In a psychiatrist’s advice column, he responded to a reader named Brenda, who lamented that her ambitious pursuits had left her discontent. His words were blunt. Humans aren’t designed to be happy, he said, “only to survive and reproduce.” We’re cursed to chase the “teasing and elusive butterfly” of contentment, he added, “not always to capture it.”
I wonder how Brenda felt reading the psychiatrist’s nihilistic words and how different she may have felt reading Psalm 131 instead. In its words, David gives us a guided reflection on how to find contentment. He begins in a posture of humility, putting his kingly ambitions aside, and while wrestling life’s big questions is important, he puts those aside in this moment too (v. 1). Then he quiets his heart before God (v. 2), entrusting the future into His hands (v. 3). The result is beautiful: “like a weaned child with its mother,” he says, “I am content” (v. 2).
In a broken world like ours, contentment will at times feel elusive. The apostle Paul said contentment is something to be learned—Philippians 4:11–13. But if we believe we’re only designed to “survive and reproduce,” contentment will surely be an uncatchable butterfly. David shows us another way: catching contentment through quietly resting in God’s presence.
Be Humble Day
I’m often amused by the unofficial holidays people come up with. February alone has a Sticky Bun Day, a Sword Swallowers Day, even a Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day! Today has been labeled Be Humble Day. Universally recognized as a virtue, humility is certainly worth celebrating. But interestingly, this hasn’t always been the case.
Humility was considered a weakness, not a virtue, in the ancient world, which prized honor instead. Boasting about one’s achievements was expected, and you sought to raise your status, never lower it. Humility meant inferiority, like a servant to a master. But all this changed, historians say, at Jesus’ crucifixion. There, the one who was “in very nature God” gave up His divine status to become “a servant” and “humbled himself” to die for others (Philippians 2:6–8). Such a praiseworthy act forced humility to be redefined. By the end of the first century, even secular writers were calling humility a virtue because of what Christ had done.
Every time someone is praised for being “humble” today, the gospel is being subtly preached. For without Jesus, humility wouldn’t be “good,” or a Be Humble Day even thinkable. Christ relinquished His status for us, revealing through all history the humble nature of God.
Arukun is a small town in Western Australia—its Aboriginal population drawn from seven clans. While the gospel came to Arukun a century ago, eye-for-eye retribution sometimes remained. In 2015, clan tensions grew, and when a murder happened, payback required someone from the offender’s family to die in return.
But something remarkable happened in early 2016. The people of Arukun started seeking God in prayer. Repentance followed, then mass baptisms, as revival began sweeping the town. People were so joyful they danced in the streets, and instead of enacting payback, the family of the murdered man forgave the offending clan. Soon 1,000 people were in church each Sunday—in a town of just 1,300!
We see revivals like this in Scripture, as in Hezekiah’s day when crowds joyfully returned to God (2 Chronicles 30), and on the day of Pentecost when thousands repented (Acts 2:38–47). While revival is God’s work, done in His time, history shows prayer precedes it. “If my people . . . will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,” God told Solomon, “I will forgive their sin and will heal their land
As the people of Arukun found, revival brings joy and reconciliation to a town. How our own cities need such transformation! Father, bring revival to us too.
Made for Adventure
I recently made a wonderful discovery. Following a dirt path into a cluster of trees near my home, I found a hidden homemade playground. A ladder made of sticks led up to a lookout, swings made from old cable spools hung from branches, and there was even a suspension bridge slung between boughs. Someone had turned some old wood and rope into a creative adventure!
Swiss physician Paul Tournier believed that we were made for adventure because we’re made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27). Just as God ventured forth to invent a universe (vv. 1–25), just as He took the risk of creating humans who could choose good or evil (3:6), and just as He called us to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28), we too have a drive to invent, take risks, and create new things as we fruitfully rule the earth. Such adventures may be large or small, but they’re best when they benefit others. I bet the makers of that playground would get a kick out of people finding and enjoying it.
Whether it’s inventing new music, exploring new forms of evangelism, or rekindling a marriage that’s grown distant, adventures of all kinds keep our heart beating. What new task or project is tugging at you right now? Perhaps God is leading you to a new adventure.
Who You Are
In 2011, after a decade of childlessness, my wife and I chose to start afresh in a new country. Exciting as the move was, it required my leaving a broadcast career, which I missed. Feeling lost, I asked my friend Liam for advice.
“I don’t know what my calling is anymore,” I told Liam dejectedly.
“You’re not broadcasting here?” he asked. I said I wasn’t.
“And how is your marriage?”
Surprised at his change of topic, I told Liam that Merryn and I were doing well. We’d faced heartbreak together but emerged closer through the ordeal.
“Commitment is the core of the gospel,” he said, smiling. “Oh, how the world needs to see committed marriages like yours! You may not realize the impact you’re having already, beyond what you do, simply by being who you are.”
