During my morning walk, the sun hit the waters of Lake Michigan at a perfect angle to produce a stunning view. I asked my friend to stop and wait for me as I positioned my camera to take a pic. Because of the position of the sun, I couldn’t see the image on my phone’s screen before I snapped the shot. But having done this before, I sensed it would be a great picture. I told me friend, “We can’t see it now, but pictures like this always come out good.”
Walking by faith through this life is often like taking that picture. You can’t always see the details on the screen, but that doesn’t mean the stunning picture isn’t there. You don’t always see God working, but you can trust that He’s there. As the writer of Hebrews penned, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see” (11:1). By faith we place our confidence and assurance in God—especially when we can’t see or understand what He’s doing.
With faith, not seeing doesn’t prevent us from “taking the shot.” It just might make us pray more and seek God’s direction. We can also rely on knowing what has happened in the past as others have walked by faith (vv. 4–12) as well as through our own stories. What God has done before, He can do again.
A few weeks after the death of a dear friend, I spoke with her mom. I was hesitant to ask how she was doing because I thought it was an inappropriate question; she was grieving. But I pushed aside my reluctance and simply asked how she was holding up. Her reply: “Listen, I choose joy.”
Her words ministered to me that day as I struggled to push beyond some unpleasant circumstances in my own life. And her words also reminded me of Moses’ edict to the Israelites at the end of Deuteronomy. Just before Moses’ death and the Israelites’ entrance into the promised land, God wanted them to know that they had a choice. Moses said, “I have set before you life and death. . . . Now choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). They could follow God’s laws and live well, or they could turn away from Him and live with the consequences of “death and destruction” (v. 15).
We must choose how to live too. We can choose joy by believing and trusting in God’s promises for our lives. Or we can choose to focus on the negative and difficult parts of our journeys, allowing them to rob us of joy. It will take practice and relying on the Holy Spirit for help, but we can choose joy too—knowing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
When a single mother had to find work to take care of her family in the 1950s, she took on typing jobs. The only issue was that she wasn’t a very good typist and kept making mistakes. She looked for ways to cover up her errors and eventually created what’s known as Liquid Paper, a white correction fluid used to cover-up typing errors. Once it dries, you can type over the cover-up as if there were no errors.
Jesus offers us an infinitely more powerful and important way to deal with our sin—no cover-up but complete forgiveness. A good example of this shows up in the beginning of John 8 in the story of a woman who was caught in adultery (vv. 3–4). The teachers of the law wanted Jesus to do something about the woman and her sins. The law said she should be stoned, but Christ didn’t bother to entertain what the law did or didn’t say. He simply offered a reminder that all have sinned (see Romans 3:23) and told anyone who hadn’t sinned to “throw a stone at” the woman (John 8:7). Not one rock was tossed.
Jesus offered this woman a fresh start. He said he didn’t condemn her and instructed that she “leave [her] life of sin” (v. 11). Christ gave her the solution to forgive her sin and “type” a new way of living over her past. That same offer is available to us by His grace.
As the mask mandate requirements during the pandemic loosened, I struggled to remember to keep a mask handy for where they were still required—like my daughter’s school. One day when I needed a mask, I found just one in my car: the one I avoided wearing because it had “BLESSED” written across the front.
I prefer to wear masks without messages, and I believe that the word on the mask I found is overused. But I had no choice, so I reluctantly put the mask on. And when I nearly showed my annoyance with a new receptionist at the school, I caught myself partly because of the word on my mask. I didn’t want to look like a hypocrite, walking around with “BLESSED” scrawled across my mouth while showing impatience to a person trying to figure out a complicated system.
Though the letters on my mask reminded me of my witness for Christ, the words of Scripture in my heart should be a true reminder to be patient with others. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “You are a letter from Christ, . . . written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3). The Holy Spirit who “gives life” (v. 6), can help us live out “love, joy, peace” and, yes, “patience” (Galatians 5:22). We are truly blessed by His presence within us!
As our adopted granny lay in her hospital bed after suffering several strokes, her doctors were unsure of the amount of brain damage she had endured. They needed to wait until she was a bit better to test her brain function. She spoke very few words and even fewer were understandable. But when the 86-year-old woman who had babysat my daughter for twelve years saw me, she opened her parched mouth and asked: “How is Kayla?” The first words she spoke to me were about my child whom she had loved so freely and fully.
