In C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, all of Narnia is thrilled when the mighty lion Aslan reappears after a long absence. Their joy turns to sorrow, however, when Aslan concedes to a demand made by the evil White Witch. Faced with Aslan’s apparent defeat, the Narnians experience his power when he emits an earsplitting roar that causes the witch to flee in terror. Although all seems to have been lost, Aslan ultimately proves to be greater than the villainous witch.
Like Aslan’s followers in Lewis’s allegory, Elisha’s servant despaired when he got up one morning to see himself and Elisha surrounded by an enemy army. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” he exclaimed (2 Kings 6:15). The prophet’s response was calm: “Don’t be afraid . . . . Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 16). Elisha then prayed, “Open his eyes,
Our difficult circumstances may lead us to believe all is lost, but God desires to open our eyes and reveal that He is greater.
One January morning I woke up expecting to see the same dreary mid-winter landscape that had greeted me for several weeks: beige grass poking through patches of snow, gray skies, and skeletal trees. Something unusual had happened overnight, though. A frost had coated everything outside with ice crystals. The lifeless and depressing landscape had become a beautiful scene that glistened in the sun and dazzled me.
Sometimes, we view problems without the imagination it takes to have faith. We expect pain, fear, and despair to greet us every morning, but overlook the possibility of something different ever happening. We don’t expect recovery, growth, or victory through God’s power. Yet the Bible says God is the one who helps us through difficult times. He repairs broken hearts and liberates people in bondage. He comforts the grieving with “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).
It isn’t that God just wants to cheer us up when we have problems. It’s that He Himself is our hope during trials. Even if we have to wait for the next life to find ultimate relief, God is present with us, encouraging us and often giving us glimpses of Himself. Lord, in our journey through life, may we come to understand St. Augustine’s words: “In my deepest wound I saw your glory, and it dazzled me.”
Among a display of male statues (Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, and others) in London’s Parliament Square, also stands a lone statue of a woman. The solitary woman is Millicent Fawcett, who fought for the right of women to vote. She’s immortalized in bronze and holding a banner displaying words she offered in a tribute to a fellow suffragist: “Courage calls to courage everywhere.” Fawcett insisted that one person’s courage emboldens others—calling timid souls into action.
As David prepared to hand his throne over to his son Solomon, he explained the responsibilities that would soon rest heavy on his shoulders. It’s likely Solomon quivered under the weight of what he faced: leading Israel to follow all God’s instructions, guarding the land God had entrusted to them, and overseeing the monumental task of building the temple (vv. 8–10).
Knowing Solomon’s trembling heart, David offered his son powerful words: “Be strong and courageous. . . . Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you” (v. 20). Real courage would never arise from Solomon’s own skill or confidence but rather from relying on God’s presence and strength. God provided the courage Solomon needed.
When we face hardship, we often try to drum up boldness or talk ourselves into bravery. However, God is the one who renews our faith. God will be with us. And God’s presence with us calls us to courage.
My anxiety increased throughout the summer between my undergraduate and graduate programs. I love to have everything planned out, and the idea of going out of state and entering graduate school without a job made me uncomfortable. However, a few days before I left my summer job, I was asked to continue working for the company remotely. I accepted and had peace that God was taking care of me.
God provided, but it was in His timing, not mine. Abraham went through a far more difficult situation with his son Isaac. He was asked to take his son and sacrifice him in the mountains (Genesis 22:1–2). Without hesitation, Abraham obeyed and took Isaac to the mountains. This three-day journey gave Abraham plenty of time to change his mind, but he didn’t (vv. 3–4).
When Isaac questioned his father, Abraham replied, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering” (v. 8). I wonder if Abraham’s anxiety grew with each knot he tied as he bound Isaac to the altar and with every inch he raised his knife (vv. 9–10). What a relief it must have been when the angel stopped him! (vv. 10–12). God did indeed provide a sacrifice, a ram, caught in the thicket (v. 13). God tested Abraham’s faith, and he proved to be faithful. And at the right time, to the very second, God provided (v. 14).
In Boston, Massachusetts, a plaque titled “Crossing the Bowl of Tears” remembers those who braved the Atlantic to escape death during the catastrophic Irish potato famine of the late 1840s. More than a million people died in that disaster, while another million or more abandoned home to cross the ocean, which John Boyle O’Reilly poetically called “the bowl of tears.” Driven by hunger and heartache, these travelers sought some measure of hope during desperate times.
In Psalm 55, David shares how he pursued hope. While we are uncertain about the specifics of the threat he faced, the weight of his experience was enough to break him emotionally (vv. 4–5). His instinctive reaction was to pray, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (v. 6).
