Olive watched her friend loading her dental equipment into his car. A fellow dentist, he’d bought the brand-new supplies from her. Having her own practice had been Olive’s dream for years, but when her son Kyle was born with cerebral palsy, she realized she had to stop working to care for him.
“If I had a million lifetimes, I’d make the same choice,” my friend told me. “But giving up dentistry was difficult. It was the death of a dream.”
We often go through difficulties we can’t understand. For Olive, it was the heartache of her child’s unexpected medical condition and relinquishing her own ambitions. For Naomi, it was the heartache of losing her entire family. In Ruth 1:21 she laments, “The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
But there was more to Naomi’s story than what she could see. God didn’t abandon her; He brought restoration by providing her with a grandson, Obed (Ruth 4:14). Obed would not only carry on the name of Naomi’s husband and son, but through him, she would be a relative of an ancestor of Jesus Himself (Boaz) (Matthew 1:5, 16).
God redeemed Naomi’s pain. He also redeemed Olive’s pain by helping her begin a ministry for children with neurological conditions. We may experience seasons of heartache, but we can trust that as we obey God’s leading, He can redeem our pain. In His love and wisdom, He can make good come out of it.
The year was 1917. At only twenty-three years of age, Nelson had just graduated from medical school in his native Virginia. And yet here he was in China as the new superintendent of the Love and Mercy Hospital, the only hospital in an area of at least two million Chinese residents. Nelson, together with his family, lived in the area for twenty-four more years, running the hospital, performing surgeries, and sharing the gospel with thousands of people. From once being called “foreign devil” by those who distrusted foreigners, Nelson Bell later became known as “the Bell who is Lover of the Chinese People.” His daughter Ruth was to later marry the evangelist Billy Graham.
Although Nelson was a brilliant surgeon and Bible teacher, it wasn’t his skills that drew many to Jesus, it was his character and the way he lived out the gospel. In Paul’s letter to Titus, the young gentile leader who was taking care of the church in Crete, the apostle said that living like Christ is crucial because it can make the gospel “attractive” (Titus 2:10). Yet we don’t do this on our own strength. God’s grace helps us live “self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (v. 12), reflecting the truths of our faith (v. 1).
Many people around us still don’t know the good news of Christ, but they know us. May He help us reflect and reveal His message in attractive ways.
Ten-year-old Lyn-Lyn had finally been adopted, but she was afraid. In the orphanage where she’d grown up, she was punished over the slightest mistake. Lyn-Lyn asked her adoptive mom, a friend of mine: “Mommy, do you love me?” When my friend replied, “Yes”, Lyn-Lyn asked: “If I make a mistake, will you still love me?”
Some of us might ask that unspoken question when we feel we’ve disappointed God: Will You still love me? We know that as long as we live in this world, we’ll fail and sin at times. And we wonder: Do my mistakes affect God’s love for me?
John 3:16 assures us of God’s love. He gave His Son, Jesus, to die on our behalf so that if we believe in Him, we’ll receive eternal life. But what if we fail Him even after we place our trust in Him? Here’s when we need to remember “Christ died for us” when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). If He could love us at our worst, how can we doubt His love today when we’re His children?
When we sin, our Father lovingly corrects and disciplines us. That’s not rejection (Romans 8:1); that’s love (Hebrews 12:6). Let’s live as God’s beloved children, resting in the blessed assurance that His love for us is steadfast and everlasting.
As a child, there was a time I dreaded going to school. Some girls were bullying me by subjecting me to cruel pranks. So during recess, I’d take refuge in the library, where I’d read a series of Christian storybooks. I remember the first time I read the name “Jesus.” Somehow, I knew that this was the name of Someone who loved me. In the months that followed, whenever I’d enter school fearful of the torment that lay ahead, I’d pray, “Jesus, protect me.” I’d feel stronger and calmer, knowing He was watching over me. In time, the girls simply grew tired of bullying me and stopped.
Many years have passed, and trusting His name continues to sustain me through difficult times. Trusting His name is believing that what He says about His character is true, allowing me to rest in Him.
David, too, knew the security of trusting in God’s name. When he wrote Psalm 9, he had already experienced God as the all–powerful ruler who’s just and faithful (Psalm 9:7–8, 10, 16). David thus showed his trust in God’s name by going into battle against his enemies, trusting not his weapons or military skill, but in God ultimately coming through for him as “a refuge for the oppressed” (v. 9).
As a little girl, I called on His name and experienced how He lived up to it. May we always trust His name─Jesus—the name of the One that loves us.
It was a Monday morning, but my friend Chia-ming wasn’t in the office. He was at home, cleaning the bathroom. A month unemployed, he thought, and no job leads. His firm had shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and worries about the future filled Chia-ming with fear. I need to support my family, he thought. Where can I go for help?
In Psalm 121:1, the pilgrims to Jerusalem asked a similar question about where to find help. The journey to the Holy City on Mount Zion was long and potentially dangerous, with travelers enduring an arduous climb. The challenges they faced may seem like the difficult journeys we face in life today—trudging the path of illness, relationship problems, bereavement, stress at work, or as, in the case of Chia-ming, financial difficulty and unemployment.
