In a recent post, blogger Bonnie Gray recounted the moment when overwhelming sadness began to creep into her heart. “Out of the blue,” she stated, “during the happiest chapter in my life, . . . I suddenly started experiencing panic attacks and depression.” Gray tried to find different ways to address her pain, but she soon realized that she wasn’t strong enough to handle it alone. “I hadn’t wanted anyone to question my faith, so I kept quiet and prayed that my depression would go away. But God wants to heal us, not shame us or make us hide from our pain.” Gray found healing in the solace of His presence; He was her anchor amid the waves that threatened to overwhelm her.
When we’re in a low place and filled with despair, God is there and will sustain us too. In Psalm 18, David praised God for delivering him from the low place he was in after nearly being defeated by his enemies. He proclaimed, “[God] reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters” (v. 16). Even in moments when despair seems to consume us like crashing waves in an ocean, God loves us so much that He’ll reach out to us and help us, bringing us into a “spacious place” of peace and security (v. 19). Let’s look to Him as our refuge when we feel overwhelmed by the challenges of life.
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree. Yet during her lifetime, she recalls being “ignored, slighted and rendered insignificant.” Even amid adversity, however, she remained devoted to healing and fulfilling her purpose. Crumpler boldly affirmed that although some people might choose to judge her based on her race and gender, she’d always have a “renewed and courageous readiness to do when and wherever duty calls,” and that she did. Not only was she a servant in her field, but she also believed that treating women and children and providing medical attention for freed slaves was a way to serve God. Sadly, she didn’t receive formal recognition for her accomplishments until nearly a century later.
There are times in life when we’ll be overlooked, devalued, or unappreciated by those around us. Biblical wisdom reminds us, however, that when God has called us to a task, we shouldn’t focus on gaining worldly approval and recognition but should instead “work at it with all [our] heart, as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). When we focus on serving God while carrying out our day-to-day activities, we’re able to accomplish even the most difficult tasks with fervor and gladness in His power and leading. We can then become less concerned with receiving earthly recognition and awards and become more eager to receive the reward only He can provide (v. 24).
It seems my mother can sense trouble from a mile away. Once, after a rough day at school, I tried to mask my frustration hoping that no one would notice. “What’s the matter?” she asked. Then she added, “Before you tell me it’s nothing, remember I’m your mother. I gave birth to you, and I know you better than you know yourself.” My mom has consistently reminded me that her deep awareness of who I am helps her be there for me in the moments I need her most.
As believers in Jesus, we’re cared for by a God who knows us intimately. The psalmist David praised Him for His attentiveness to the lives of His children saying, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:1–2). Because God knows who we are—our every thought, desire, and action—there’s nowhere we can go where we’re outside the bounds of His abundant love and care (vv. 7–12). As David wrote, “If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me” (vv. 9–10). We can find comfort knowing that no matter where we are in life, when we call out to God in prayer, He’ll offer us the love, wisdom, and guidance we need.
As the holiday season approached, package shipments were delayed due to an unprecedented influx of online orders. I can remember a time when my family preferred to simply go into the store and purchase items because we knew we had very little control over the speed of mail delivery. However, when my mother signed up for an account that includes expedited shipping, this expectation changed. Now with a two-day guaranteed delivery, we’re accustomed to receiving things quickly and we become frustrated by delays.
We live in a world accustomed to instant gratification and waiting can be difficult. But in the spiritual realm, patience is still rewarded. When the book of Lamentations was written, the Israelites were mourning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army, and they faced a series of challenges. However, in the midst of chaos, the writer boldly affirms that because he’s confident God will meet his needs, he’ll wait on Him (Lamentations 3:24). God knows we’re inclined to become anxious when answers to our prayers are delayed. Scripture encourages us by reminding us to wait on God. We don’t have to be consumed or worried because “his compassions never fail” (v. 22). Instead, with God’s help we can “be still . . . and wait patiently for him” (Psalms 37:7). May we wait on God, trusting in His love and faithfulness even as wrestle with longings and unanswered prayers.
Blogger Kevin Lynn’s life seemed to be falling apart. In a recent article he recounted, “I actually put a gun to my head . . . . It took for God to supernaturally step into my room and my life. And at that moment, I really found what I know is God now.” God intervened in Lynn’s life, preventing him from taking his life. He filled him with conviction and gave him an overwhelming reminder of His loving presence. Instead of hiding this powerful encounter, Lynn shared his experience with the world, creating a YouTube ministry where he shares his own transformation story as well as the stories of others.
