Sometimes my wife and I finish each other’s sentences. In over thirty years of marriage we’ve become increasingly familiar with the way the other thinks and speaks. We may not even have to finish a sentence at all; just a word or a glance is enough to express a thought.
There’s comfort in that—like an old pair of shoes you continue to wear because they fit so well. Sometimes we even refer to each other affectionately as “my old shoe”—a compliment that might be difficult to understand if you didn’t know us well! Through the years our relationship has developed a language of its own, with expressions that are the result of decades of love and trust.
It’s comforting to know that God loves us with a deep familiarity. David wrote, “Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely” (Ps. 139:4). Imagine having a quiet conversation with Jesus where you’re telling Him the deepest matters of your heart. Just when you’re struggling to get the words out, He gives you a knowing smile and expresses exactly what you couldn’t quite say. How good it is to know that we don’t have to get our words just right to talk to God! He loves us and knows us well enough to understand.
Sometimes when I put my head on my pillow at night and pray, I imagine I’m leaning on Jesus. Whenever I do this, I remember something God’s Word tells us about the apostle John. John himself writes about how he was sitting beside Jesus at the Last Supper: “One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him” (John 13:23).
John used the term “the disciple whom Jesus loved” as a way of referring to himself without mentioning his own name. He is also depicting a typical banquet setting in first-century Israel, where the table was much lower than those we use today, about knee height. Reclining without chairs on a mat or cushions was the natural position for those around the table. John was sitting so close to the Lord that when he turned to ask him a question, he was “leaning back against Jesus” (John 13:25), with his head on his chest.
John’s closeness to Jesus in that moment provides a helpful illustration for our lives with Him today. We may not be able to touch Jesus physically, but we can entrust the weightiest circumstances of our lives to Him. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). How blessed we are to have a Savior whom we can trust to be faithful through every circumstance of our lives! Are you “leaning” on Him today?
Our son wrestled with drug addiction for seven years, and during that time my wife and I experienced many difficult days. As we prayed and waited for his recovery, we learned to celebrate small victories. If nothing bad happened in a twenty-hour-hour period, we would tell each other, “Today was a good day.” That short sentence became a reminder to be thankful for God’s help with the smallest things.
Tucked away in Psalm 126:3 is an even better reminder of God’s tender mercies and what they ultimately mean for us: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” What a great verse to take to heart as we remember Jesus’s compassion for us at the cross! The difficulties of any given day cannot change the truth that come what may, our Lord has already shown us unfathomable kindness, and “his love endures forever” (Ps. 136:1).
When we have lived through a difficult circumstance and discovered that God was faithful, keeping that in mind helps greatly the next time life’s waters turn rough. We may not know how God will get us through our circumstances, but His kindness to us in the past helps us trust that He will.
Many manger scenes depict the wise men, or magi, visiting Jesus in Bethlehem at the same time as the shepherds. But according to the gospel of Matthew, the only place in Scripture where their story is found, the magi showed up later. Jesus was no longer in the manger in a stable at the inn, but in a house. Matthew 2:11 tells us, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
Realizing that the magi’s visit happened later than we may think provides a helpful reminder as we begin a new year. Jesus is always worthy of worship. When the holidays are past and we head back to life’s everyday routines, we still have Someone to celebrate.
Jesus Christ is Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), in every season. He has promised to be with us “always” (28:20). Because He is always with us, we can worship Him in our hearts every day and trust that He will show Himself faithful in the years to come. Just as the magi sought Him, may we seek Him too and worship Him wherever we are.
God often chooses to move through our prayers to accomplish His work. We see this when God told the prophet Elijah, “I will send rain on the land,” promising to end a drought in Israel that had lasted three and a half years (James 5:17). Even though God had promised rain, a short time later “Elijah climbed to the top of Mt. Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees”—praying intently for the rain to come (v. 42). Then, while he continued to pray, Elijah sent his servant to go and look out over the ocean “seven times,” scanning the horizon for any sign of rain (v. 43).
Elijah understood that God wants us to join in His work through humble, persistent prayer. Regardless of our human limitations, God may choose to move through our praying in amazing ways. That’s why the epistle of James tells us that “the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results,” all the while reminding us that “Elijah was as human as we are” (James 5:16–17 nlt).
When we make it our aim to serve God through praying faithfully as Elijah did, we’re taking part in a beautiful privilege—where at any moment we may be given a “front row seat” to a miracle!
Do you ever talk to yourself? Sometimes when I’m working on a project—usually under the hood of a car—I find it helpful to think aloud, working through my options on the best way to make the repair. If someone catches me in my “conversation” it can be a little embarrassing—even though talking to ourselves is something most of us do every day.
The psalmists often talked to themselves in the Psalms. The author of Psalm 116 is no exception. In verse 7 he writes, “Return to your rest, my soul, for the
It’s good to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness and the hope we have in Him. We can follow the example of the psalmist and spend some time naming the many ways God has been good to us. As we do, we’ll be encouraged. The same God who has been faithful in the past will continue His love for us in the future.
My wife walked into the room and found me poking my head inside the cabinet of our grandfather clock. “What are you doing?” she asked. “This clock smells just like my parents’ house,” I answered sheepishly, closing the door. “I guess you could say I was going home for a moment.”
The sense of smell can evoke powerful memories. We had moved the clock across the country from my parents’ house nearly 20 years ago, but the aroma of the wood inside it still takes me back to my childhood.
The writer of Hebrews tells of others who were longing for home in a different way. Instead of looking backward, they were looking ahead with faith to their home in heaven. Even though what they hoped for seemed a long way off, they trusted that God was faithful to keep His promise to bring them to a place where they would be with Him forever (Heb. 11:13-16).
Philippians 3:20 reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven,” and we are to “eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Looking forward to seeing Jesus and receiving everything God has promised us through Him help us keep our focus. The past or the present can never compare with what’s ahead of us!
On a recent airline flight the landing was a little rough, jostling us left and right down the runway. Some of the passengers were visibly nervous, but the tension broke when two little girls sitting behind me cheered, “Yeah! Let’s do that again!”
Children are open to new adventures and see life with humble, wide-eyed wonder. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus had in mind when He said that we have to “receive the kingdom of God like a little child” (Mark 10:15).
Life has its challenges and heartaches. Few knew this better than Jeremiah, who is also called “the weeping prophet.” But in the middle of Jeremiah’s troubles, God encouraged him with an amazing truth: “The faithful love of the
God’s fresh mercies can break into our lives at any moment. They are always there, and we see them when we live with childlike expectation—watching and waiting for what only He can do. Jeremiah knew that God’s goodness is not defined only by our immediate circumstances and that His faithfulness is greater than life’s rough places. Look for God’s fresh mercies today.
What do you do with your worries? Do you turn them inward, or turn them upward?
When the brutal Assyrian King Sennacherib was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, he sent a message to King Hezekiah saying that Judah would be no different from all the other nations he had conquered. Hezekiah took this message to the temple in Jerusalem, and “spread…