Our children needed a little coaxing to believe that it was worth putting on snorkeling gear to peer beneath the surface of the Caribbean Sea off the shore of the island of Tobago. But after they dove in, they resurfaced ecstatic, “There are thousands of fish of all different kinds! It’s so beautiful! I’ve never seen such colorful fish!”
Because the surface of the water looked similar to freshwater lakes near our home, our children could have missed the beauty hidden just below the surface.
When the prophet Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king, Samuel saw the oldest son, Eliab, and was impressed by his appearance. The prophet thought he had found the right man, but the Lord rejected Eliab. God reminded Samuel that He “does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
So, Samuel asked if there were more sons. The youngest boy wasn’t present but caring for the family’s sheep. This son, David, was summoned and the Lord directed Samuel to anoint him.
Often, we look at people only on a surface level and don’t always take the time to see their inner, sometimes hidden, beauty. We don’t always value what God values. But, if we take the time to peer beneath the surface, we may find great treasure.
One of my favorite pieces of art hangs in the Keble College chapel in Oxford, England. The painting, The Light of the World by English artist William Holman Hunt, shows Jesus holding a lantern in His hand and knocking on a door to a home.
One of the intriguing aspects of the painting is that the door does not have a handle. When questioned about the lack of way to open the door, Hunt explained that he wanted to represent the imagery of Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in….”
The apostle John’s words and the painting illustrate the kindness of Jesus. He gently knocks on the door of our souls with His offer of peace. Jesus stands and patiently waits for us to respond. He does not open the door Himself and force His way into our lives. He does not impose His will on ours. Instead, He offers to all people the gift of salvation and light to guide us.
To anyone who opens the door, He promises to enter. There are no other requirements or prerequisites.
If you hear the voice of Jesus and His gentle knock on the door of your soul, be encouraged that He patiently waits for you and will enter if you welcome Him in.
I read about a mom who was surprised to see her daughter muddy from the waist down when she walked in the door after school. Her daughter explained that a friend had slipped and fallen into a mud puddle. While another classmate ran to get help, the little girl felt sorry for her friend sitting by herself and holding her hurt leg. So, the daughter went over and sat in the mud puddle with her friend until a teacher arrived.
When Job experienced the devastating loss of his children and became afflicted with painful sores on his entire body, his suffering was overwhelming. The Bible tells us that three of his friends wanted to comfort him. When they found Job, “they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:12–13)
Job’s friends initially showed remarkable understanding. They sensed that Job simply needed someone to sit and mourn with him. The three men will begin to speak in the next few chapters. The irony is that when the friends do begin to speak, they end up giving Job poor advice (16:1–4).
Often the best thing we can do when comforting a hurting friend is being willing to sit with them in their suffering.
Every May Day (May 1) in Oxford, England, an early morning crowd gathers to welcome spring. At 6:00, the Magdalen College Choir sings from the top of Magdalen Tower. Thousands wait in anticipation for the dark night to be broken by song and the ringing of bells.
Like the revelers, I often wait. I wait for answers to prayers or guidance…
For ten years, my Aunt Kathy cared for her father (my grandfather) in her home. She cooked and cleaned for him when he was independent, and then took on the role of nurse when his health declined.
Her service is one modern example of the words of Paul who wrote to the Thessalonians that he thanked God for “your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
My aunt served in faith and love. Her daily, consistent care was the result of her belief that God called her to this important work. Her labor was born out of love for God and her father.
She also endured in hope. My grandfather was a very kind man, but it was difficult to watch him decline. She gave up time with family and friends, and limited travel to care for him. She was able to endure because of the hope that God would strengthen her each day, along with the hope of heaven that awaited my grandfather.
Whether it is caring for a relative, helping a neighbor or volunteering your time, be encouraged as you do the work God has called you to do. Your labor can be a powerful testimony of faith, hope, and love.
During an especially cold winter, I ventured out to Lake Michigan, the fifth largest lake in the world, to see it frozen over. Bundled up on the beach where I usually enjoy soaking up the sun, the view was breathtaking. The water was actually frozen in waves creating an icy masterpiece.
Because the water was frozen solid next to the shore, I had the opportunity to ”walk on water.” Even with the knowledge that the ice was thick enough to support me, I took the first few steps tentatively. I was fearful the ice wouldn’t continue to hold me. As I cautiously explored this unfamiliar terrain, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus calling Peter out of the boat onto the Sea of Galilee.
When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, their response was also fear. But Jesus responded, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:26–27). Peter was able to overcome his fear and step out onto the water because he knew Jesus was present. When his courageous steps faltered because of the wind and waves, Peter cried out to Jesus. Jesus was still there, near enough to simply reach out His hand to rescue him.
If you are facing a situation today where Jesus is calling you to do something that may seem as impossible as walking on water, take courage. The one who calls you will be present with you.
On the way home from church my daughter sat in the backseat enjoying Goldfish crackers as my other children implored her to share. Trying to redirect the conversation, I asked the hoarder of snacks, “What did you do in class today?” She said they made a basket of bread and fish because a child gave Jesus five loaves and two fish that Jesus used to feed more than 5,000 people (John 6:1–13).
“That was very kind of the little boy to share. Do you think maybe God is asking you to share your fish?” I asked. “No, Momma” she replied.
I tried to encourage her not to keep all the crackers to herself. She was unconvinced. “There is not enough for everyone!”
Sharing is hard. It is easier to hold onto what I see in front of me. Perhaps we do the calculation and reason there is simply not enough for everyone. And, the assumption is that if I give, I will be left wanting.
Paul reminds us that all we have comes from God, who wants to enrich us “in every way so that [we] can be generous” (2 Corinthians 9:10–11). The math of heaven isn’t a calculation of scarcity but of abundance. We can share joyfully because God promises to care for us even as we are generous to others.
Would you like to cultivate a greater sense of gratitude? George Herbert, 17th-century British poet, encourages readers toward that goal in his poem, Gratefulness: “Thou that hast given so much to me, give one thing more: a grateful heart.”
Herbert recognizes the only thing he needs in order to be thankful is simply an awareness of the blessings God has already given him.
The Bible declares Christ Jesus as the source of all blessing in Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and for him are all things.” “All things” encompasses both the extravagant but also the mundane, everyday gifts in our lives. Everything we receive in life comes directly from our heavenly Father (James 1:17), and He willingly gives us those gifts out of His love for us.
To expand my awareness of God’s blessings in my life, I am learning to cultivate a heart that acknowledges the source of all the joys I experience each day, but especially the ones I often take for granted. Today those included a crisp morning to run, the anticipation of an evening with friends, a stocked pantry so I could make French toast with my daughters, the beauty of autumn colors outside my window, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
What is the “so much” that God has already given to you? Opening our eyes to those blessings will help us to develop grateful hearts.