On our wedding day, Martie and I gladly vowed to be faithful “in good times as well as in bad, in sickness as well as in health, for richer or for poorer.” In a way it may seem strange to include vows about the bleak reality of bad times, sickness, and poverty on a cheerful wedding day. But it underscores the fact that life often has “bad” times.
So what are we to do when we face life’s inevitable difficulties? Paul urges us on behalf of Christ to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As difficult as that may sound, there is good reason why God encourages us to embrace a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude is grounded in the truth that our Lord “is good” and “his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1). He is present with us and strengthens us in the midst of trouble (Hebrews 13:5–6), and He lovingly uses our trials to grow our character into His likeness (Romans 5:3–4).
When life hits us with hard times, choosing to be grateful focuses our attention on the goodness of God and gives us the strength to make it through our struggles. With the psalmist, we can sing, “Give thanks to the
"What had I done?" It should have been one of the most exciting times of my life. Instead, it was one of the loneliest. I'd just gotten my first "real" job after college, in a city hundreds of miles from where I grew up. But the thrill of that big step quickly faded. I had a tiny apartment. No furniture. I didn't know the city. I didn't know anyone. The job was interesting, but the loneliness felt crushing.
One night, I sat at home with my back against the wall. I opened my Bible and stumbled into Psalm 16, where verse 11 promises God will fill us. "Lord," I prayed, "I thought this job was the right thing, but I feel so alone. Please fill me with a sense of Your nearness." I offered variants of that plaintive plea for weeks. Some nights, my sense of loneliness eased, and I had a deep experience of God's presence. Other nights, I still felt achingly isolated.
But as I returned to that verse, anchoring my heart in it night by night, God gradually deepened my faith. I experienced His faithfulness in a way I never had before. And I learned that my job was simply to pour out my heart to Him . . . and humbly await His faithful response, trusting His promise to fill us with His Spirit.
His name was David, but most just called him “the street fiddler.” David was a disheveled, older man who was a regular fixture in popular places in our city, serenading passers-by with unusual skill at his violin. In exchange for his music, listeners would sometimes place a dollar in the open instrument case before them on the sidewalk. David would smile and nod his head in thanks as he continued to play.
When David died recently and his obituary appeared in a local paper, it was revealed that he spoke several languages, was the graduate of a prestigious university, and had even run for the state senate years ago. Some expressed surprise at the extent of his accomplishments, having assessed him on the basis of appearance alone.
Scripture tells us that “God created mankind in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). This reveals an inherent worth within each of us, regardless of how we look, what we have achieved, or what others may think of us. Even when we chose to turn from God in our sinfulness, God valued us so much that He would send His only Son to show us the way to salvation and eternity with Him.
We are loved by God, and all around us are those who are precious to Him. May we express our love for Him in return, by sharing His love with others.
After graduation from college, I had a low-paying job. Money was tight, and sometimes I didn’t even have enough for my next meal. I learned to trust God for my daily provision.
It reminded me of the prophet Elijah’s experience. During his prophetic ministry, he learned to trust God to meet his daily needs. Shortly after Elijah pronounced God’s judgment of a drought in Israel, God sent him to a deserted place, Kerith Ravine, where He used the ravens to bring Elijah his daily meals and refresh him with water from the brook (1 Kings 17:1–4).
But a drought occurred. The brook shrank to a tiny stream, and slowly became a mere trickle. It was only when the brook had dried up that God said: “Go at once to Zarephath . . . . I have directed a widow there to supply you with food” (v. 9). Zarephath is in Phoenicia, whose inhabitants were enemies of the Israelites. Would anyone offer Elijah shelter? And would a poor widow have food to share?
Most of us would rather God provided in abundance long before our resources are depleted rather than just enough for each day. But our loving Father whispers, Trust Me. Just as He used ravens and a widow to provide for Elijah, nothing is impossible for Him. We can count on His love and power to meet our daily needs.
People who achieve an extraordinary level of fame or reputation while they are still alive are often called “a legend in their own time.” A friend who played professional baseball says he met many people in the world of sports who were only “a legend in their own mind.” Pride has a way of distorting how we see ourselves while humility offers a realistic perspective.
The writer of Proverbs said, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Viewing ourselves in the mirror of self-importance reflects a distorted image. Self-elevation positions us for a fall.
