Category  |  Love of God

Terrible and Beautiful Things

Fear can leave us frozen in our own lives. We know all the reasons to be afraid—everything that’s hurt us in the past, everything that could easily do so again. So sometimes we’re stuck—unable to go back; too afraid to move forward. I just can’t do it. I’m not smart enough, strong enough, or brave enough to handle being hurt like that again.

 I’m captivated by how author Frederick Buechner describes God’s grace—like a gentle voice that says, “Here is the world. Terrible and beautiful things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”

Terrible things will happen. In our world, hurting people hurt other people, often terribly. Like the psalmist David, we carry our own stories of when evil surrounded us, when, like “ravenous beasts,” others wounded us (Psalm 57:4). And so we grieve; we cry out (vv. 1–2).

But because God is with us, beautiful things can happen too. As we run to Him with our hurts and fears, we find ourselves carried by a love far greater than anyone’s power to harm us (vv. 1–3), a love so deep it fills the skies (v. 10). Even when disaster rages around us, His love is a solid refuge where our hearts find healing (vv. 1,7). Until one day we’ll find ourselves awakening to renewed courage, ready to greet the day with a song of His faithfulness (vv. 8–10).

Stories of Jesus

As a girl I loved to visit my small local library. One day, looking at the bookshelves holding the young adult section, I reasoned I could probably read every book. In my enthusiasm I forgot one important fact—new books were regularly added to the shelves. Although I gave it a valiant effort, there were simply too many books.

New books continue to fill more and more bookshelves. The apostle John likely would be amazed with the availability of books today since his five New Testament books, the gospel of John; 1, 2, and 3 John; and Revelation, were handwritten on parchment scrolls.

John wrote those books because he felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to give Christians an eyewitness account of Jesus’s life and ministry (1 John 1:1–4). But John’s writings contained only a small fraction of all that Jesus did and taught during His ministry. In fact, John said if everything Jesus did were written down “the whole could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25 nlt).

John’s claim remains true today. Despite all the books that have been written about Jesus, the libraries of the world still cannot contain every story of His love and grace. We can also celebrate that we have our own personal stories to share and rejoice that we will be proclaiming them forever (Psalm 89:1)!

Our Singing Father

No one told me before my wife and I had children how important singing would be. My children are now six, eight, and ten. But all three had problems sleeping early on. Each night, my wife and I took turns rocking our little ones, praying they’d nod off quickly. I spent hundreds of hours rocking them, desperately crooning lullabies to (hopefully!) speed up the process. But as I sang over our children night after night, something amazing happened: It deepened my bond of love and delight for them in ways I had never dreamed. 

Did you know Scripture describes our heavenly Father singing over His children too? Just as I sought to soothe my children with song, so Zephaniah concludes with a portrait of our heavenly Father singing over His people: “He will take great delight in you; in his love he will . . . rejoice over you with singing” (3:17).

Much of Zephaniah’s prophetic book warns of a coming time of judgment for those who’d rejected God. But that’s not where it ends. Zephaniah concludes not with judgment but with a description of God, not only rescuing His people from all their suffering (vv. 19–20) but also tenderly loving and rejoicing over them with song (v. 17).

Our God is not only a “Mighty Warrior who saves” and restores (v. 17), but a loving Father who tenderly sings songs of love over us.

It’s Not About the Fish

Sighted numerous times off the coast of Australia’s South Queensland, Migaloo is the first albino humpback whale ever documented. The splendid creature, estimated at over forty feet long, is so rare that Australia passed a law specifically to protect him.

The Bible tells us about a “huge fish” so rare that God had provided it especially to swallow a runaway prophet (Jonah 1:17). Most know the story. The Lord told Jonah to take a message of judgment to Nineveh. But Jonah wanted nothing to do with the Ninevites, who had a reputation for cruelty to just about everyone—including the Hebrews. So he fled. Things went badly. From inside the fish, Jonah repented. Eventually he preached to the Ninevites, and they repented too (3:5–10).

Great story, right? Except it doesn’t end there. While Nineveh repented, Jonah pouted. “Isn’t this what I said, Lord?” he prayed. “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love” (4:2). Having been rescued from certain death, Jonah’s sinful anger grew until even as his prayer became suicidal (v. 3).

The story of Jonah isn’t about the fish. It’s about our human nature and the nature of the God who pursues us. “The Lord is patient with you,” wrote the apostle Peter, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God offers His love to brutal Ninevites, pouting prophets, and you and me.