But we can take heart in the truth that the Maker of heaven and earth Himself helps us (v. 2). He watches over our lives (vv. 3, 5, 7–8) and He knows what we need. Shamar, the Hebrew word for “watches over,” means “to guard.” The Creator of the universe is our guardian. We’re in His safekeeping. “God took care of me and my family,” Chia-ming shared recently. “And at the right time, He provided a teaching job.”
As we trust and obey God at every step of our journey, we can look ahead with hope, knowing we’re within the protective boundaries of His wisdom and love.
Early mornings can be painful for my friend Alma, a single mom of two. She says, “When everything is quiet, worries surface. As I do household chores, I think about our financial concerns and the kids’ health and studies.”
When her husband abandoned her, Alma bore the responsibility of raising her children on her own. “It’s difficult,” she says, “but I know God sees me and my family. He gives me the strength to work two jobs, provides for our needs, and lets my kids experience His guidance each day.”
Hagar, an Egyptian maidservant, understood what it meant to be seen by the Lord. After she got pregnant by Abram, she began to despise Sarah (Genesis 16:4), who in turn mistreated her, causing Hagar to flee to the desert. Hagar found herself alone, facing a future that seemed bleak and hopeless for her and her unborn child.
But it was in the desert that “the angel of the
Like Hagar, you may be on a difficult journey—feeling lost and alone. But remember that even in the wasteland, God sees you. Reach out to Him and trust Him to guide you through.
Loving God, thank You for Your gentle, nudging correction. With my shoulders slumped over my desk, I murmured those difficult words. I’ve been so arrogant, thinking I could do it all on my own. For months, I’d been enjoying successful work projects, and the accolades lulled me into trusting my capabilities and rejecting God’s leading. It took a challenging project for me to realize I wasn’t as smart as I thought. My proud heart had deceived me into believing that I didn’t need God’s help.
The powerful kingdom of Edom received discipline from God for its pride. Edom was located amid mountainous terrain, making her seemingly invulnerable to enemies (Obadiah 1:3). Edom was also a wealthy nation, situated at the center of strategic trade routes, and rich in copper, a highly valued commodity in the ancient world. Edom was full of good things yet also full of pride. Its citizens believed that the kingdom was invincible, even as they oppressed God’s people (vv. 10–14). But God used the prophet Obadiah to tell them of His judgment. Nations would rise up against Edom, and the once-powerful kingdom would be defenseless and humiliated (vv. 1–2).
Pride deceives us into thinking, I can live life on my terms. I don’t need God. It makes us feel invulnerable to authority, correction, and weakness. But God calls us to humble ourselves before Him (1 Peter 5:6). As we turn from our pride and choose repentance, God will guide us toward total trust in Him.
Lea was about to start a job as a nurse in Taiwan. She’d be able to provide better for her family, more than she could in Manila, where job opportunities were limited. On the night before her departure, she gave instructions to her sister, who’d be taking care of her five-year-old daughter. “She’ll take her vitamins if you also give her a spoonful of peanut butter,” Lea explained “And remember, she’s shy. She’ll play with her cousins eventually. And she’s afraid of the dark, . . .”
While looking out the plane window the next day, Lea prayed: Lord, no one knows my daughter like I do. I can’t be with her, but You can.
We know the people we love, and we notice all the details about them because they’re precious to us. When we can’t be with them due to various circumstances, we’re often anxious that, since no one knows them as well as we do, they’ll be more vulnerable to harm.
In Psalm 139, David reminds us that God knows us more than anyone does. In the same way, He knows our loved ones intimately (vv. 1–4). He’s their Creator (vv. 13–15), so He understands their needs. He knows what will happen each day of their lives (v. 16), and He’s with them and will never leave them (vv. 5, 7–10).
When you’re anxious for others, entrust them to God for He knows them best and loves them the most.
“Kumain ka na ba?” (Have you eaten?)
This is what you’ll always hear as a visitor in many homes in the Philippines, where I’m from. It’s the Filipino way of expressing care and kindness for our guests. And regardless of your reply, your host will always prepare something for you to eat. Filipinos believe that true kindness isn’t just saying the standard greeting, but also going beyond words to show real hospitality.
Rebekah, too, knew all about being kind. Her daily chores included drawing water from the well outside town and carrying the heavy jar of water home. When Abraham’s servant, who was very thirsty from his journey, asked for a little water from her jar, she didn’t hesitate to give him a drink (Genesis 24:17–18).
But then Rebekah did even more. When she saw that the visitor’s camels were thirsty, she quickly offered to go back to draw more water for them (vv. 19–20). She didn’t hesitate to help, even if it meant making an extra trip (or more) to the well and back with a heavy jar.
Life is tough for many people, and often, a small gesture of practical kindness can encourage them and lift their spirits. Being a channel of God’s love doesn’t always mean delivering a powerful sermon or planting a church. Sometimes, it can simply be giving someone a drink of water.