When Tee Unn came down with a rare autoimmune disease that weakened all his muscles and nearly killed him, he realized that being able to breathe was a gift. For more than a week, a machine had to pump air into his lungs every few seconds, which was a painful part of his treatment.
Tee Unn made a miraculous recovery, and today he reminds himself not to complain about life’s challenges. “I’ll just take a deep breath,” he says, “and thank God I can.”
How easy it is to focus on things we need or want, and forget that sometimes the smallest things in life can be the greatest miracles of life. In Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 37:1–14), God showed the prophet that only He could give life to dry bones. Even after tendons, flesh, and skin had appeared, “there was no breath in them” (v. 8). It was only when God gave them breath that they could live again (v. 10).
This vision illustrated God’s promise to restore Israel from devastation. It also reminds me that anything else I have, big or small, is useless unless God gives me breath.
How about thanking God for the simplest blessings in life today? Amid the daily struggle, let’s stop occasionally to take a deep breath, and “let everything that has breath praise the
A group of workers were cutting ice out of a frozen lake and storing it in an icehouse when one of them realized he’d lost his watch in the windowless building. He and his friends searched for it in vain.
After they gave up, a young boy who’d seen them exit went into the building. Soon, he emerged with the watch. Asked how he’d found it, he replied: “I just sat down and kept quiet, and soon I could hear it ticking.”
The Bible talks much about the value of being still. And no wonder, for God sometimes speaks in a whisper (1 Kings 19:12). In the busyness of life, it can be hard to hear Him. But if we stop rushing about and spend some quiet time with Him and the Scripture, we may hear His gentle voice in our thoughts.
Psalm 37:1–7 assures us that we can trust God to rescue us from the “wicked schemes” of evil people, give us refuge, and help us stay faithful. But how can we do this when turmoil is all around us?
Verse 7 suggests: “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” We could start by learning to keep silent for a few minutes after a prayer. Or by quietly reading the Bible and letting the words soak into our hearts. And then, perhaps, we will hear His wisdom speaking to us, quiet and steady as a ticking clock.
As his peers were promoted one by one, Benjamin couldn’t help but feel a little envious. “How come you’re not a manager yet? You deserve it,” friends told him. But Ben decided to leave his career to God. “If this is God’s plan for me, I’ll just do my job well,” he replied.
Several years later, Ben was finally promoted. By then, his added experience enabled him to do his job confidently and won him the respect of subordinates. Some of his peers, meanwhile, were still struggling with their supervisory responsibilities, as they had been promoted before they were ready. Ben realized God had taken him the “long way around” so that he would be better prepared for his role.
When God led the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 13:17–18), He chose a longer way because the “shortcut” to Canaan was fraught with risk. The longer journey, note Bible commentators, also gave them more time to strengthen themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually for subsequent battles.
The shortest way isn’t always the best. Sometimes God lets us take the longer route in life, whether it’s in our career or other endeavors, so that we will be better prepared for the journey ahead. When things don’t seem to happen quickly enough, we can trust in God—the one who leads and guides us.
What a waste of time! thought Harley. Her insurance agent was insisting they meet again. Harley knew it would be yet another boring sales pitch, but she decided to make the most of it by looking for an opportunity to talk about her faith.
Noticing that the agent’s eyebrows were tattooed, she hesitantly asked why and discovered that the woman did it because she felt it would bring her luck. Harley’s question was a risky detour from a routine chat about finances, but it opened the door to a conversation about luck and faith, which gave her an opportunity to talk about why she relied on Jesus. That “wasted” hour turned out to be a divine appointment.
Jesus also took a risky detour. While traveling from Judea to Galilee, He went out of His way to speak to a Samaritan, something unthinkable for a Jew. Worse, she was an adulterous woman avoided even by other Samaritans. Yet He ended up having a conversation that led to the salvation of many (John 4:1–4, 39–42).
Are you meeting someone you don’t really want to see? Do you keep bumping into a neighbor you normally avoid? The Bible reminds us to be always ready—“in season and out of season”—to share the good news (2 Timothy 4:2). Consider taking a “risky detour.” Who knows, God may be giving you a divine opportunity to talk to someone about Him today!
Thrown into a project with his colleague Tim, Alvin faced a major challenge: he and Tim had very different ideas of how to go about it. While they respected each other’s opinions, their approaches were so different that conflict seemed imminent. Before conflict broke out, however, the two men agreed to discuss their differences with their boss, who put them on separate teams. It turned out to be a wise move. That day, Alvin learned this lesson: Being united doesn’t always mean doing things together.
