The owner of the bookstore where Keith worked had been away on vacation for only two days, but Keith, his assistant, was already panicking. Operations were smooth, but Keith was anxious that he wouldn’t do a good job overseeing the store. Frenetically, he micromanaged all he could.
“Stop it,” his boss finally told him over a video call. “All you have to do is follow the instructions I email you daily. Don’t worry, Keith. The burden isn’t on you; it’s on me.”
In a time of conflict with other nations, Israel received a similar word from God: “Be still” (Psalm 46:10). “Stop striving,” He said in essence, “just follow what I say. I will fight for you.” Israel was not being told to be passive or complacent, but to be actively still—to obey God faithfully while yielding control of the situation and leaving the results of their efforts to Him.
We’re called to do the same. And we can do it because the God we trust is sovereign over the world. If “he lifts his voice” and “the earth melts”, and if He can “make wars cease to the ends of the earth” (vv. 6,9), then surely, we can trust in the security of His refuge and strength (v. 1). The burden of control over our life isn’t on us—it’s on God.
I sat in the stillness of a workday’s end, my laptop in front of me. I should’ve been exhilarated about the work I’d finished that day, but I wasn’t. I was tired. My shoulders ached with the load of anxiety over a problem at work, and my mind was spent from thinking about a troubled relationship. I wanted to escape from it all—my thoughts wandered to watching TV that night.
But I closed my eyes. “Lord,” I whispered. I was too tired to say more. All my weariness went into that one word. And somehow, I immediately knew that was where it should go.
“Come to me,” Jesus tells us who are weary and burdened, “and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Not the rest from a good night’s sleep. Not the break from reality that television offers. Not even the relief when a problem has been solved. Although these may be good sources of rest, the respite they offer is short-lived and dependent on our circumstances.
In contrast, the rest Jesus gives is lasting and guaranteed by His unchanging character. He’s always good. He gives us true rest for our souls even in the midst of trouble, because we know that everything is in His control. We can trust and submit to Him, endure and even thrive in difficult situations because of the strength and restoration only He can give.
“Come to me,” Jesus tells you. “Come to me.”
“I felt so useless,” Harold said. “Widowed and retired, kids busy with their own families, spending quiet afternoons watching shadows on the wall.” He’d often tell his daughter, “I’m old and have lived a full life. I have no purpose anymore. God can take me any time.”
One afternoon, however, a conversation changed Harold’s mind. “My neighbor had some problems with his kids, so I prayed for him,” Harold said. “Later, I shared the gospel with him. That’s how I realized I still have a purpose! As long as there are people who haven’t heard of Jesus, I must tell them about the Savior.”
When Harold responded to an everyday, ordinary encounter by sharing his faith, his neighbor’s life was changed. In 2 Timothy 1, the apostle Paul mentions two women who’d likewise been used by God to change another person’s life: the life of Paul’s young coworker, Timothy. Lois, Timothy’s grandmother, and Eunice, his mother, had a “sincere faith” which they’d passed on to him (v. 5). Through everyday events in an ordinary household, young Timothy learned a genuine faith that was to shape his growth into a faithful disciple of Jesus and, eventually, his ministry as leader of the church at Ephesus.
No matter what our age, background, or circumstances, we have a purpose—to tell others about Jesus.
At 7 p.m., Hui-Liang was in his kitchen, eating rice and leftover fish balls. The Chua family in the apartment next door was having dinner too, and their laughter and conversation cut through the silence of Hui-Liang’s unit, where he’d lived alone since his wife died. He’d learned to live with loneliness; over the years, its stabbing pain had become a dull ache. But tonight, the sight of the one bowl and pair of chopsticks on his table pierced him deeply.
Before he went to bed that night, Hui-Liang read Psalm 23, his favorite psalm. The words that mattered to him were only four syllables: “You are with me” (v. 4). More than the shepherd’s practical acts of care toward the sheep, it was his steadfast presence and loving gaze over every detail of the life of the sheep (vv. 2−5) that gave Hui-Liang peace.
Just knowing that someone is there, that someone is with us, brings great comfort in those lonely moments. God promises His children that His love will always be with us (Psalm 103:17), and that He’ll never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). When we feel alone and unseen—whether in a quiet kitchen, on the bus going home from work, or even in a crowded supermarket—we can know that the Shepherd’s gaze is always on us. We can say, “You are with me.”
