It is pitch dark when Ah-pi starts her day. Others in the village will wake up soon to make their way to the rubber plantation. Harvesting latex is one of the main sources of income for people living in Hongzhuang village, China. To collect as much latex as possible, the trees must be tapped very early in the morning, before daybreak. Ah-pi will be among the rubber tappers, but first, she will spend time communing with God.
Ah-pi’s father, husband, and only son have passed away, and she—with her daughter-in-law—is providing for an elderly mother and two young grandsons. Her story reminds me of another widow in the Bible who trusted God.
The widow’s husband had died and left behind a huge debt (2 Kings 4:1). In her distress, she looked to God for help by turning to His servant Elisha. She believed that God cared and that He could do something about her situation. And God did. He provided miraculously for the dire needs of this widow (vv. 5–6). This same God also provided for Ah-pi—though less miraculously—through the toil of her hands, the produce from the ground, and gifts from His people.
Though life can make various demands on us, we can always draw strength from God. We can entrust our cares to Him, do all we can, and let Him amaze us with what He can do with our situation.
When my “chocolate” Labrador retriever puppy was three months old, I took him to the veterinarian’s office for his shots and checkup. As our vet carefully looked him over, she noticed a small white marking in his fur on his left hind paw. She smiled and said to him, “That’s where God held you when He dipped you in chocolate.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. But she had unintentionally made a meaningful point about the deep and personal interest God takes in His creation.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:30 that “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” God is so great that He is able take infinite interest in the most intimate details of our lives. There is nothing so small that it escapes His notice, and there is no concern too trivial to bring before Him. He simply cares that much.
God not only created us; He sustains and keeps us through every moment. It’s sometimes said that “the devil is in the details.” But it’s better by far to understand that God is in them, watching over even the things that escape our notice. How comforting it is to know that our perfectly wise and caring heavenly Father holds us—along with all of creation—in His strong and loving hands.
On a particularly hot day, eight-year-old Carmine McDaniel wanted to make sure his neighborhood mail carrier stayed cool and hydrated. So he left a cooler filled with a sports drink and water bottles on their front step. The family security camera recorded the mail carrier’s reaction: “Oh man, water and Gatorade. Thank God; thank you!”
Carmine’s mom says, “Carmine feels that it’s his ‘duty’ to supply the mailman with a cool beverage even if they’re not home.”
This story warms our hearts, but it also reminds us that there is One who will “meet all of your needs,” as the apostle Paul phrased it. Though Paul was languishing in jail and uncertain about his future, he expressed joy for the Christians in Philippi because God had met his needs through their financial gift to him. The Philippian church was not wealthy, but they were generous, giving to Paul and others out of their poverty (see 2 Corinthians 8:1–4). As the Philippians had met Paul’s needs, so God would meet theirs, “according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
God often sends vertical help through horizontal means. Put another way, He sends us what we need through the help of others. When we trust Him for what we need, we learn, as Paul did, the secret of true contentment (v. 12).
Some of us are inclined to look at the world and see only what’s wrong. DeWitt Jones is a National Geographic photographer who has used his profession to celebrate what’s right about the world. He waits and watches until a shaft of light or turn of perspective suddenly reveals a wonder that had been there all along. He uses his camera to find beauty in the most common faces of people and nature.
If anyone had reason to focus on the wrongs of the world, Job did. After losing all that had given him joy, even his friends became his accusers. Together their voices taunted him for not admitting that he was suffering for sins he was hiding. When Job cried out to the heavens for help, God remained silent.
Finally, from within the chaos of a whirlwind and the darkness of a storm, God asked Job to consider wonders of nature that reflect a wisdom and power far beyond our own (Job 38:2–4).
Would He now ask us? What about something as natural as the ways of a dog, cat, fluttering leaf, or blade of grass? Could a shaft of light, or a turn of perspective, reveal —even in our pain—the mind and heart of a Creator who has been with us and for us all along?
Spiders. I don’t know any kid who likes them. At least not in their rooms . . . at bedtime. But as she was getting ready for bed, my daughter spied one dangerously close to her bed. “Daaaad!!!!! Spiiiderrr!!!!!” she hollered. Despite my determination, I couldn’t find the eight-legged interloper. “He’s not going to hurt you,” I reassured her. She wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t until I told her I’d stay next to her top bunk and stand guard that she agreed to get in bed.
As my daughter settled in, I held her hand. I told her, “I love you so much. I’m right here. But you know what? God loves you even more than Daddy and Mommy. And He’s very close. You can always pray to him when you’re scared.” That seemed to comfort her, and peaceful sleep came quickly.