Unexpected Ways

In 1986, five-year-old Levan Merritt fell twenty feet into the gorilla enclosure of England’s Jersey zoo. As parents and onlookers cried out for help, a full-grown male silverback, named Jambo, placed himself between the motionless boy and several other gorillas. Then he began to gently stroke the child’s back. When Levan began to cry, Jambo led the other gorillas into their own enclosure as zoo-keepers and an ambulance driver came to the rescue. Thirty years later Levan still talks about Jambo the gentle giant—his guardian angel who had acted in a shockingly unexpected way, changing his perception of gorillas forever.

Elijah may have expected God to act in certain ways, but the God of gods used a rock-shattering wind, a powerful earthquake, and raging fire to show His prophet Elijah how not to think of Him. Then He used a gentle whisper to show His heart and to express His presence (1Kings 19:11-12).

Elijah had seen God’s power before 18:38-39). But he didn’t fully understand the One who wants to be known as more than the greatest and most fearsome of gods (19:10, 14).

Eventually, that quiet whisper found fullness of meaning in the powerful gentleness of Jesus, who said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Then he quietly allowed Himself to be nailed to a tree— to deepen our understanding of the Great God who loves us.

Engraved on His Hands

In Charles Spurgeon’s many years at his London church during the 1800s, he loved to preach on the riches of Isaiah 49:16, which says that God engraves us on the palms of His hands. He said, “Such a text as this is to be preached hundreds of times!” For, he continued, this thought is so precious that we can run over it in our minds again and again.

Spurgeon makes the wonderful connection between this promise of the Lord to His people, the Israelites, and God’s Son, Jesus, on the cross as He died for us. Spurgeon asked, “What are these wounds in Your hands? . . . The engraver’s tool was the nail, backed by the hammer. He must be fastened to the Cross, that His people might be truly engraved on the palms of His hands.” As the Lord promised to engrave His people on His palms, so Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross, receiving the nails in His wrists so we could be free of our sins.

If and when we are tempted to think that God has forgotten us, we only need to look at our palms and remember God’s promise. He has put indelible marks on His hands for us; He loves us that much.

Good for You?

Because I like dark chocolate, I sometimes Google “Is dark chocolate good for you?” I get a variety of results—some good, some bad. You can do the same for almost any food product. Is milk good for you? Is coffee good for you? Is rice good for you? There is a dizzying array of answers to these questions, so you have to be aware that the search itself may not be good for you. It may give you a headache.

But if you are looking for something that is one-hundred-percent good for you all the time, can I recommend the Word of God? Listen to what it can do for the follower of Jesus who is seeking to build His relationship with God.

         It can keep you pure (Psalm 119:9, 11).

         It blesses you (Luke 11:28).

         It makes you wise (Matthew 7:24).

         It gives light and understanding (Psalm 119:130).

         It helps you grow up spiritually (1 Peter 2:2).

Our Lord God is good: “The Lord is good to all,” says Psalm 145:9. And in His goodness, He has provided those who love Him with a guide that helps us see how to enhance our relationship with Him. As we try to decide how to live in a world full of choices, praise God that He has told us in Scripture what is good for us. Let’s say with the psalm-writer: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).

He Knows Our Names

During a visit to the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, I quickly photographed one of the twin reflecting pools. Around these two pools, the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the World Trade Center attacks are etched into bronze panels. Later, while looking more closely at the photo, my eyes were drawn to the hand of a woman resting on a name. Many people come to this place to touch a name and remember someone they loved.

The prophet Isaiah reminded God’s people of His unfailing love and concern for them, even though they had often turned away from Him. The Lord said, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

In the familiar 23rd Psalm, David wrote, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley [the valley of the shadow of death], I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . . Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (vv. 4, 6).

God never forgets us. No matter where we are or whatever our situation, the Lord knows our names and holds us fast in His unfailing love.

Unchanging Love

When I was in high school I played on the varsity tennis team. I spent many hours of my teenage years trying to improve my skills on four concrete courts located two blocks from the home where I grew up.

The last time I visited that city one of the first things I did was drive to that location, hoping to watch others play and reminisce for a moment. But the old courts, so familiar to my memory, were nowhere to be seen. In their place was a vacant field, inhabited only by an occasional weed waving silently in the breeze.

That afternoon remains in my mind as a stark reminder of the brevity of life. One of the places where I expended some of my best youthful strength no longer existed! Reflecting on that experience later brought me to this truth, expressed by an aging King David: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him” (Psalm 103:15–17).

We grow older and the world around us may change, but God’s love doesn’t. He can always be trusted to take care of those who turn to Him.

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