In the book Physics, Charles Riborg Mann and George Ransom Twiss asked: “When a tree falls in a lonely forest, and no animal is nearby to hear it, does it make a sound?” Over the years, this question has prompted philosophical and scientific discussions about sound, perception, and existence. A definitive answer, however, has yet to emerge.
One night, while feeling lonely and sad about a problem I hadn’t shared with anyone, I recalled this question. When no one hears my cry for help, I thought, does God hear?
Facing the threat of death and overcome by distress, the writer of Psalm 116 may have felt abandoned. So he called out to God—knowing He was listening and would help him. “He heard my voice,” the psalmist wrote, “he heard my cry for mercy. . . . [He] turned his ear to me” (vv. 1–2). When no one knows our pain, God knows. When no one hears our cries, God hears.
Knowing that God will show us His love and protection (vv. 5–6), we can be at rest in difficult times (v. 7). The Hebrew word translated “rest” (manoach) describes a place of quiet and safety. We can be at peace, strengthened by the assurance of God’s presence and help.
The question posed by Mann and Twiss led to numerous answers. But to the question, Does God hear? the answer is simply yes.
I’m a worrier. Early mornings are the worst because I’m alone with my thoughts. So I taped this quote from Hudson Taylor on my bathroom mirror, where I can see it when I’m feeling vulnerable: “There is a living God. He has spoken in the Bible. He means what He says and will do all He has promised.”
Taylor’s words came from years of walking with God and remind us of who He is and all He can do through our times of illness, poverty, loneliness, and grief. He didn’t merely know that God is trustworthy─he’d experienced His trustworthiness. And because he’d trusted God’s promises and obeyed Him, thousands of Chinese people gave their lives to Jesus.
Experiencing God and His ways helped David know that He’s trustworthy. He wrote Psalm 145, a song of praise to the God he’d experienced to be good, compassionate, and faithful to all His promises. When we trust and follow God, we realize (or understand) that He is who He says He is and that He’s faithful to His word (v. 13). And, like David, we respond by praising Him and telling others about Him (vv. 10−12).
When we face worrisome times, God can help us not to falter in our walk with Him, for He is trustworthy (Hebrews 10:23).
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.
One early evening while I was jogging near a construction site in our neighborhood, a skinny, dirty kitten meowed at me plaintively and followed me home. Today, Mickey is a healthy, handsome adult cat, enjoying a comfortable life in our household and deeply loved by my family. Whenever I jog on the road where I found him, I often think, “Thank You, God. Mickey was spared from living on the streets. He has a home now.”
Psalm 91 speaks of “[dwelling] in the shelter of the Most High” (v. 1), making our home with God. The Hebrew word for “dwell” here means “to remain,” to stay permanently. As we remain in Him, He helps us live according to His wisdom and to love Him above all (Psalm 91:14; John 15:10). God promises us the comfort of being with Him for eternity, as well as the security of His being with us through earthly hardship. Although trouble may come, we can rest in His sovereignty, wisdom, and love, and in His promises to protect and deliver us.
When we make God our refuge, we live “in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). No trouble can touch us except that which His infinite wisdom and love allow. This is the safety of God as our home.
My friend Ruel attended a high school reunion held in a former classmate’s home. The waterfront mansion near Manila Bay could accommodate 200 attendees, and it made Ruel feel small.
“I’ve had many happy years of pastoring remote rural churches,” Ruel told me, “and even though I know I shouldn’t, I couldn’t help but feel envious of my classmate’s material wealth. My thoughts strayed to how different life might be if I’d used my degree to become a businessman instead.”
“But I later reminded myself there’s nothing to feel envious about,” Ruel continued with a smile. “I invested my life in serving God, and the results will last for eternity.” I’ll always remember the peaceful look on his face as he said those words.
Ruel drew peace from Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13:44−46. He knew that God’s kingdom is the ultimate treasure. Seeking and living for His kingdom might take various forms. For some, it might mean full-time ministry, while for others, it may be living out the gospel in a secular workplace. Regardless of how God chooses to use us, we can continue to trust and obey His leading, knowing, like the men in Jesus’ parables, the value of the imperishable treasure we’ve been given. Everything in this world has infinitely less worth than all we gain by following God (1 Peter 1:4−5).
Our life, when placed in His hands, can bear eternal fruit.