“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.
My anxiety increased throughout the summer between my undergraduate and graduate programs. I love to have everything planned out, and the idea of going out of state and entering graduate school without a job made me uncomfortable. However, a few days before I left my summer job, I was asked to continue working for the company remotely. I accepted and had peace that God was taking care of me.
God provided, but it was in His timing, not mine. Abraham went through a far more difficult situation with his son Isaac. He was asked to take his son and sacrifice him in the mountains (Genesis 22:1–2). Without hesitation, Abraham obeyed and took Isaac to the mountains. This three-day journey gave Abraham plenty of time to change his mind, but he didn’t (vv. 3–4).
When Isaac questioned his father, Abraham replied, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering” (v. 8). I wonder if Abraham’s anxiety grew with each knot he tied as he bound Isaac to the altar and with every inch he raised his knife (vv. 9–10). What a relief it must have been when the angel stopped him! (vv. 10–12). God did indeed provide a sacrifice, a ram, caught in the thicket (v. 13). God tested Abraham’s faith, and he proved to be faithful. And at the right time, to the very second, God provided (v. 14).
My friend’s father received the dreaded diagnosis: cancer. Yet, during the chemo treatment process, he became a follower of Jesus and eventually went into remission. He was cancer free for a wonderful eighteen months, but it returned—worse than before. He and his wife faced the reality of the returned cancer with concern and questions but also with a faithful trust in God because of how He saw them through the first time.
We won’t always understand why we’re going through trials. This was certainly the case for Job, who faced horrendous and unexplainable suffering and loss. Yet despite his many questions, in Job 12 he declares that God is mighty: “What he tears down cannot be rebuilt” (v. 14) and “to him belong strength and victory” (v. 16). “He makes nations great, and destroys them” (v. 23). Throughout this extensive list, Job doesn’t mention God’s motives or why He allows pain and suffering. Job doesn’t have the answers. But still despite everything, he confidently says, “to God belong wisdom and power, counsel and understanding” (v. 13).
We may not understand why God allows certain struggles in our lives, but like my friend’s parents, we can put our trust in Him. The Lord loves us and has us in His hands (v. 10; 1 Peter 5:7). Wisdom, power, and understanding are His!
A friend and I went for a walk with her grandkids. While pushing the stroller, she commented that her steps were being wasted—they weren’t being counted on the activity tracker she wore on her wrist because she wasn’t swinging her arm. I reminded her that those steps were still helping her physical health. “Yeah,” she laughed. “But I really want that electronic gold star!”
I understand how she feels! Working toward something without immediate results is disheartening. But rewards aren’t always immediate or immediately visible.
When that’s the case, it’s easy to feel that the good things we do are useless, even helping a friend or being kind to a stranger. However, Paul explained to the church in Galatia that “a man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). But we must “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest” (v. 9). Doing good isn’t the way to gain salvation, and the text doesn’t specify whether what we reap will be now or in heaven, but we can be assured that there will be a harvest of blessing (6:9
Doing good is difficult, especially when we don’t see or know what the “harvest” will be. But as with my friend who still gained the physical benefit from walking, it’s worth continuing to do good because the blessing is coming!
“What’s a diatom?” I asked my friend. I was leaning over her shoulder looking at pictures on her cell phone she had taken through a microscope. “Oh, it’s like algae, but it’s harder to see. Sometimes you need a drop of oil on the lens or they have to be dead to see them,” she explained. I sat amazed as she scrolled through the pictures. I couldn’t stop thinking about the intricate detail God put into life that we can only see with a microscope!
God’s creation and works are endless. In the book of Job, one of Job’s friends, Elihu, points this out to Job as he struggles through his loss. Elihu challenges his friend, “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:14–16). We, as humans, can’t begin to understand the complexity of God and His creation.
Even the parts of creation we can’t see reflect God’s glory and power. His glory surrounds us. No matter what we’re going through, God is working, even when we can’t see it and don’t understand. Let’s praise Him today, for “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (Job 5:9).