The antidote to the poison of arrogance is true humility that comes from God. “Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud” (v. 19).
Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).
There is nothing wrong with receiving accolades for achievement and success. The challenge is to stay focused on the One who calls us to follow Him saying, “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
Linus Van Pelt, better known as simply “Linus,” was a mainstay in the comic strip. Witty and wise, yet insecure, Linus constantly carried a security blanket. We can identify. We have our fears and insecurities too.
The disciple Peter knew something about fear. When Jesus was arrested, Peter displayed courage by following the Lord into the courtyard of the high priest. But then, he began to show his fear by lying to protect his identity (John 18:15–18). He spoke disgraceful words that denied his Lord. But Jesus never stopped loving Peter and ultimately restored him (see John 21:15–19).
Peter’s emphasis on love in 1 Peter 4:8 came from one who had experienced the deep love of Jesus. And he, in turn, stressed the importance of love in our relationships with the words, “Above all.” The intensity of the verse continues with the encouragement to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
Have you ever needed that kind of “blanket”? I have! After saying or doing something I later regretted, I have felt the chilly draft of guilt and shame. I have needed to be “covered” in the manner that Jesus covered disgraced, shame-filled people in the Gospels.
To followers of Jesus, love is a blanket to be graciously and courageously given away for the comfort and reclamation of others. As recipients of such great love, let us be givers of the same.
I’m fast approaching a new season—the “winter” of old age—but I’m not there yet! Even though the years are galloping by and sometimes I’d like to slow them down, I have joy that sustains me. Each day is a new day given me by the Lord! With the psalmist, I can say, “It is good to praise the
Even though my life has its struggles and the pain and difficulties of others sometimes overwhelms me, God enables me to join the psalmist in “[singing] for joy at what [His] hands have done” (v. 4). Joy for blessings given: family, friends, and satisfying work. Joy because of God’s wondrous creation and His inspired Word. Joy because Jesus loved us so much He died for our sins! And joy because He gave us the Spirit, the source of true joy (Romans 15:13). Because of the Lord, believers in Him can “flourish like a palm tree . . . [and] still bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:12–14).
What fruit is that? No matter our circumstances or season of life, we can be examples of His love through the life we lead and the words we say. There is joy in knowing and living for the Lord and telling others about Him!
Not long ago I visited the Empire State Building with a friend. The line looked short—just down the block and around the corner. Yet as we entered the building, we discovered the line of people stretching through the lobby, up the stairs, and into another room. Every new turn revealed more distance to go.
Attractions and theme parks carefully route their crowds to make the lines seem shorter. Yet disappointment can lurk “just around the bend.”
Sometimes life’s disappointments are much more severe. The job we hoped for doesn’t materialize; friends we counted on let us down; the romantic relationship we longed for fails to work out. But into these heartbreaks, God’s Word speaks a refreshing truth about our hope in Him. The apostle Paul wrote, “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame [or disappoint us], because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3–5).
As we place our trust in Him, through His Spirit, God whispers the truth that we are unconditionally loved and will one day be with Him—regardless of the obstacles we face. In a world that may often disappoint us, how good it is to know that God gives genuine hope.
For decades the renowned Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has blessed multitudes through their soul-refreshing gospel songs. One example is their recording from Psalm 121 titled “My Help.”
Psalm 121 begins with a personal confession of faith in the Lord who brought all things into existence, and He was the source of the psalmist’s help (vv. 1–2). Just what did this mean? Stability (v. 3), around-the-clock care (3-4), constant presence and protection (vv. 5–6), and preservation from all kinds of evil for time and eternity (vv. 7–8).
Taking their cues from Scripture, God’s people through the ages have identified the Lord as their source of “help” through their songs. My own worship experience includes lifting my voice with others who sang a soulful rendition of Charles Wesley’s, “Father, I stretch my hands to Thee, no other help I know, if Thou withdraw thyself from me whither shall I go.” The great reformer Martin Luther got it right when he penned the words, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”
Do you feel alone, forsaken, abandoned, confused? Ponder the lyrics of Psalm 121. Allow these words to fill your soul with faith and courage. You’re not alone; so don’t try to do life on your own. Rather, rejoice in the earthly and eternal care of God as demonstrated in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, whatever the next steps, take them with His help.