Abraham must have realized this truth when he suggested that he and Lot go their separate ways in Bethel (Genesis 13:5–9). Seeing that there wasn’t enough space for both their flocks, Abraham wisely suggested parting company. But first, he stressed that they were “close relatives” (v. 8), reminding Lot of their relationship. Then, with the greatest humility, he let his nephew have the first choice (v. 9) even though he, Abraham, was the senior man. It was, as one pastor described it, a “harmonious separation.”
Being made uniquely by God, we may find that we sometimes work better separately to achieve the same goal. There’s a unity in diversity. May we never forget, however, that we’re still brothers and sisters in the family of God. We may do things differently, but we remain united in purpose.
Lela was dying of cancer, and her husband, Timothy, couldn’t understand why a loving God would let his wife suffer. She had served Him faithfully as a Bible teacher and mentor to many. “Why did You let this happen?” he cried. Yet Timothy continued to be faithful in his walk with God.
“So why do you still believe in God?” I asked him frankly. “What keeps you from turning away from Him?”
“Because of what has happened before,” Timothy replied. While he couldn’t “see” God now, he recalled the times when God had helped and protected him. These were signs that God was still there caring for his family. “I know the God I believe in will come through in His own way,” he said.
Timothy’s words echo Isaiah’s expression of trust in Isaiah 8:17. Even when he couldn’t feel God’s presence as his people braced for trouble from their enemies, he would “wait for the
There are times when we might feel as if God isn’t with us in our troubles. That’s when we depend on what we can see of His works in our lives, in the past and present. They are the visible reminder of an invisible God—a God who is always with us and will answer in His own time and way.
Jane’s plans to become a speech therapist ended when an internship revealed the job was too emotionally challenging for her. Then she was given the opportunity to write for a magazine. She’d never seen herself as a writer, but years later she found herself advocating for needy families through her writing. “Looking back, I can see why God changed my plans,” she says. “He had a bigger plan for me.”
The Bible has many stories of disrupted plans. On his second missionary journey, Paul had sought to bring the gospel into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus stopped him (Acts 16:6–7). This must have seemed mystifying: Why was Jesus disrupting plans that were in line with a God-given mission? The answer came in a dream one night: Macedonia needed him even more. There, Paul would plant the first church in Europe. No wonder Solomon observed, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the
It’s sensible to make plans. A well-known adage goes, “Fail to plan, and you plan to fail.” But God may disrupt our plans with His own. Our challenge is to listen and obey, knowing we can trust God. If we submit to His will, we’ll find ourselves fitting into His purpose for our lives.
As we continue to make plans, we can add a new twist: Plan to listen. Listen to God’s plan.
When public debate erupted over a controversial Singapore law, it divided Christians with differing views. Some called others “narrow-minded” or accused them of compromising their faith.
Controversies can cause sharp divisions among God’s family, bringing much hurt and discouraging people. I’ve been made to feel small over personal convictions on how I apply the Bible’s teachings to my life. And I’m sure I’ve been equally guilty of criticizing others I disagree with.
I wonder if the problem lies not in what or even how we express our views, but in the attitudes of our hearts when we do so. Are we just disagreeing with views or seeking to tear down the people behind them?
Yet there are times when we need to address false teaching or explain our stand. Ephesians 4:2–6 reminds us to do so with humility, gentleness, patience, and love. And, above all else, to make every effort “to keep the unity of the Spirit” (v. 3).
Some controversies will remain unresolved. God’s Word, however, reminds us that our goal should always be to build up people’s faith, not tear them down (2 Timothy 2:25). Are we putting others down to win an argument? Or are we allowing God to help us understand His truths in His time and His way, remembering that we share one faith in one Lord (Ephesians 4:4–6)?
When Denise began dating her boyfriend, she attempted to maintain a slim figure and dress stylishly, believing she would be more attractive to him in that way. After all, it was what all the women’s magazines advised. It was only much later that she discovered what he really thought: “I liked you just as much when you were heavier and didn’t worry about what you wore.”
Denise realized then how subjective “beauty” was. Our view of beauty is so easily influenced by others, and often focused on the external; forgetting the value of inner beauty. But God sees us in only one way—as His beautiful, beloved children. I’d like to think that when God created the world, He left the best for last—us! Everything He created was good, but we’re extra special because we’re made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
God considers us beautiful! No wonder the psalmist was filled with awe as he compared the greatness of nature with humans. “What is mankind,” he asked, “that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:4). Yet God chose to give mortals a glory and honor that nothing else had (v. 5).
This truth gives us an assurance and reason to praise Him (v. 9). No matter what others think of us—or what we think of ourselves—know this: We are beautiful to God.