In 2020, Alyssa Mendoza received a surprising email from her father in the middle of the night. The message had instructions about what to do for her mother on her parents’ twenty-fifth anniversary. Why was this shocking? Alyssa’s father had passed away ten months earlier. She discovered that he had written and scheduled the email while he was sick, knowing he might not be there. He’d also arranged and paid for flowers to be sent to his wife for upcoming years on her birthday, future anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day.
This story could stand as an example of the kind of love that’s described in detail in Song of Songs. “Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave” (8:6). Comparing graves and death to love seems odd, but they’re strong because they don’t give up their captives. However, neither will true love give up the loved one. The book reaches its peak in these verses, describing marital love as one so strong that “many waters cannot quench [it]” (v. 7).
Throughout the Bible, the love of a husband and wife is compared to God’s love (Isaiah 54:5; Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 21:2). Jesus is the groom and the church is His bride. God showed His love for us by sending Christ to face death so we wouldn’t have to die for our sins (John 3:16). Whether we’re married or single, we can remember that God’s love is stronger than anything we could imagine.
I dropped to my knees and let my tears fall to the floor. “God, why aren’t you taking care of me?” I cried. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. I’d been laid-off for almost a month, and something had gone wrong with my unemployment application. I hadn’t received any money yet, and on top of that, the stimulus check the US government had promised hadn’t arrived. Deep down, I trusted that God would work out everything. I believed He truly loved me and would take care of me, but in that moment, I felt abandoned.
The book of Lamentations reminds us it’s okay to lament. The book was likely written during or soon after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 587 bc and describes the affliction (3:1, 19), oppression (1:18), and starvation (2:20; 4:10) the people faced. Yet, in the middle of the book the author remembers why he could hope: “Because of the
Sometimes it feels impossible to believe that “the
In 2020 an outbreak of the coronavirus left the world in fear. People were quarantined, countries were put under lockdown, flights and large events were canceled. Those living in areas with no known cases still feared they might get the virus. Graham Davey, an expert on anxiety, believes that negative news broadcasts are “likely to make you sadder and more anxious.” A meme that’s been circulating on social media shows a man watching the news on TV and asking how to stop worrying. In response, another person in the room reached over and flipped off the TV, suggesting that the answer might be a shift in focus!
Luke 12 gives us some advice to help us stop worrying: “Seek His kingdom” (v. 31). We seek God’s kingdom when we focus on the promise that His followers have an inheritance in heaven. When we face difficulty, we can shift our focus and remember that God sees us and knows what our needs are (vv. 24–30).
Jesus encourages His disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). God enjoys blessing us! Let’s worship Him, knowing He cares for us more than the birds of the air and the flowers of the field (vv. 22–29). Even in these difficult times, we can read the Scriptures, pray for God’s peace, and trust in our good and faithful God.
One year for vacation Bible school, Ken’s church decided to bring in live animals to illustrate the Bible story. When Ken arrived to help, he was asked to bring a sheep inside. He had to practically drag the sheep by rope into the church gymnasium. But as the week went on, it became less reluctant to follow him. By the end of the week, Ken didn’t have to hold the rope anymore; he just called the sheep and it followed, knowing it could trust him.
In the New Testament, Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, stating that His people, the sheep, will follow Him because they know His voice (John 10:4). But those same sheep will run from a stranger or thief (vv. 5, 10). Like sheep, we (God’s children) get to know the voice of our Shepherd through our relationship with Him. And as we do, we see His character and learn to trust Him.
As we grow to know and love God, we will be discerning of His voice and better able to run from the “the thief [who] comes only to steal and destroy” (v. 10)—from those who try to deceive and draw us away from Him. Unlike those false teachers, we can trust the voice of our Shepherd to lead us to safety.
“If I touched a Bible, it would catch fire in my hands,” my English professor at a community college said. My heart sank. The novel we’d been reading that morning referenced a Bible verse; and when I pulled out my Bible to look it up, she noticed and commented. My professor seemed to think she was too sinful to be forgiven. Yet I wasn’t bold enough to tell her about God’s love—and that the Bible tells us we can always seek God’s forgiveness.
There’s an example of repentance and forgiveness in Nehemiah. The Israelites had been exiled because of their sin, but now they were allowed to return to Jerusalem. When they’d “settled in,” Ezra the scribe read the law to them (Nehemiah 7:73–8:1). They confessed their sins remembering that, despite their sin, God “did not desert” or “abandon them” (9:17, 19). He “heard them” when they cried out; and in compassion and mercy, He was patient with them (vv. 19, 27–31).
