Which would you choose—a skiing holiday in Switzerland or rescuing children from danger in Prague? Nicholas Winton, just an ordinary man, chose the latter. In 1938, war between Czechoslovakia and Germany seemed on the horizon. After Nicholas visited refugee camps in Prague, where many Jewish citizens lived in horrible conditions, he felt compelled to come up with a plan to help. He raised money to transport hundreds of children safely out of Prague to Great Britain to be cared for by British families before the onset of World War II.
His actions exemplified those called for in Psalm 82: “Uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed” (v. 3). Asaph, the writer of this psalm, wanted to stir his people to champion the cause of those in need: “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (v. 4). Like the children Nicholas worked tirelessly to rescue, the psalmist spoke for those who couldn’t speak for themselves—the poor and the widowed who needed justice and protection.
Today, everywhere we look we see people in need due to war, storms, and other hardships of life. Although we can’t solve every problem, we can prayerfully consider what we can do to help in the situations God brings into our lives.
Twenty-four karat gold is 100 percent gold with no impurities. But that percentage is difficult to achieve. Refiners most commonly use one of two methods for the purification process. The Miller method is the quickest and least expensive, but the resulting gold is only about 99.95 percent pure. The Wohlwill process takes a little more time and costs more, but the gold produced is 99.99 percent pure.
In Bible times, refiners used fire as a gold purifier. Fire caused impurities to rise to the surface for easier removal. In his first letter to Christians throughout Asia Minor (northern Turkey), the apostle Peter used the gold refining process as a metaphor for the way trials work in the life of a believer. At that time, many believers were being persecuted by the Romans for their faith in Christ. Peter knew what that was like firsthand. But persecution, Peter explained, brings out the “genuineness of [our] faith” (1 Peter 1:7).
Perhaps you feel like you’re in a refiner’s fire—feeling the heat of setbacks, illness, or other challenges. But hardship is often the process by which God purifies the gold of our faith. In our pain we might beg God to quickly end the process, but He knows what’s best for us, even when life hurts. Keep connected to the Savior, seeking His comfort and peace.
The closer someone in a royal family is to the throne, the more the public hears about him or her. Others are almost forgotten. The British royal family has a line of succession that includes nearly sixty people. One of them is Lord Frederick Windsor, who’s forty-ninth in line for the throne. Instead of being in the limelight, he quietly goes about his life. Though he works as a financial analyst, he’s not considered a “working royal”—one of the important family members who are paid for representing the family.
David’s son Nathan (2 Samuel 5:14) is another royal who lived outside the limelight. Very little is known about him. But while the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew mentions his son Solomon (tracing Joseph’s line, Matthew 1:1), Luke’s genealogy, which many scholars believe is Mary’s family line, mentions Nathan (Luke 3:31). Though Nathan didn’t hold a scepter, he still had a role in God’s forever kingdom.
As believers in Christ, we’re also royalty. The apostle John wrote that God gave us “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Though we may not be in the spotlight, we’re children of the King! God considers each of us important enough to represent Him here on earth and to one day reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:11–13). Like Nathan, we may not wear an earthly crown, but we still have a part to play in God’s kingdom.
According to Jim and Jamie Dutcher, filmmakers known for their knowledge of wolves, when happy, wolves wag their tails and romp about. But after the death of a pack member, they grieve for weeks. They visit the place where the pack member died, showing grief by their drooping tails and mournful howls.
Grief is a powerful emotion that we’ve all experienced, particularly at the death of a loved one or a treasured hope. Mary Magdalene experienced it. She had belonged to Jesus’s supporters and traveled with Him and His disciples (Luke 8:1–3). But Jesus’s cruel death on a cross separated them now. The only thing left for Mary to do for Jesus was to finish anointing His body for burial—a task the Sabbath had interrupted. But imagine how Mary felt upon arriving at the tomb and finding not a lifeless, broken body but a living Savior! Though she hadn’t at first recognized the man standing before her, the sound of her name spoken by Him told her who He was—Jesus! Instantly, grief turned to joy. Mary now had joyful news to share: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).
Jesus entered our dark world to bring freedom and life. His resurrection is a celebration of the fact that He accomplished what He set out to do. Like Mary, we can celebrate Christ’s resurrection and share the good news that He is alive! Alleluia!
During the Great Depression in the United States, famed photographer Dorothea Lange snapped a photo of Florence Owens Thompson and her children. This well-known photograph, “Migrant Mother,” is the picture of a mother’s despair in the aftermath of the failed pea harvest. Lange took it in Nipomo, California, while working for the Farm Security Administration, hoping to make them aware of the needs of the desperate seasonal farm laborers.
