Category  |  God

In the Moment

The ambulance door was about to close—with me on the inside. Outside, my son was on the phone to my wife. From my concussed fog, I called his name. As he recalls the moment, I slowly said, “Tell your mom I love her very much.”

Apparently I thought this might be goodbye, and I wanted those to be my parting words. In the moment, that’s what mattered most to me.

As Jesus endured His darkest moment, He didn’t merely tell us He loved us; He showed it in specific ways. He showed it to the mocking soldiers who had just nailed Him to a cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He gave hope to a criminal crucified with Him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). Nearing the end, He looked at His mother. “Here is your son,” He said to her, and to His close friend John He said, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26–27). Then, as His life slipped from Him, Jesus’s last act of love was to trust His Father: “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Jesus purposefully chose the cross in order to show His obedience to His Father—and the depth of His love for us. To the very end, He showed us His relentless love.

Flourishing Like a Flower

My youngest grandson is only two months old, yet every time I see him I notice little changes. A few weeks ago as I cooed to him, he looked up at me and smiled! And suddenly I began crying. Perhaps it was joy mixed with remembering my own children’s first smiles, which I witnessed so long ago, and yet it feels like just yesterday. Some moments are like that—inexplicable.  

In Psalm 103, David penned a poetic song that praised God while also reflecting on how quickly the joyful moments of our lives pass by: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone” (vv. 15–16).

But despite acknowledging the brevity of life, David describes the flower as flourishing, or thriving. Although each individual flower blossoms and blooms swiftly, its fragrance and color and beauty bring great joy in the moment. And even though an individual flower can be quickly forgotten—“its place remembers it no more” (v. 16)—by contrast we have the assurance that “from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him” (v. 17).

We, like flowers, can rejoice and flourish in the moment; but we can also celebrate the truth that the moments of our lives are never truly forgotten. God holds every detail of our lives, and His everlasting love is with His children forever! 

The Marks of Friendship

As a little boy growing up in Ghana, I enjoyed holding my father’s hand and walking with him along crowded places. He was both my father and my friend, for holding hands in my culture is a mark of true friendship. Walking along, we would chitchat about a variety of subjects. Whenever I felt lonely, I found consolation with my father. How I valued our companionship!

The Lord Jesus called His followers friends, and He showed them the marks of His friendship. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you,” He said (John 15:9), even laying down His life for them (v. 13). He showed them His kingdom business (v. 15). He taught them everything God had given Him (v. 15). And He gave them opportunity to share in His mission (v. 16).

As our Companion for life, Jesus walks with us. He listens to our heartaches and our desires. When we are lonely and downhearted, our Friend Jesus keeps company with us.

And our companionship with Jesus is tighter when we love each other and obey His commands (vv. 10, 17). As we obey His commands, we will bear “fruit that will last” (v. 16).

Walking through the crowded alleys and dangerous roadways of our troubled world, we can count on the Lord’s companionship. It is a mark of His friendship.

Are You There?

When his wife contracted a terminal illness, Michael longed for her to experience the peace he had through his relationship with God. He had shared his faith with her, but she wasn’t interested. One day, as he walked through a local bookstore, a title caught his eye: God, Are You There? Unsure how his wife would respond to the book, he walked in and out of the store several times before finally buying it. To his surprise, she accepted it.

The book touched her, and she began to read the Bible too. Two weeks later, Michael’s wife passed away—at peace with God and resting in the assurance that He would never leave or forsake her.

When God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, He didn’t promise him power. Instead, He promised His presence: “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). In Jesus’s last words to His disciples, He also promised God’s eternal presence, which they would receive through the Holy Spirit (John 15:26).

There are many things God could give us to help us through life’s challenges, such as material comfort, healing, or immediate solutions to our problems. Sometimes He does. But the best gift He gives is Himself. This is the greatest comfort we have: whatever happens in life, He will be with us; He will never leave nor forsake us.

Surviving the Unbearable

The Experience Project, one of the largest online communities of the twenty-first century, was once a site where tens of millions shared deeply painful firsthand experiences. As I read through the heartbreaking stories, I reflected on how desperately our hearts long for someone to see—to understand—our pain.

In Genesis, the story of a young handmaid reveals just how life-giving this gift can be.

Hagar was a slave girl likely given to Abram by a pharaoh of Egypt (see Genesis 12:16; 16:1). When Abram’s wife Sarai was unable to conceive, she urged Abram to conceive a child with Hagar—a disturbing yet familiar practice of that day. But when Hagar became pregnant, tensions flared, until Hagar fled into the wilderness to escape Sarai’s abuse (16:1–6).

