I was deeply troubled and woke in the night to pace the floor and pray. Frankly, my attitude was not one of prayerful submission to God, but one of questioning and anger. Finding no release, I sat and stared out a large window at the night sky. I was unexpectedly drawn to focus on Orion’s belt—those three perfectly arranged stars often visible on clear nights. I knew just enough about astronomy to understand that those three stars were hundreds of light years apart.
I realized the closer I could be to those stars, the less they would appear to be aligned. Yet from my distant perspective, they looked carefully configured in the heavens. At that moment, I realized I was too close to my life to see what God sees. In His big picture, everything is in perfect alignment.
The apostle Paul, as he completes a summary of the ultimate purposes of God, breaks into a hymn of praise (Romans 11:33–36). His words lift our gaze to our sovereign God, whose ways are beyond our limited ability to understand or trace (v. 33). Yet the One who holds all things together in the heavens and on earth is intimately and lovingly involved with every detail of our lives (Matthew 6:25–34; Colossians 1:16).
Even when things seem confusing, God’s divine plans are unfolding for our good and for God’s honor and glory.
Jackson dreamed of becoming a US Navy Seal from early childhood—an ambition that led to years of physical discipline and self-sacrifice. He eventually faced grueling tests of strength and endurance including what’s referred to by trainees as “hell week.”
Jackson was physically unable to complete the exhaustive training, and reluctantly rang a bell to inform the commander and other trainees of his choice to leave the program. For most, this would feel like failure. But in spite of the extreme disappointment, Jackson was later able to see his military failure as preparation for his life’s work.
The apostle Peter experienced his own form of failure. He boldly proclaimed that he would remain loyal to Jesus even to prison or death (Luke 22:33). Yet later he wept bitterly after he denied that he knew Jesus (Luke 22:61–62). But God had plans beyond his failure. Prior to Peter’s denial, Jesus informed him, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18; see also Luke 22:31–32).
Are you struggling with a failure causing you to feel unworthy or unqualified to move on? Don’t let the ringing bell of failure cause you to miss God’s greater purposes for you.
I was invited to meet a world-renowned pianist. Since I grew up immersed in music, playing the violin, piano, and especially in singing solos for church and other events, I was thrilled at the opportunity.
When I arrived to meet the pianist, I realized he spoke little English and to my surprise provided a cello for me to play—an instrument I’d never touched. He insisted that I play and he would accompany me. I screeched out a few notes, trying to mimic my violin training. Finally admitting that I was lost, we parted ways.
I awoke, realizing the scenario had been a dream. But since the musical background presented in my dream is true, in my mind lingered the words, Why didn't you tell him that you could sing?
God equips us to develop our natural talents, and discern and use our spiritual gifts on behalf of others (1 Corinthians 12:7). Through the prayerful exploration of the Scriptures and the wise counsel of others, we can better understand the spiritual gift (or gifts) that is uniquely ours. The apostle Paul reminds us that whatever our spiritual gift, take time to find it and use it, knowing that the Spirit distributes the gifts “just as he determines” (v. 11).
Let’s use the “voices” the Holy Spirit has given us to honor God and serve other believers in Jesus.
During my college days, my summers were spent working at a guest ranch in the stunningly beautiful mountains of Colorado. On a rotating basis, staff members were assigned “night watch” duty—to keep an eye out for forest fires in order to protect the guests as they slept. What initially seemed to be an exhausting and thankless task became a unique opportunity for me to be still, reflect, and find solace in the majesty of God’s presence.
King David earnestly sought and thirsted for the presence of God (Psalm 63:1), even from his bed and through the “watches of the night” (v. 6). The psalm makes it clear David was troubled. It’s possible the words contained in it reflect his deep sadness over the rebellion of his son Absalom. Yet the night became a time for David to find help and restoration in the “shadow of God’s wings” (v. 7)—in His power and presence.
Perhaps you’re dealing with some crisis or difficulty in your life, and the night watches have been anything but comforting. Perhaps your own “Absalom” weighs heavy on your heart and soul. Or other burdens of family, work, or finances plague your times of rest. If so, consider these sleepless moments to be opportunities to call out and cling to God—allowing His loving hand to uphold you (v. 8).