Like David, we may want to flee to safety in the midst of painful circumstances. After considering his plight, however, David chose to run to his God instead of running from his heartache, singing, “As for me, I call to God, and the
When trouble comes, remember that the God of all comfort is able to carry you through your darkest moments and deepest fears. He promises that one day He Himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). Strengthened by this assurance, we can confidently trust Him with our tears now.
My friend’s father received the dreaded diagnosis: cancer. Yet, during the chemo treatment process, he became a follower of Jesus and eventually went into remission. He was cancer free for a wonderful eighteen months, but it returned—worse than before. He and his wife faced the reality of the returned cancer with concern and questions but also with a faithful trust in God because of how He saw them through the first time.
We won’t always understand why we’re going through trials. This was certainly the case for Job, who faced horrendous and unexplainable suffering and loss. Yet despite his many questions, in Job 12 he declares that God is mighty: “What he tears down cannot be rebuilt” (v. 14) and “to him belong strength and victory” (v. 16). “He makes nations great, and destroys them” (v. 23). Throughout this extensive list, Job doesn’t mention God’s motives or why He allows pain and suffering. Job doesn’t have the answers. But still despite everything, he confidently says, “to God belong wisdom and power, counsel and understanding” (v. 13).
We may not understand why God allows certain struggles in our lives, but like my friend’s parents, we can put our trust in Him. The Lord loves us and has us in His hands (v. 10; 1 Peter 5:7). Wisdom, power, and understanding are His!
At the age of fifty-four I entered the Milwaukee marathon with two goals—to finish the race and to do it under five hours. My time would have been amazing if the second 13.1 miles went as well as the first. But the race was grueling, and the second-wind strength I’d hope for never came. By the time I made it to the finish line, my steady stride had morphed into a painful walk.
Footraces aren’t the only thing that require second-wind strength—life’s race does too. To endure, tired, weary people need God’s help. Isaiah 40:27–31 beautifully weds poetry and prophecy to comfort and motivate people who need strength to keep going. Timeless words remind fatigued and discouraged people that the Lord is not detached or uncaring (v. 27), that our plight doesn’t escape His notice. These words breathe comfort and assurance, and remind us of God’s limitless power and bottomless knowledge (v. 28).
The second-wind strength described in verses 29–31 is just right for us—whether we’re in the throes of raising and providing for our families, struggling through life under the weight of physical or financial burdens, or discouraged by relational tensions or spiritual challenges. Such is the strength that awaits those who—through meditating on the Scriptures and prayer—wait upon the Lord.
While most German church leaders gave in to Hitler, theologian and pastor Martin Niemöller was among the brave souls who resisted Nazi evil. I read a story describing how in the 1970s a group of older Germans stood outside a large hotel while what appeared to be a younger man bustled about with the group’s luggage. Someone asked who the group was. “German pastors,” came the answer. “And the younger man?” “That’s Martin Niemöller—he’s eighty. But he has stayed young because he is unafraid.”
Niemöller wasn’t able to resist fear because he possessed some super-human anti-fear gene, but because of God’s grace. In fact, he once held anti-Semitic views. But in the end, he repented and God restored him and helped him to speak and live out the truth.
Moses encouraged the Israelites to resist fear and follow God in truth. When they’d become fearful after learning Moses would soon be taken from them, the leader had an unflinching word for them: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified . . . for the LORD your God goes with you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). There was no reason to tremble before an uncertain future because of one reason: God was with them.
Whatever darkness looms for you, whatever terrors bombard you—God is with you. By God’s mercy, may you face your fears with the knowledge that God “will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 6).
Working in the corporate world allowed me to interact with many talented and levelheaded people. However, one project led by an out-of-town supervisor was an exception. Regardless of our team’s progress, this manager harshly criticized our work and demanded more effort during each weekly status phone call. These run-ins left me discouraged and fearful. At times, I wanted to quit.
It’s possible that Moses felt like quitting when he encountered Pharaoh during the plague of darkness. God had hurled eight other epic disasters at Egypt, and Pharaoh finally exploded, “[Moses,] get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again. The day you see my face you will die” (Exodus 10:28).
Despite this threat, Moses eventually was used by God to free the Israelites from Pharaoh’s control. “[By faith] Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27 nlt). Moses overcame Pharaoh by believing that God would keep his promise of deliverance (Exodus 3:17).
Today, we can rely on the promise that God is with us in every situation, supporting us through His Holy Spirit. He helps us resist the pressure of intimidation and wrong responses to it by granting us supernatural power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). The Spirit provides the courage we need to keep right on going and follow God’s leading in our lives.