In a similar way, God is patient with us. He won’t abandon us if we choose to confess our sin and turn to Him. I wish I could go back and tell my professor that, no matter her past, Jesus loves her and wants her to be part of His family. He feels the same way about you and me. We can approach Him seeking forgiveness—and He will give it!
“Thanks for dinner, Dad,” I said as I set my napkin on the restaurant table. I was home on a break from college and, after being gone for a while, it felt strange to have my parents pay for me. “You’re welcome, Julie,” my dad replied, “but you don’t have to thank me for everything all the time. I know you’ve been off on your own, but you’re still my daughter and a part of the family.” I smiled. “Thanks, Dad.”
In my family, I haven’t done anything to earn my parents’ love or what they do for me. But my dad’s comment reminds me that I haven’t done anything to deserve to be a part of God’s family either.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells his readers that God chose them “to be holy and blameless in his sight” (1:4), or to stand without blemish before God (5:25–27). But this is only possible through Jesus, in whom “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (1:7). We don’t have to earn God’s grace, forgiveness, or entrance into His family. We just have to accept His free gift.
When we turn our lives over to Jesus, we become a child of God, which means we receive eternal life and have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. Praise God for offering such a wonderful gift!
I dropped my forehead to my hand with a sigh, “I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.” My friend’s voice crackled through the phone: “You have to give yourself some credit. You’re doing a lot.” He then listed the things I was trying to do—maintain a healthy lifestyle, work, do well in graduate school, write, and attend a Bible study. I wanted to do all these things for God, but instead I was more focused on what I was doing than how I was doing it—or that perhaps I was trying to do too much.
Paul reminded the church in Colossae that they were to live their lives in a way that glorified God. Ultimately, what they specifically did on a day-to-day basis was not as important as how they did it. They were to do their work with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12), to be forgiving, and above all to love (vv. 13–14) and to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 17). Their work was not to be separated from Christlike living.
What we do does matter, but how we do it, why, and who we do it for matters more. Each day we can choose to work stressed-out or in a way that honors God and seeks out the meaning Christ adds to our work. When we pursue the latter, we find satisfaction.
“Emotionally, we’ve sometimes worked a full day in one hour,” Zack Eswine writes in his book The Imperfect Pastor. Although he was referring specifically to the burdens pastors frequently carry, this is true for any of us. Weighty emotions and responsibilities can leave us physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. And all we want to do is sleep.
In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah found himself in a situation where he was depleted in every way. We read that Queen Jezebel threatened to put him to death (vv. 1–2) after she discovered he had the prophets of Baal killed (see 1 Kings 18:16–40). Elijah was so afraid he ran away and prayed he would die (19:3–4).
In his distress, he lay down. An angel touched him twice and told him to “get up and eat” (vv. 5, 7). After the second time, Elijah was strengthened by the food God provided, and he “traveled forty days and forty nights” until he came to a cave (vv. 8–9). There, the Lord appeared to him and recommissioned him (see vv. 9–18)—and he was spiritually refreshed.
Sometimes we too need to be refreshed in the Lord. This may come in the form of a conversation with another believer, a worship song, or time in prayer and God’s Word.
Feeling exhausted? Give your burdens to the Lord today and be refreshed!
“It’s amazing to look at a tree and see the individual leaves instead of just a blur of green!” my dad said. I couldn’t have said it better. I was eighteen at the time and not a fan of my new need to wear glasses, but they changed the way I saw everything, making the blurry beautiful!
When reading Scripture, I view certain books like I do when I look at trees without my glasses. There doesn’t seem to be much to see. But noticing details can reveal the beauty in a boring passage.
This happened to me when I was reading Exodus. God’s directions for building the tabernacle—His temporary dwelling place among the Israelites—can seem like a blur of boring details. But I paused at the end of chapter 25 where God gave directions for the lampstand. It was to be hammered out “of pure gold,” including its base and shaft and its flowerlike cups, buds, and blossoms (v. 31). The cups were to be “shaped like almond flowers” (vv. 33–36).
Almond trees are breathtaking. And God chose to incorporate that same natural beauty into His tabernacle!
According to Paul in the book of Romans, “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” are seen and understood in creation (1:20). Sometimes we have to look at creation, and uninteresting passages in the Bible, differently, through a new lens, to see God’s beauty.