Scripture repeatedly reassures us God is always near (Psalm 145:18; Romans 8:38–39; James 4:7–8), but sometimes we struggle to believe it. Perhaps that’s why Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus to have strength and power to grasp that truth (Ephesians 3:16). He knew that when we’re frightened, we can lose track of God’s proximity. But just as I lovingly held my daughter as she went to sleep that night, so our loving heavenly Father is always as close to us as a prayer.
One day, when I was deeply concerned about the welfare of one close to me, I found encouragement in part of the Old Testament story of Samuel, a wise leader of the Israelites. As I read how Samuel interceded for God’s people as they faced trouble, I strengthened my resolve to pray for the one I loved.
The Israelites faced the threat of the Philistines, who had previously defeated them when God’s people didn’t trust in Him (see 1 Samuel 4). After repenting of their sins, they heard that the Philistines were about to attack. This time, however, they asked Samuel to continue praying for them (7:8), and the Lord answered clearly by throwing their enemy into confusion (v. 10). Though the Philistines may have been mightier than the Israelites, the Lord was the strongest of them all.
When we ache over the challenges facing those we love, and fear the situation won’t change, we may be tempted to believe that the Lord will not act. But we should never underestimate the power of prayer, for our loving God hears our pleas. We don’t know how He will move in response to our petitions, but we know that as our Father He longs for us to embrace His love and to trust in His faithfulness.
Do you have someone you can pray for today?
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” is the message of one of Christian music’s most enduring songs, particularly for children. Written by Anna B. Warner in the 1800s, this lyric tenderly affirms our relationship with Him—we are loved.
Someone gave my wife a plaque for our home that gives these words a fresh twist by flipping that simple idea. It reads, “Jesus knows me, this I love.” This provides a different perspective on our relationship with Him—we are known.
In ancient Israel, loving and knowing the sheep distinguished a true shepherd from a hired hand. The shepherd spent so much time with his sheep that he developed an abiding care for and a deep knowledge of his lambs. Little wonder then that Jesus tells His own, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. . . . My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:14, 27).
He knows us and He loves us! We can trust Jesus’s purposes for us and rest in the promise of His care because His Father “knows what [we] need before [we] ask him” (Matthew 6:8). As you deal with the ups and downs of life today, be at rest. You are known and loved by the Shepherd of your heart.
Some mornings when I go online, Facebook shows me “memories”—things I’ve posted on that day in previous years. These memories, such as photos from my brother’s wedding or a video of my daughter playing with my grandmother, usually make me smile. But sometimes they have a more profound emotional effect. When I see a note about a visit to my brother-in-law during his chemo or a picture of the staples across my mother’s scalp after her brain surgery three years ago, I am reminded of God’s faithful presence during difficult circumstances. These Facebook memories nudge me towards prayer and gratitude.
All of us are prone to forget the things God has done for us. We need reminders. When Joshua led God’s people towards their new home, they had to cross the Jordan River (Joshua 3:15). God parted the waters, and his people walked through on dry land (3:17). To create a memorial of this miracle, they took twelve stones from the middle of the riverbed and stacked them on the other side (4:3, 6–7). When others asked what the stones meant, God’s people would tell the story of what God had done that day.
Physical reminders of God’s faithfulness in the past can remind us to trust Him in the present—and with the future.
When Andrew Cheatle lost his cellphone at the beach, he thought it was gone forever. About a week later, however, fisherman Glen Kerley called him. He had pulled Cheatle’s phone, still functional after it dried, out of a 25-pound cod.
Life is full of odd stories, and we find more than a few of them in the Bible. One day tax collectors came to Peter demanding to know, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” (Matt. 17:24). Jesus turned the situation into a teaching moment. He wanted Peter to understand His role as king. Taxes weren’t collected from the children of the king, and the Lord made it clear that neither He nor His children owed any temple tax (vv. 25–26).
Yet Jesus wanted to be careful not to “cause offense” (v. 27), so He told Peter to go fishing. (This is the odd part of the story.) Peter found a coin in the mouth of the first fish he caught.
What on earth is Jesus doing here? A better question is, “What in God’s kingdom is Jesus doing?” He is the rightful King—even when many do not recognize Him as such. When we accept His role as Lord in our lives, we become His children.
Life will still throw its various demands at us, but Jesus will provide for us. As former pastor David Pompo put it, “When we’re fishing for our Father, we can depend on Him for all we need.”