While shopping for a humidifier, I noticed an older woman walking back and forth down the aisle. Wondering if she was shopping for humidifiers also, I moved aside to allow her to draw near. Soon we chatted about a flu virus in our area, one that left her with a lingering cough and headache.
A few minutes later, she launched into a bitter tirade, expressing her theory about the origin of the virus. I listened, unsure what to do. She soon left the store, still angry and frustrated. Though she had expressed her frustration, I couldn’t do anything to take away that pain.
David, Israel’s second king, wrote psalms to express his anger and frustration to God. But David knew that God not only listened, He could also do something about his pain. In Psalm 61, he writes, “I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (v. 1). God was his “refuge” (v. 3)—the “rock” to which David ran.
When we’re in pain, or come in contact with someone in pain, David’s example is a good one to follow. We can head to “the rock that is higher” or lead someone there. I wish I had mentioned God to the woman at the store. While God may not take away all our pain, we can rest in the peace He provides and the assurance that He hears our cry.
“It’s cancer.” I wanted to be strong when Mom said those words to me. But I burst into tears. You never want to hear those words even one time. But this was Mom’s third bout of cancer. After a routine mammogram and biopsy, Mom learned that she had a malignant tumor under her arm.
Though Mom was the one with bad news, she had to comfort me. Her response was eye opening for me: “I know God is always good to me. He’s always faithful.” Even as she faced a difficult surgery, followed up by radiation treatments, Mom was assured of God’s presence and faithfulness.
How like Job. Job lost his children, his wealth, and his health. But after hearing the news, Job 1:20 tells us, “He fell to the ground in worship.” When advised to curse God, he said, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10). What a radical initial response. Though Job later complained, ultimately he accepted that God had never changed. Job knew that God was still with him and that He still cared.
For most of us, praise is not our first response to difficulties. Sometimes the pain of our circumstances is so overwhelming, we lash out in fear or anger. But watching Mom’s response reminded me that God is still present, still good. He will help us through hard times.
When I studied Greek and Roman mythology in college, I was struck by how moody and easily angered the mythological gods were in the stories. The people on the receiving end of their anger found their lives destroyed, sometimes on a whim.
I was quick to scoff, wondering how anyone could believe in gods like that. But then I asked myself, Is my view of the God who actually exists much different? Don’t I view Him as easily angered whenever I doubt Him. Sadly, yes.
That’s why I appreciate Moses’ request of God to “show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). Having been chosen to lead a large group of people who often grumbled against him, Moses wanted to know that God would indeed help him with this great task. Moses’ request was rewarded by a demonstration of God’s glory. God announced to Moses His name and characteristics. He is “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (34:6).
This verse reminded me that God is not impulsive, suddenly striking out in anger. That’s reassuring, especially when I consider the times I’ve lashed out at Him in anger or impatience. Also, He continually works to make me more like Himself.
We can see God and His glory in His patience with us, the encouraging word of a friend, a beautiful sunset, or—best of all—the whisper of the Holy Spirit inside of us.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed more joint pain, especially when cold weather hits. Some days, I feel less like a conqueror and more like someone conquered by the challenges of becoming a senior citizen.
That’s why my hero is an older man named Caleb—the former spy sent by Moses to scout out Canaan, the Promised Land (Num. 13–14). After the other spies gave an unfavorable report, Caleb and Joshua were the only spies out of the twelve whom God favored to enter Canaan. Now, in Joshua 14, the time for Caleb to receive his portion of land had come. But there were enemies still to drive out. Not content to retire and leave the battle to the younger generation, Caleb declared, “You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said” (Josh. 14:12).
“The Lord helping me.” That’s the kind of mindset that kept Caleb battle-ready. He focused on God’s power, not his own, or his advanced age. God would help him do whatever needed to be done.
Most of us don’t think of conquering cities when we reach a certain age. But we can still do great things for God, no matter how old we are. When Caleb-sized opportunities come our way, we don’t have to shy away from them. With the Lord helping us, we can conquer!
Back when I was searching for a church to attend regularly, a friend invited me to a service at her church. The worship leaders led the congregation in a song I particularly loved. So I sang with gusto, remembering my college choir director’s advice to “Project!”
After the song, my friend’s husband turned to me and said, “You really sang loud.” This remark was not intended as a compliment! After that, I self-consciously monitored my singing, making sure I sang softer than those around me, and always wondering if the people around me judged my singing.
