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Lisa M. Samra

Lisa M. Samra

Lisa desires to see Christ glorified in her life and in the ministries where she serves. Born and raised in Texas, Lisa is always on the lookout for sweet tea and brisket. She graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas and earned a Master of Biblical Studies degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Lisa now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, Jim, and their four children. In addition to writing, she is passionate about facilitating mentoring relationships for women, and developing groups focused on spiritual formation and leadership development. Lisa has been blessed to travel extensively and often finds inspiration from experiencing the beauty of diverse cultures, places, and people. Lisa enjoys good coffee, running, and reading—just not all at the same time.

Articles by Lisa M. Samra

Navigating the Storms of Life

On July 16, 1999, the small plane piloted by John F. Kennedy Jr. crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Investigators determined the cause of the accident to be a common error known as spatial disorientation. This phenomenon occurs when, due to poor visibility, pilots become disoriented and forget to rely on their instruments to help them successfully reach their destination.

As we navigate life, there are often times when life gets so overwhelming we feel disoriented. A cancer diagnosis, the death of a loved one, a job loss, a betrayal by a friend—life’s unexpected tragedies can easily leave us feeling lost and confused.

When we find ourselves in these kinds of situations, we might try offering the prayer of Psalm 43. In this psalm, the psalmist is overwhelmed and feeling lost because he feels surrounded by evil and injustice. In despair, the psalmist pleads with God to provide His sure guidance to help him safely navigate through the situation to his desired destination, God’s presence (vv. 3–4). In God’s presence the psalmist knows he will find renewed hope and joy.  

What are the tools the psalmist requests for guidance? The light of truth and the assurance of God’s presence by His Holy Spirit.

When you’re feeling disoriented and lost, God’s faithful guidance through His Spirit and loving presence can comfort you and light your way.

The Way of Faith

In a 2017 World Cup qualifying match that pitted the US against Trinidad and Tobago, the Soca Warriors shocked the world when they beat the US men’s national team, a team ranked fifty-six places higher. The 2-1 upset eliminated the US team from the 2018 World Cup.

Trinidad and Tobago’s victory was so unexpected in part because the United States’ population and resources dwarfed those of the small Caribbean nation. But those seemingly insurmountable advantages weren’t enough to defeat the passionate Soca Warriors.

The story of Gideon and the Midianites features a similar upset, one between a small group of fighters and a large army. The Israelite army actually had more than 30,000 fighters, but the Lord whittled the army down to just three hundred warriors so the nation would learn that their success was dependent on God—not the size of their army, the amount of money in their treasury, or the skill of their leaders (Judges 7:1–8).

It can be tempting to put our trust and confidence in things we can see or measure, but that’s not the way of faith. Though it’s often difficult, when we are willing to depend on God, to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:1), we can go into situations, even when we feel overwhelmed and unqualified, with courage and confidence. His presence and power can do amazing things in and through us.

A Remarkable Life

I came to learn about Catherine Hamlin, a remarkable Australian surgeon, through reading her obituary. In Ethiopia, Catherine and her husband established the world’s only hospital dedicated to curing women from the devastating physical and emotional trauma of obstetric fistulas, a common injury in the developing world that can occur during childbirth. Catherine is credited with overseeing the treatment of more than 60,000 women.

Still operating at the hospital when she was 92 years old, and still beginning each day with a cup of tea and Bible study, Hamlin told curious questioners that she was an ordinary believer in Jesus who was simply doing the job God had given her to do. 

I was grateful to learn about her remarkable life because she powerfully exemplified for me Scripture’s encouragement to believers to live our lives in such a way that even people who actively reject God “may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12).

 

The power of God’s Spirit that called us out of spiritual darkness into a relationship with God (v. 9) can also transform our work or areas of service into testimonies of our faith. For whatever passion or skill God has gifted us, we can embrace added meaning and purpose in doing all of it in a manner that has the power to point people to God.

Pursued by Love

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days,” opens the famous poem “The Hound of Heaven” by English poet Francis Thompson. Thompson describes Jesus’ unceasing pursuit—despite his efforts to hide, or even run away, from God. The poet concludes “I am he whom Thou seekest!”

The pursuing love of God is a central theme of the book of Jonah. The prophet received an assignment to tell the people of Nineveh (notorious enemies of Israel) about their need to turn to God, but instead “Jonah ran away from the Lord” (Jonah 1:3). He secured passage on a ship sailing in the opposite direction of Nineveh but the vessel was soon overcome by a violent storm. To save the ship’s crew, Jonah was thrown overboard before being swallowed by a large fish (1:15–17).

In his own beautiful poem, Jonah recounted that despite his best efforts to run away from God, God pursued him. When Jonah was overcome by his situation and needed to be saved, he cried out to God in prayer and turned toward His love (vv. 2, 8). God answered and provided rescue not only for Jonah, but for his Assyrian enemies as well (v. 10).

As described in both poems, there may be seasons of our lives when we try to run from God. Even then Jesus loves us and is at work to guide us back into restored relationship with Him (1 John 1:9).

Anchored in Truth

My family lives in a nearly century-old house with a lot of character, including wonderfully textured plaster walls. A builder cautioned me that with these walls, to hang a picture up I’d have to either drill the nail into a wood support or use a plaster anchor for support. Otherwise, I’d risk the picture crashing to the ground, leaving an ugly hole behind.