Jesus loved children too and put them in the forefront even though His disciples disapproved. Some parents would seek out Christ and present their children to Him. He chose to bless the children as He “[placed] his hands on them” (Luke 18:15). But not everyone was happy that He was blessing little ones. The disciples scolded the parents and asked them to quit bothering Jesus. But He intervened and said, “Let the little children come to me” (v. 16). He called them an example of how we should receive God’s kingdom—with simple dependence, trust, and sincerity.
Young children rarely have a hidden agenda. What you see is what you get. As our heavenly Father helps us regain childlike trust, may our faith and dependence on Him be as open as a child’s.
The CEO of a frozen treats franchise went undercover on the television series Undercover Boss, donning a cashier’s uniform. Working at one of the franchise’s stores, her wig and makeup disguised her identity as she became the “new” employee. Her goal was to see how things were really working from the inside and on the ground. Based on her observations, she was able to solve some of the issues the store was facing.
Jesus took on a “humble position” to solve our issues. He became human—walking the earth, teaching us about God, and ultimately dying “on a cross” for our sins (Philippians 2:8). This sacrifice exposed Christ’s humility as He obediently gave His life as our sin offering. He walked the earth as a man and experienced what we experience—from ground level.
As believers in Jesus, we’re called to have the “same attitude” as our Savior especially in our relationships with other believers (v. 5). God helps us to clothe ourselves in humility and adopt the mindset of Christ (v. 3). He prompts us to live as servants ready to meet others’ needs and willing to lend a helping hand. As God leads us to humbly love others, we’re in a better position to serve them and to compassionately seek solutions to the issues they face.
The summer after my sophomore year of college, a classmate died unexpectedly. I’d seen him just a few days prior and he looked fine. We and our classmates were young and in what we thought was the prime of our lives, having just become sisters and brothers after pledging our respective sorority and fraternity.
But what I remember most about my classmate’s death was witnessing my fraternity friends live out what James calls true religion. The men in his fraternity became like brothers of the sister of the deceased. They attended her wedding and traveled to her baby shower years after her brother’s death. One even gifted her a cell phone to contact him whenever she needed to call.
The “brothers” remind of what James calls “genuine religion” (James 1:27
And that’s what all of us who want to practice true and pure life in Jesus can do—“do what [Scripture] says” (v. 22), including caring for those in need (2:14–17). Our faith in Him prompts us to look after the vulnerable as we keep ourselves from the negative influences of the world as He helps us. After all, it’s the only true religion God accepts.
Just one Sunday after I’d started working as a youth leader at a church and had met several of the young people, I spoke to a teen seated next to her mom. As I greeted the shy girl with a smile, I said her name and asked how she was doing. She lifted her head and her beautiful brown eyes widened. She too smiled and said in a small voice: “You remembered my name.” By simply calling that young girl by name—a girl who may have felt insignificant in a church filled with adults—I began a relationship of trust. She felt seen and valued.
In Isaiah 43, God is using the prophet Isaiah to convey a similar message to the Israelites: They were seen and valued. Even through captivity and time in the wilderness, God saw them and knew them “by name” (Isaiah 43:1). They were not strangers; they belonged to Him. Even though they may have felt abandoned, they were “precious” and His “love” was with them (v. 4). And along with the reminder that God knew them by name, He shared all that He would do for them, especially during trying times. When they went through trials, He would be with them (v. 2). They didn’t need to be afraid or worried, because God remembered their names.
God knows each of His children’s names—and that’s good news, especially as we pass through the deep, difficult waters in life.
Moving from one home to another ranks as one of the biggest stressors in life. We moved to our current home after I’d lived in my previous one for nearly twenty years. I’d lived alone in that first home for eight years before I got married. Then my husband moved in, along with all his things. Later, we added a child, and that meant even more stuff.
Our moving day to the new house wasn’t without incident. Five minutes before the movers arrived, I was still finishing up a book manuscript. And the new home had several sets of stairs, so it took double the time and twice as many movers as planned.
But for some reason I wasn’t feeling stressed out by the events of that day. Then it hit me: I’d spent many hours finishing writing a book—one chock-full with Scripture and biblical concepts. By God’s grace I‘d been poring over the Bible, praying, and writing to meet my deadline. So I believe the key was my immersion in Scripture and in prayer.
Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6). When we pray—and “rejoice in” God (v. 4)—we refocus our mind from the problem to our Provider. We may be asking God to help us deal with a stressor, but we’re also connecting with Him, which can provide amazing peace—a peace “which transcends all understanding” (v. 7).