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Jeff Olson

Jeff Olson

Jeff is a licensed professional counselor in the State of Michigan and has worked for Our Daily Bread Ministries as a writer and editor since 1992. He’s authored and contributed to a number of Discovery Series booklets (discoveryseries.org) on such topics as addictions, grief, and depression. He also maintains a part-time private counseling practice in the West Michigan area. Jeff and his family live in the suburbs of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He’s an avid outdoorsman and loves to be out fishing for salmon on Lake Michigan.

Articles by Jeff Olson

Hide-and-Seek

“He’s going to find me,” I thought. I felt my little heart pound faster as I heard my five-year-old cousin’s footsteps round the corner. He was coming closer. Five steps away. Three. Two. “Found you!”

Hide-and-seek. Most recall fond memories of playing the game as children. Yet sometimes in life the fear of being found isn’t fun, but rooted in a deep instinct to flee. Run and hide. People may dislike what they see.

As children of a fallen world, we are prone to play what a friend of mine labels, “a mixed up game of hide-and-seek” between God and us. It’s more like a game of pretending to hide—because either way, He sees all the way through to our messy insides. We both know it, though we like to pretend He can’t really see.

Yet God continues to seek. “Come out,” He calls to us. “I want to see you, even your most shameful parts”—an echo of the same voice that called to the first human who hid out of fear: “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Such a warm invitation voiced in the form of a piercing question. “Come out of hiding, dear child, and come back into relationship with me.”

It may seem far too risky, preposterous even. But there, within the safe confines of our Father’s care, any of us, no matter what we’ve done or failed to do, we can be fully known and loved.

Surviving the Unbearable

The Experience Project, one of the largest online communities of the twenty-first century, was once a site where tens of millions shared deeply painful firsthand experiences. As I read through the heartbreaking stories, I reflected on how desperately our hearts long for someone to see—to understand—our pain.

In Genesis, the story of a young handmaid reveals just how life-giving this gift can be.

Hagar was a slave girl likely given to Abram by a pharaoh of Egypt (see Genesis 12:16; 16:1). When Abram’s wife Sarai was unable to conceive, she urged Abram to conceive a child with Hagar—a disturbing yet familiar practice of that day. But when Hagar became pregnant, tensions flared, until Hagar fled into the wilderness to escape Sarai’s abuse (16:1–6).

But Hagar’s predicament—pregnant and alone in a harsh, unforgiving desert—didn’t escape heaven’s notice. After a heavenly messenger encouraged Hagar (vv. 7–12), she declared, “You are the God who sees me” (v. 13).

Hagar was praising a God who sees more than the bare facts. The same God was revealed in Jesus, who, “when he saw the crowds . . . had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless” (Matthew 9:36). Hagar encountered a God who understood.

The God who saw and understood Hagar’s pain sees ours as well (Hebrews 4:15–16). Experiencing heaven’s empathy can help the unbearable become a bit more bearable.

God of Life

A few winters ago, my hometown experienced an unusually long blast of bone-chilling temperatures that finally gave way to the warmer weather of spring. For two weeks straight, the outside thermometer dipped well below the sub-zero degree mark (-15 C; 5 F).

On one particularly bitter cold morning, the sound of chirping birds broke the silence of night. Dozens, if not hundreds, sang their hearts out. If I didn’t know any better, I could have sworn the little creatures were crying out to their Creator to please warm things up!

Bird experts tell us that the multitude of birdsongs we hear during late winter mornings are mostly male birds, attempting to attract mates and claim their territories. Their chirping reminded me that God fine-tuned His creation to sustain and flourish life—because He is a God of life!

In a Psalm that marvels at God’s flourishing earth, the author begins, “Let all that I am praise the Lord” (Psalm 104:1 nlt). He went on to write, “The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches” (v. 12).

From singing and nesting birds to a vast ocean “teeming with creatures beyond number” (v. 25), we see reasons to praise the Creator for the lengths He’s gone to ensure that all of life thrives.

Enjoy the View

Sunsets. People tend to stop what they are doing to watch them . . . snap pictures of them . . . enjoy the beautiful view.

My wife and I watched the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico recently. A crowd of people surrounded us, mostly strangers who had gathered at the beach to watch this nightly phenomenon. At the moment the sun fully slipped below the horizon the crowd broke out with applause.

Why do people respond like that? The book of Psalms offers a clue. The psalmist wrote of God ordering the sun to praise its Creator (Ps. 148:3). And wherever the rays of the sun shine across the earth, people are moved to praise along with them.

The beauty that comes to us through nature speaks to our souls like few things do. It not only has the capacity to stop us in our tracks and captivate our attention, it also has the power to turn our focus to the Maker of beauty itself.

The wonder of God’s vast creation can cause us to pause and remember what’s truly important. Ultimately, it reminds us that there is a Creator behind the stunning entrance and exit of the day, One who so loved the world He made that He entered it in order to redeem and restore it.

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