The prophet Isaiah used the imagery of a nail driven firmly into a wall to describe a minor biblical character named Eliakim. Unlike the corrupt official Shebna (vv. 15–19), as well as the people of Israel—who looked to themselves for strength (vv. 8–11)—Eliakim trusted in God (v. 20). Prophesying Eliakim’s promotion to palace administrator for King Hezekiah, Isaiah wrote that Eliakim would be driven like a “peg into a firm place” (v. 23). Being securely anchored in God’s truth and grace would also allow Eliakim to be a support for his family and his people (vv. 22–24). 

Yet Isaiah concluded this prophecy with a sobering reminder that no person can be the ultimate security for friends or family—we all fail (v. 25). The only completely trustworthy anchor for our lives is Christ (Psalm 62:5–6, Matthew 7:24). As we care for others and share their burdens, may we also point them to Jesus, the anchor who will never fail.

It’s Jesus!

During an episode of the popular US television talent competition “America’s Got Talent,” a five-year-old girl sang with such exuberance that a judge compared her to a famous child singer and dancer in the 1930s. He remarked, “I think Shirley Temple is living somewhere inside of you.” Her unexpected response: “Not Shirley Temple. Jesus!”

I marveled at the young girl’s deep awareness that her joy came from Jesus living in her. Scripture assures us of the amazing reality that all who trust in Jesus not only receive the promise of eternal life with God but also Jesus’ presence living in them through His Spirit—our hearts become Jesus’ home (Colossians 1:27, Ephesians 3:17).

Jesus’ presence in our hearts fills us with countless reasons for gratitude (Colossians 2:6–7). Jesus brings the ability to live with purpose and energy (1:28–29). He cultivates joy in our hearts in the midst of all circumstances, in both times of celebration and times of struggle (Philippians 4:12–13). Christ’s Spirit provides hope to our hearts that God is working all things together for good, even when we can’t see it (Romans 8:28). And the Spirit in our hearts gives a peace that persists regardless of the chaos swirling around us (Colossians 3:15).

With the confidence that comes from Jesus living in our hearts, we can allow His presence to shine through so that others can’t help but notice.

Never Alone

“It can be an affliction more harrowing than homelessness, hunger or disease,” wrote Maggie Fergusson in The Economist’s 1843 magazine. Her subject? Loneliness. Fergusson chronicled the increasing rates of loneliness, irrespective of one’s social or economic status, using heart-wrenching examples of what it feels like to be lonely.

The hurt of feeling alone is not new to our day. Indeed, the pain of isolation echoes off the pages of the ancient book of Ecclesiastes. Often attributed to King Solomon, the book captures the sorrow of those who seem to lack any meaningful relationships (4:7–8). The speaker lamented that it is possible to acquire significant wealth, and yet experience no value from it, because there is no one to share it with.

But the speaker also recognized the beauty of companionship, writing that friends help you accomplish more than you could achieve on your own (v. 9); companions help in times of need (v. 10); partners bring comfort (v. 11); and friends can provide protection in difficult situations (v. 12).

Loneliness is a significant struggle, because God created us to offer, and receive, the benefits of friendship and community. If you’re feeling alone, pray that God would help you form meaningful connections with others. In the meantime, find encouragement in the reality that the believer is never truly alone, because Christ’s Spirit is always with us (Matthew 28:20).

A Mighty Stream

Among the many exhibits and artifacts exploring the harsh reality of slavery and its aftermath in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, I was grateful to discover the Contemplative Court. This tranquil room features translucent walls of bronze glass, and water appears to rain down from the ceiling into a pool.

As I sat in that peaceful space, a quote on the wall from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. caught my eye: “We are determined . . . to work and fight until justice rains down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” These powerful words are drawn from the Old Testament book of Amos.

Amos was a prophet living among a people who were involved in religious activities, such as celebrating festivals and offering sacrifices, but whose hearts were far from God (Amos 5:21–23). God rejected their activities because they’d turned away from His commands, including those regarding justice toward the needy and oppressed.

Instead of religious ceremonies devoid of love for God and others, Amos wrote that God longed for His people to demonstrate genuine concern for the welfare of all people, a generous way of living that would be a mighty river bringing life wherever it flowed.

Jesus taught the same truth that loving God is connected with loving our neighbors (Matthew 22:37–39). As we seek to love God, may it come from hearts that also treasure justice.

Sound the Trumpets

“Taps” is a trumpet call played by the US military at the end of the day as well as at funerals. I was amazed when I read the unofficial lyrics and discovered that many of the verses end with the phrase “God is nigh” (God is near). Both before the dark of each night settles in or while mourning the loss of a loved one, the lyrics offer soldiers the beautiful assurance that God is near.

In the Old Testament, sounding trumpets was also a reminder, to the Israelites, that God was near. In the middle of celebrating the feasts and festivals that were part of the covenant agreement between God and the nation of Israel, the Jews were to “sound the trumpets” (Numbers 10:10). And blowing a trumpet was a reminder, not only that God was near but that He was also available when they needed Him most and longed to help them.

Today, we still need reminders that God is near. And in our own style of worship, we too can call out to God in prayer and song. Perhaps our prayers can be thought of as trumpets asking God to help us. And the beautiful encouragement is that God always hears those calls (1 Peter 3:12). To each of our pleas, He responds with the assurance of His presence that strengthens and comforts us in the difficulties and sorrows of life.

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