The book of Lamentations presents another snapshot of despair—that of Judah in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem. Before the army of Nebuchadnezzar swept in to destroy the city, the people had suffered from starvation thanks to a siege (2 Kings 24:10–11). Though their turmoil was the result of years of disobedience to God, the writer of Lamentations cried out to God on behalf of his people (Lamentations 2:11–12).
While the author of Psalm 107 also describes a desperate time in Israel’s history (during Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, vv. 4–5), the focus shifts to an action step to be taken in hard times: “Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble” (v. 6). And what a wonderful result: “he delivered them from their distress.”
In despair? Don’t stay silent. Cry out to the Lord. He hears and waits to restore your hope. Though He doesn’t always take us out of hard situations, He promises to be with us always.
Ernest Shackleton (1874–1922) led an unsuccessful expedition to cross Antarctica in 1914. When his ship, aptly named Endurance, became trapped in heavy ice in the Weddell Sea, it became an endurance race just to survive. With no means of communicating with the rest of the world, Shackleton and his crew used lifeboats to make the journey to the nearest shore—Elephant Island. While most of the crew stayed behind on the island, Shackleton and five crewmen spent two weeks traveling 800 miles across the ocean to South Georgia to get help for those left behind. The “failed” expedition became a victorious entry in the history books when all of Shackleton’s men survived thanks to their courage and endurance.
The apostle Paul knew what it meant to endure. During a stormy sea voyage to Rome to face trial for his Christian beliefs, Paul learned from an angel of God that the ship would sink (Acts 27:23–24). But Paul kept the men aboard encouraged, thanks to God’s promise that all would survive, despite the loss of the ship.
When disaster strikes, we tend to want God to immediately make everything better. But God gives us the faith to endure and grow. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “Suffering produces endurance” (5:3). Knowing that, we can encourage each other to keep trusting God in hard times.
In the seventeenth century, Sir Isaac Newton used a prism to study how light helps us see different colors. He found that when light passes through an object, the object appears to possess a specific color. While a single ice crystal looks translucent, snow is made up of many ice crystals smashed together. When light passes through all of the crystals, snow appears to be white.
The Bible mentions something else that has a certain color—sin. Through the prophet Isaiah, God confronted the sins of the people of Judah and described their sin as “like scarlet” and as “red as crimson.” But God promised they would “be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). How? Judah needed to turn away from wrongdoing and seek God’s forgiveness.
Thanks to Jesus, we have permanent access to God’s forgiveness. Jesus called Himself “the light of the world” and said whoever follows Him “will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). When we confess our sins, God forgives us and we’re seen through the light of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. This means that God sees us as blameless as Jesus.
We don’t have to wallow in the guilt and shame of what we’ve done wrong. Instead, we can hold on to the truth of God’s forgiveness, which makes us “white as snow.”
When I was a kid, I thought the song title, “He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need” written by Dottie Rambo in 1967, was “He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Knees.” Employing the logic of a child, I wondered why God would look at knees. Was it because they were weak? I knew that weak kneed meant “afraid.” I later discovered that Dottie had written the song about God’s unconditional love in response to her brother Eddie’s belief that he was unlovable because of the wrong things he’d done. Dottie assured him that God saw his weakness but loved him anyway.
God’s unconditional love is apparent throughout the many “weak-kneed” moments of the people of Israel and Judah. God sent prophets like Isaiah with messages for His wayward people. In Isaiah 35, the prophet shares the hope of God’s restoration. The encouragement that would come as a result of embracing hope would “strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way” (v. 3). Through the encouragement they received, God’s people would in turn be able to encourage others. This is why Isaiah instructs in verse 4, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear.’”
Feeling “weak-kneed”? Talk to your heavenly Father. He strengthens weak knees through the truth of His Word and the power of His presence. You’ll then be able to encourage others.
“Failure is impossible!” These words were spoken by Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), known for her immovable stance on women’s rights in the US. Though she faced constant criticism and later an arrest, trial, and guilty verdict for voting illegally, Anthony vowed to never give up the fight to gain women the right to vote, believing her cause was just. Though she didn’t live to see the fruit of her labor, her declaration proved true. In 1920, the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote.
Failure wasn’t an option for Nehemiah either, mainly because he had a Powerful Helper: God. After asking God to bless his cause—rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem—Nehemiah and those who had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon worked to make that happen. The wall was needed to keep the people safe from enemies. But opposition to the cause came in the form of deception and threats. Nehemiah refused to let opposition deter him. He informed those who opposed the work, “I am carrying on a great project” (Nehemiah 6:3) After that, he prayed, “Now strengthen my hands” (v. 9). Thanks to perseverance, the work was completed (v. 15).
God gave Nehemiah the strength to persevere in the face of opposition. Is there a task for which you’re tempted to give up? Ask God to provide whatever you need to keep going.