When Jesus’ follower and friend Lazarus died, many assumed that all was lost and that Jesus was too late (John 11:32). Lazarus had been in his tomb for four days before Jesus arrived, but He turned this moment of anguish into a miracle when He raised him from the dead (v. 38). “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you’ll see the glory of God?” He declared (v. 40).
Just as Jesus raised Lazarus from death to life, He offers us new life through Him. By sacrificing His life on the cross, Christ paid the penalty for our sins and offers us forgiveness when we accept His gift of grace. We’re freed from the bondage of our sins, renewed by His everlasting love, and given the opportunity to change the course of our lives.
What do we do when we are required to stand boldly for what we believe in amid life’s challenges?
In a small Illinois town, domestic violence comprises forty percent of all crimes in the community. According to a local pastor, this issue is often hidden in our faith communities because it’s uncomfortable to talk about. So instead of shying away from the problem, local ministers chose to exercise faith and courageously address the issue by taking classes to recognize the signs of violence and supporting non-profit organizations working on the issue. Acknowledging the power of faith and action, a local minister said, “Our prayers and compassion, coupled with some tangible support, can make an important difference.”
When Esther, Queen of Persia, was scared to speak out against a law that would lead to the genocide of her people, her uncle reminded her of the importance of taking a stand (Esther 4:13). “Who knows that you have come into a royal position for such a time as this?” he asserted, affirming that there will be moments where we must be bold and act (v. 14). Whether we are called to speak out against injustice or to forgive someone who’s caused us distress, the Bible assures us that in challenging circumstances, God will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5–6). When we look to God for help in moments where we feel intimidated, he will give us “power, love, and self-discipline” to see our assignment through to the end (2 Timothy 1:7-8).
A 2018 study of adults in the United Kingdom found that, on average, “they checked their smartphones every twelve minutes of the waking day.” But let’s be honest, this statistic seems extremely generous when I consider how frequently I search Google to find the answer to a question or respond to endless alerts from the texts, calls, and emails that come to my phone throughout the day. We consistently look to our devices, confident they’ll provide what we need to keep us organized, informed, and connected.
As believers in Christ, we have a resource infinitely better than a smartphone. God loves and cares for us intimately and desires for us to come to Him with our needs. The Bible says that when we pray, we can be confident “that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). By reading the Bible and storing God’s words in our hearts, we can pray assuredly for things that we know He already desires for us, including peace, wisdom, and faith that He’ll provide what we need (v. 15). Sometimes it may seem like He doesn’t hear us when our situation doesn’t change. But we build our confidence in Him by consistently turning to Him for help in every circumstance (Psalms 116:2). This allows us to grow in faith, trusting that although we may not get everything we desire, He’s promised to provide what we need in His perfect timing.
A ministry in Carlsbad, New Mexico, supports their community by offering more than 24,000 pounds of free food each month to local residents. The leader of the ministry shared, “People can come here, and we will accept them and meet them right where they are. Our goal is . . . to meet their practical needs to get to their spiritual needs.” As believers in Christ, God desires for us to use what we’ve been given to bless others, drawing our communities closer to Him. How can we develop a heart for service that brings glory to God?
We develop a heart for service by asking God to show us how to use the gifts He’s given us to benefit others (1 Peter 4:10). In this way, we offer “many expressions of thanks to God” for the abundance He’s blessed us with (2 Corinthians 9:12). Serving others was an important part of Jesus’ ministry. When He healed the sick and fed the hungry, many were introduced to God’s goodness and love. By caring for our communities, we’re following His model of discipleship. God’s wisdom reminds us that when we demonstrate God’s love through our actions “others will praise God” (v. 13). Service isn’t about self-gratification but about showing others the extent of God’s love and the miraculous that ways He works through those who are called by His name.
At the beginning of my gardening journey, I’d wake up early and run to my vegetable garden to see if anything had sprouted. Nothing. After an internet search for “fast garden growth,” I learned that the seedling stage is the most important phase of a plant’s lifespan. Knowing now that this process couldn’t be rushed, I came to appreciate the strength of small sprouts fighting their way through the soil toward the sun and their resilience to temperamental weather. After waiting patiently for a few weeks, I was finally greeted by bursts of green sprouts creeping through the soil.
Sometimes it’s easy to praise the victories and triumphs in our lives without similarly acknowledging that growth in our character often comes through time and struggle. James instructs us to “consider it pure joy” when we “face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). But what could possibly be delightful about trials?
God will sometimes allow us to go through challenges and hardships so that we can be molded into who He’s called us to be. He waits in anticipation for us to come out of the trials of life “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4). By staying grounded in Jesus, we can persevere through any challenge, growing stronger and ultimately allowing the fruit of the Spirit to blossom in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23). His wisdom gives us the nourishment we need to truly flourish each and every day (John 15:5).