A family member needed help with his December rent. To his family, the request felt like a burden—especially with their own unexpected expenses at year’s end. But they dug unto their savings, grateful for God’s provision—and blessed by their relative’s gratitude.
He handed them a thank-you card filled with grateful words. “There you go again . . . doing nice things, probably passing it off as no big deal.”
Helping others is a big deal, however, to God. The prophet Isaiah made that point to the nation of Israel. The people were fasting but still quarreling and fighting. Instead, said Isaiah: “Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. . . . Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help” (Isaiah 58:7
Such a sacrifice, said Isaiah, shares God’s light but also heals our own brokenness (v. 8). As the family helped their relative, they looked hard at their own finances, seeing ways they could manage better all year. This was God’s promise for being generous: “Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind” (v. 8
In the sky over our house, three fighter jets scream through the sky—flying in formation so close together they appear to be one. “Wow,” I say to my husband Dan. “Impressive,” he agrees. We live not far from an Air Force Base and it’s not unusual to see such sights.
Every time these jets fly over, however, I have the same question: how can they fly so close together and not lose control? One obvious reason, I learned, is humility. Trusting that the lead pilot is traveling at precisely the correct speed and trajectory, the wing pilots surrender any desire to switch directions or question their leader’s path. Instead, they get in formation and closely follow. The result? A more powerful team.
It’s no different for followers of Christ. Says Jesus: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
His path was one of self-denial and suffering, which can be hard to follow. But to be His effective disciples, we too are invited to put aside selfish desires and pick up spiritual burdens daily—serving others first instead of ourselves, for example—as we closely follow Him.
It’s quite a sight, this humbling close walk with God. Following His lead, and staying so close, we can appear with Christ as one. Then others won’t see us, they’ll see Him. There’s a simple word for what that looks like: “Wow!”
The repair man looked young—too young to fix our problem, a car that wouldn’t start. “He’s just a kid,” my husband whispered to me, showing his doubt. His disbelief in the young man sounded like the grumbling in Nazareth where citizens doubted who Jesus was.
“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son,” they asked (Matthew 13:55) when Jesus taught in the synagogue. Scoffing, they were surprised to hear that someone they knew was healing and teaching, asking, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” (v. 54). Instead of trusting in Jesus, they were offended (vv. 15, 58) by the authority he displayed.
In this same way, we may struggle to trust in our Savior’s wisdom and power, especially in the familiar and ordinary details of our daily lives. Failing to expect His help, we may miss out on the wonder of His life to transform our own (v. 58).
As Dan found, he first needed to see that the help he needed was already here. Finally agreeing to accept it, my husband allowed the young man to look at our old car’s battery. By switching just one bolt, the young man had the car running in seconds—engine humming and lights ablaze. “It lit up like Christmas,” Dan said.
So, too, may we expect and experience the Messiah bringing fresh light, life and help into our daily journey with Him.
The doctor wasn’t frowning, despite talking to my husband about his recent cancer diagnosis. Smiling, she offered a suggestion: start each day by giving thanks. “For at least three things,” the doctor said. Dan agreed, knowing that gratitude opens our hearts to find encouragement in God’s goodness. Thus, Dan starts each day with words of praise. Thank You, God, for a good night’s sleep. For my clean bed. For sunshine. For breakfast on the table. For a smile on my lips.
Each word is heartfelt. But could it sound trivial? Does our praise in life’s small details matter to Almighty God? In Psalm 50, David’s chief musician Asaph offers a clear answer. God has “no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens” (v. 9). Instead of these once-formal Israelite sacrifices of gratitude, God wants His people to give Him our hearts and lives in gratitude (vv. 14, 23).
As my husband experienced, whole-hearted gratitude helps our spirits flourish. Then when we call on the Lord “in the day of trouble,” He will “deliver” us (v. 15). Does this mean Dan will be healed, spiritually and physically, during his two-year treatment? Or after this lifetime? We don’t know. But for now, Dan delights in showing God he’s grateful for His love, and for who God is: Redeemer. Healer. Friend. And friends delight to hear these beautiful words: thank you.
Her email arrived late in a long day. In truth, I didn’t open it. I was working overtime to help a family member manage his serious illness. I didn’t have time, therefore, for social distractions.
The next morning, however, when I clicked on my friend’s message, I saw this question: “Can I help you in any way?” Feeling embarrassed, I started to answer no. Then I took a deep breath to pause. I noticed then that her question sounded familiar—if not divine.
That’s because Jesus asked it. Hearing a blind beggar call out to Him on the Jericho Road, Jesus stopped to ask this man, named Bartimaeus, a similar question. Can I help? Or as Jesus said: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51).
The question is stunning. It shows the Healer Jesus longs to help us. But first, we’re invited to admit needing Him—a humbling step. The “professional” beggar Bartimaeus was needy, indeed—poor, alone, possibly hungry and downcast too. But wanting a new life, he simply told Jesus his most basic need. “Rabbi,” he said, “I want to see.”
For a blind man, it was an honest plea. Jesus healed him immediately. My friend sought such honesty from me too. So I promised her I’d pray to understand my basic need and, more important, I’d humbly tell her. Do you know your basic need today? When a friend asks, tell it. Then take your plea even higher. Tell God.