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Sometimes life gets busy—classes are hard, work is exhausting, the bathroom needs to be cleaned, and a coffee date is on the day’s schedule. It gets to the point where I force myself to read the Bible for a few minutes a day and tell myself I’ll spend more time with God next week. But it doesn’t take long before I’m distracted, drowning in the day’s tasks, and forget to ask God for help of any kind.
When Peter was walking on water toward Jesus, he quickly became distracted by the wind and waves. Like me, he began to sink (Matthew 14:29–30). But as soon as Peter cried out, Jesus “immediately reached out his hand and caught him” (vv. 30–31).
I often feel as if I have to make it up to God after being so busy and distracted that I lose sight of Him. But that’s not how God works. As soon as we turn to Him for help, Jesus reaches out without hesitation (vv. 30–31).
When we’re distracted by the chaos of life, it’s easy to forget that God is standing in the middle of the storm with us. Jesus asked Peter, “Why did you doubt?” (v. 31). No matter what we’re going through, He is there. He is here. Next to us at that moment, in this moment, ready to reach out and rescue us.
In college, I woke up one morning to find Carol, my roommate, in a panic. Her signet ring was missing. We searched everywhere. The next morning we found ourselves picking through a dumpster.
I ripped open a trash bag. “You’re so dedicated to finding this!”
“I’m not losing a two-hundred-dollar ring!” she exclaimed.
Carol’s determination reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the kingdom of heaven, which “is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). Certain things are worth going great lengths to find.
Throughout the Bible, God promises that those who seek Him will find Him. In Deuteronomy, He explained to the Israelites that they would find Him when they turn from their sin and seek Him with all their hearts (4:28–29). In the book of 2 Chronicles, King Asa gained encouragement from a similar promise (15:2). And in Jeremiah, God gave the same promise to the exiles, saying He would bring them back from captivity (29:13–14).
If we seek God, through His Word, worship, and in our daily lives, we will find Him. Over time, we’ll know Him on a deeper level. That will be even better than the sweet moment when Carol pulled her ring out of that trash bag!
In August 2015, when I was preparing to attend a university a couple of hours from home, I realized I probably wouldn’t move back home after graduation. My mind raced. How can I leave home? My family? My church? What if God later calls me to another state or country?
Being so far from home is still difficult. But as I continually seek God, He opens doors for me that confirm I am where I’m supposed to be.
Like Moses, when God told him to go “to Pharaoh to bring [His] people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10), I was afraid. I didn’t want to leave my comfort zone. Yes, Moses obeyed and followed God, but not before questioning Him and requesting that someone else go instead (vv. 11–13; 4:13).
In Moses’s example, we can see what we shouldn’t do when we sense a clear calling. We can instead strive to be more like the disciples. When Jesus called them, they left everything and followed Him (Matthew 4:20–22; Luke 5:28). Fear is natural, but we can trust God’s plan.
When we are led out of our comfort zone, we can either go reluctantly, like Moses, or willingly like the disciples—who followed Jesus wherever He led them. Sometimes this means leaving our comfortable life hundreds or even thousands of miles behind us. But no matter how difficult it may be, following Jesus is worth it.
I worked at a fast-food restaurant for over two years in high school. Some aspects of the job were difficult. Customers verbalized their anger while I apologized for the unwanted slice of cheese on the sandwich I didn’t make. Soon after I left, I applied for an IT job at my university. The employers were more interested in my fast-food experience than my computer skills. They wanted to know that I knew how to deal with people. My experience in unpleasant circumstances prepared me for a better job!
Young David persevered through an experience we might well call unpleasant. When Israel was challenged to send someone to fight Goliath, no one was brave enough to step up to the task. No one but David. King Saul was reluctant to send him to fight, but David explained that as a shepherd he had fought and killed a lion and a bear for the sake of the sheep (1 Samuel 17:34–36). Confidently he stated, “The
Being a shepherd didn’t earn David much respect, but it prepared him to fight Goliath and eventually become Israel’s greatest king. We may be in difficult circumstances, but through them God might be preparing us for something greater!