But Hagar’s predicament—pregnant and alone in a harsh, unforgiving desert—didn’t escape heaven’s notice. After a heavenly messenger encouraged Hagar (vv. 7–12), she declared, “You are the God who sees me” (v. 13).

Hagar was praising a God who sees more than the bare facts. The same God was revealed in Jesus, who, “when he saw the crowds . . . had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless” (Matthew 9:36). Hagar encountered a God who understood.

The God who saw and understood Hagar’s pain sees ours as well (Hebrews 4:15–16). Experiencing heaven’s empathy can help the unbearable become a bit more bearable.

Unexplainable Love

Our small church decided to surprise my son on his sixth birthday. The people in our church decorated his Sunday school class with balloons and set up a small table with a cake on it. When my son opened the door, everyone shouted, “Happy birthday!”

Later on, as I was cutting the cake, my son came over and whispered in my ear, “Mom, why does everyone here love me?” I had the same question. These people had known us for only six months but were treating us as long-time friends.

Their love for my son reflected God’s love for us. We can’t understand why God loves us, but He does—and His love is freely given. We have done nothing to deserve His love, and yet He loves us abundantly. Scripture tells us: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It’s part of who He is.

God has poured out His love on us so we can show this same love to others. Jesus told His disciples, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35).

The people in this small church love us because God’s love is in them. This love shines through and identifies them as followers of Jesus. We cannot comprehend God’s love fully, but we can love others and in that way be examples of His unexplainable love.

Surrounded by God

In a busy airport, a young mother struggled alone. Her toddler was in full tantrum mode—screaming, kicking, and refusing to board their plane. Overwhelmed and heavily pregnant, the burdened young mother finally gave up, sinking to the floor in frustration, covering her face, and starting to sob.

Suddenly six or seven women travelers, all strangers, formed a circle around the young mother and her child—sharing snacks, water, gentle hugs, and even a nursery song. Their loving circle calmed the mother and child, who then boarded their plane. The other women then returned to their seats, not needing to discuss what they had done, but knowing their support had strengthened a young mother exactly when she needed it.

This illustrates a beautiful truth from Psalm 125. “As the mountains surround Jerusalem,” says verse 2, “so the Lord surrounds his people.” The image reminds us how the bustling city of old Jerusalem is, indeed, flanked by surrounding hills—among them the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, and Mount Moriah.

In this same way, God surrounds His people—supporting and standing guard over our souls “both now and for evermore.” Thus, on tough days, look up, “unto the hills,” as the psalmist puts it (Psalm 121:1 kjv). God awaits with strong help, steady hope, and everlasting love.

Obscured by Clouds

A rare super moon appeared in November 2016—the moon in its orbit reached its closest point to the earth in over sixty years and so appeared bigger and brighter than at other times. But for me that day the skies were shrouded in gray. Although I saw photos of this wonder from friends in other places, as I gazed upwards I had to trust that the super moon was lurking behind the clouds.

The apostle Paul urged the church at Corinth, in the face of their hardships, to believe what is unseen but will last forever. He said how their “momentary troubles” achieve “an eternal glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Thus they could fix their eyes “not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,” because what is unseen is eternal (v. 18). Paul yearned that the faith of those in Corinth would grow, and although they suffered, that they would trust in God. They might not be able to see Him, but they could believe that He was renewing them day by day (v. 16).

I thought about how God is unseen but eternal when I gazed at the clouds that day, knowing that the super moon was hidden but there. And I hoped the next time I was tempted to believe that God was far from me, I would fix my eyes on what is unseen.

Hand Made for You

My grandmother was a talented seamstress who won contests in her native Texas. Throughout my life, she celebrated hallmark occasions with a hand-sewn gift. A burgundy mohair sweater for my high-school graduation. A turquoise quilt for my marriage. I’d fold over a corner of each custom-crafted item to discover her signature tag reading, “Handmade for you by Munna.” With every embroidered word, I sensed my grandmother’s love for me and received a powerful statement of her faith in my future.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians of their purpose in this world, describing them as “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (2:10). Here “handiwork” denotes a work of art or a masterpiece. Paul goes on to describe that God’s handiwork in creating us would result in our handiwork of creating good works—or expressions of our restored relationship with Jesus—for His glory in our world. We can never be saved by our own good works, but when God handmakes us for His purposes, He can use us to bring others toward His great love.

With her head bowed over her needle, my Munna handmade items to communicate her love for me and her passion that I discover my purpose on this planet. And with His fingers shaping the details of our days, God stitches His love and purposes in our hearts that we might experience Him for ourselves and demonstrate His handiwork to others.

 

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