penned many of the hymns we sing in worship. But what about you? Why were you put on earth? To what end will you invest your life?
Genesis 4 tells us that Eve “became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.” After holding Cain for the first time, Eve announced, “With the help of the
Parenthood is just one of many ways people make lasting contributions to this world. Perhaps your offering will burst forth from a room where you write or knit or paint. You might be an example for another who is deprived of godly influence. Or your investment might even come after your death in ways that you could never imagine. It may be the work you leave behind or your reputation for integrity in business. In any case, will your words echo Eve’s dependency on God? With the help of the Lord, what will you bring forth for His glory?
I opened the whimsically illustrated children’s Bible and began to read to my grandson. Immediately we were enthralled as the story of God’s love and provision unfurled in prose. Marking our place, I turned the book over and read the title once again: The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.
Every story whispers His name. Every story.
To be honest, sometimes the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is hard to understand. Why do those who don’t know God seem to triumph over God’s own? How can God permit such cruelty when we know that His character is pure and that His purposes are for our good?
After His resurrection, Jesus met two followers on the road to Emmaus who didn’t recognize Him and were struggling with disappointment over the death of their hoped-for Messiah (Luke 24:19–24). They had “hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (v. 21). Luke then records how Jesus reassured them: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
Every story whispers His name—even the hard stories because they reveal the comprehensive brokenness of our world and our need for a Rescuer. Every act, every event, every intervention points to the redemption God designed for His wayward loved ones: to bring us back to Himself.
A friend of mine—okay, it was my counselor—drew a stick figure on a sheet of paper. She labeled this the “private” self. Then she drew an outline around the figure, about a half-inch larger, and named it the “public” self. The difference between the two figures, between the private and public selves, represents the degree to which we have integrity.
I paused at her lesson and wondered, Am I the same person in public that I am in private? Do I have integrity?
Paul wrote letters to the church in Corinth, weaving love and discipline into his admonitions to be like Jesus. As he neared the end of this letter (2 Corinthians), he addressed accusers who challenged his integrity by saying he was bold in his letters but weak in person (10:10). These adversaries used professional oratory to take money from their listeners. While Paul possessed academic prowess, he spoke without eloquence. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words,” he had written earlier, “but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). His later letter revealed his integrity, “Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present” (2 Corinthians 10:11).
“Bear” was a gift for my grandchild—a heaping helping of love contained in a giant stuffed animal frame. Baby D’s response? First, wonder. Next, an amazed awe. Then, a curiosity that nudged a daring exploration. He poked his pudgy finger at Bear’s nose, and when the Bear tumbled forward into his arms he responded with joy joy JOY! Baby D laid his toddler head down on Bear’s fluffy chest and hugged him tightly. A dimpled smile spread across his cheeks as he burrowed deeply into Bear’s cushiony softness. The child had no idea of Bear’s inability to truly love him. Innocently and naturally, he felt love from Bear and returned it with all his heart.
In his first of three letters to early Christians, the apostle John boldly states that God Himself is love. “We know and rely on the love God has for us,” he writes. “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
God loves. Not in the pillow of a pretend animal but rather, with the outstretched arms of a real human body encasing a beating but breaking heart (John 3:16). Through Jesus, God communicated His extravagant and sacrificial love for us.
John goes on in verse 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” When we believe we are loved, we love back. God’s real love makes it possible for us to love God and others. With all our hearts.
Early in the morning, I pad noiselessly past a family-room window overlooking a wilderness area behind our house. Often, I notice a hawk or owl perched in a tree, keeping watch over the area. One morning I was surprised to find a bald eagle boldly balanced on a high branch, surveying the terrain as if the entire expanse belonged to him. Likely he was watching for “breakfast.” His all-inclusive gaze seemed regal.
In 2 Chronicles 16, Hanani the seer (God’s prophet) informed a king that his actions were under a Royal gaze. He told Asa, king of Judah, “You relied on the king of Aram and not on the
Reading these words, we might get the false sense that God watches our every move so He can pounce like a bird of prey. But Hanani’s words focus on the positive. His point is that our God continually watches and waits for us to call on Him when we are in need.
Like my backyard bald eagle, how might God’s eye be roaming our earth—even now—looking to find faithfulness in you and me? How might He might provide the hope and help we need?
I can remember the moment I faced my neediness as a mom. While I’d certainly seen glimpses of my soul holes in the earliest moments of mothering, it was in this moment that the reality of my needs came crashing in. I was washing—yet again—my toddler’s sheets after she awoke from her nap and I discovered them wet. I balled…
My grandmother was a talented seamstress who won contests in her native Texas. Throughout my life, she celebrated hallmark occasions with a hand-sewn gift. A burgundy mohair sweater for my high-school graduation. A turquoise quilt for my marriage. I’d fold over a corner of each custom-crafted item to discover her signature tag reading, “Handmade for you by Munna.” With every embroidered word, I sensed my grandmother’s love for me and received a powerful statement of her faith in my future.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians of their purpose in this world, describing them as “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (2:10). Here “handiwork” denotes a work of art or a masterpiece. Paul goes on to describe that God’s handiwork in creating us would result in our handiwork of creating good works—or expressions of our restored relationship with Jesus—for His glory in our world. We can never be saved by our own good works, but when God handmakes us for His purposes, He can use us to bring others toward His great love.
With her head bowed over her needle, my Munna handmade items to communicate her love for me and her passion that I discover my purpose on this planet. And with His fingers shaping the details of our days, God stitches His love and purposes in our hearts that we might experience Him for ourselves and demonstrate His handiwork to others.