When a difficult work situation left Timothy dejected, the apostle Paul didn’t give him career goals. Instead, he encouraged Timothy to live a godly life, setting an example through his speech, conduct, love, faith and purity (4:12–13, 15). He would best impact others by living faithfully.
It’s easy to value our lives based on our career success when what matters most is our character. I had forgotten that. But a word of truth, a gracious act, even a committed marriage can bring great change—because through them something of God’s own goodness touches the world.
Walk with Me
A few years ago a popular song hit the charts, with a gospel choir singing the chorus, “Jesus walks with me.” Behind the lyrics lies a powerful story.
The choir was started by jazz musician Curtis Lundy when he entered a treatment program for cocaine addiction. Drawing fellow addicts together and finding inspiration in an old hymnal, he wrote that chorus as a hymn of hope for those in rehab. “We were singing for our lives,” one choir member says of the song. “We were asking Jesus to save us, to help us get out of the drugs.” Another found that her chronic pain subsided when she sang the song. That choir wasn’t just singing words on a sheet, but offering desperate prayers for redemption.
Today’s Scripture reading describes their experience well. In Christ, our God has appeared to offer salvation to all (Titus 2:11). While eternal life is part of this gift (v. 13), God is working on us now, empowering us to regain self-control, say no to worldly passions, and redeem us for life with Him (vv. 12, 14). As the choir members found, Jesus doesn’t just forgive our sins—He frees us from destructive lifestyles.
Jesus walks with me. And you. And anyone who cries out to Him for help. He’s with us, offering hope for the future and salvation now.
Sister to Brother
When a leader asked if I’d speak with her privately, I found Karen in the retreat center counseling room red-eyed and wet-cheeked. Forty-two years old, Karen longed to be married, and a man was currently showing her interest. The problem was this man was her boss—and he already had a wife.
With a brother who cruelly teased her and a father devoid of affection, Karen discovered early that she was susceptible to men’s advances. A renewal of faith had given her new boundaries to live by, but her longing remained and this glimpse of a love she couldn’t have was a torment.
After talking, Karen and I bowed our heads. And in a raw and powerful prayer, Karen confessed her temptation, declared her boss off limits, handed her longing to God, and left the room feeling lighter.
That day I realized the brilliance of Paul’s advice to treat each other as brothers and sisters in the faith (1 Timothy 5:1–2). How we see people determines how we treat them, and in a world quick to objectify and sexualize, viewing the opposite sex as family helps us treat them with care and propriety. Healthy brothers and sisters don’t abuse or seduce each other.
Having only known men who demeaned, used, or ignored her, Karen needed one she could talk with sister-to-brother. The beauty of the gospel is it provides just that—giving us new siblings to help face life’s problems.
The Story Isn’t Over
When British drama Line of Duty concluded, record numbers watched to see how its fight against organized crime would end. But many viewers were left disappointed when the finale implied that evil would ultimately win. “I wanted the bad guys brought to justice,” one fan said. “We needed that moral ending.”
Sociologist Peter Berger once noted that we hunger for hope and justice—hope that evil will one day be overcome and that those who caused it will be made to face their crimes. A world where the bad guys win goes against how we know the world should work. Without probably realizing it, those disappointed fans were expressing humanity’s deep longing for the world to be made right again.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is realistic about evil. It exists not only between us, requiring forgiveness (Matthew 6:12–13), but on a grand scale, requiring deliverance (v. 13). This realism, however, is matched with hope. There’s a place where evil doesn’t exist—heaven—and that heavenly kingdom is coming to earth (v. 10). One day God’s justice will be complete, His “moral ending” will come, and evil will be banished for good (Revelation 21:4).
So when the real-life bad guys win and disappointment sets in, let’s remember this: until God’s will is done “on earth as it is in heaven,” there is always hope—because the story isn’t over.
My wife and I once stayed in a lovely old seaside hotel with large sash windows and thick stone walls. One afternoon, a storm ripped through the region, churning up the sea and pounding our windows like angry fists on a door. Yet we were at peace. Those walls were so strong, and the hotel’s foundations so solid! While storms raged outside, our room was a refuge.
Refuge is an important theme in Scripture, starting with God Himself. “You have been a refuge for the poor,” Isaiah says of God, “a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm” (Isaiah 25:4). In addition, refuge is something God’s people were and are to provide, whether through Israel’s ancient cities of refuge (Numbers 35:6) or by offering hospitality to “foreigners” in need (Deuteronomy 10:19). These same principles can guide us today when humanitarian crises hit our world. In such times, we pray that the God of refuge would use us, His people, to help the vulnerable find safety.
The storm that hit our hotel was gone the following morning, leaving us with a calm sea and a warm sun that made the seagulls glow. It’s an image I hold on to as I think of those facing natural disasters or fleeing “ruthless” regimes (Isaiah 25:4): that the God of refuge would empower us to help them find safety now and a brighter tomorrow.