But one Sunday, I noticed the singing of a woman in the pew beside me. She seemed to sing with adoration, without a trace of self-consciousness. Her worship reminded me of the enthusiastic, spontaneous worship that David demonstrated in his life. In Psalm 98, in fact, David suggests that “all the earth” should “burst into jubilant song” in worship (v. 4).
Verse one of Psalm 98 tells us why we should worship joyfully, reminding us that “[God] has done marvelous things.” Throughout the psalm, David recounts these marvelous things: God’s faithfulness and justice to all nations, His mercy, and salvation. Dwelling on who God is and what He’s done can fill our hearts with praise.
What “marvelous things” has God done in your life? Thanksgiving is the perfect time to recall His wondrous works and give God thanks. Lift your voice and sing!
I had a lump in my throat as I said good-bye to my niece on the eve of her move to Massachusetts to attend graduate school at Boston University. Though she had been away four years as an undergraduate, she hadn’t left our state. A two and a one-half-hour drive easily reunited us. Now she would be more than 800 miles away. No longer would we meet regularly to talk. I had to trust that God would take care of her.
Paul likely felt the same way as he said good-bye to the elders of the church in Ephesus. Having established the church and taught them for three years, Paul concluded these elders to be as close as family to him. Now that Paul was headed to Jerusalem, he would not see them again.
But Paul had parting advice for the Ephesians. Though they would no longer have Paul as their teacher, the Ephesians did not have to feel abandoned. God would continue to train them through “the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32) to lead the church. Unlike Paul, God would always be with them.
Whether it’s children we launch from the nest or other family and friends who move away—saying good-bye can be very difficult. They move beyond our influence and into their new lives. When we let go of their hands, we can trust that God has them in His. He can continue to shape their lives and meet their real needs— more than we ever could.
As I had dinner with a friend, she expressed how fed up she was with a particular family member. But she was reluctant to say anything to him about his annoying habit of ignoring or mocking her. When she did try to confront him about the problem, he responded with sarcastic remarks. She exploded in anger at him. Both parties wound up digging in their heels, and the family rift widened.
I can relate, because I handle anger the same way. I also have a hard time confronting people. If a friend or family member says something mean, I usually suppress how I feel until that person or someone else comes along and says or does something else mean. After a while, I explode.
Maybe that’s why the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:26 advised, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Providing a time limit on unresolved issues keeps anger in check. Instead of stewing over a wrong, which is a breeding ground for bitterness, we can ask God for help to “[speak] the truth in love” (Eph. 4:5).
Got a problem with someone? Rather than hold it in, hold it up to God first. He can fight the fire of anger with the power of His forgiveness and love.
My niece convinced me to play Pokémon Go—a game played on a smartphone, using the phone’s camera. The object of the game is to capture little creatures called Pokémon. When one appears in the game, a red and white ball also appears on the phone’s screen. To capture a Pokémon, the player has to flick the ball toward it with the movement of a finger. Pokémon are more easily caught, however, by using a lure to attract them.
Pokémon characters aren’t the only ones who can be lured away. In his New Testament letter to believers, James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us that we “are dragged away by [our] own evil desire” (1:14, emphasis added). In other words, our desires work with temptation to lure us down a wrong path. Though we may be tempted to blame God or even Satan for our problems, our real danger lies within.
But there is good news. We can escape the lure of temptation by talking to God about the things that tempt us. Though “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone,” as James explains in 1:13, He understands our human desire to do what’s wrong. We have only to ask for the wisdom God promised to provide (1:1–6) to avoid losing more than a video game.
When I think of protection, I don’t automatically think of a bird’s feathers. Though a bird’s feathers might seem like a flimsy form of protection, there is more to them than meets the eye.
Bird feathers are an amazing example of God’s design. Feathers have a smooth part and a fluffy part. The smooth part of the feather has stiff barbs with tiny hooks that lock together like the prongs of a zipper. The fluffy part keeps a bird warm. Together both parts of the feather protect the bird from wind and rain. But many baby birds are covered in a fluffy down and their feathers haven’t fully developed. So a mother bird has to cover them in the nest with her own feathers to protect them from wind and rain.
The image of God “[covering] us with his feathers” in Psalm 91:4 and in other Bible passages (see Ps. 17:8) is one of comfort and protection. The image that comes to mind is a mother bird covering her little ones with her feathers. Like a parent whose arms are a safe place to retreat from a scary storm or a hurt, God’s comforting presence provides safety and protection from life’s emotional storms.
Though we go through trouble and heartache, we can face them without fear as long as our faces are turned toward God. He is our “refuge” (91:2, 4, 9).