Category  |  Life Struggles

The Reality of God

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, Lord, so that he may see” (v. 17). So, “the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (v. 17). Although things at first seemed bleak to the servant’s eye, God’s power ultimately proved greater than the enemy horde.

Our difficult circumstances may lead us to believe all is lost, but God desires to open our eyes and reveal that He is greater.

When Life Is Hard

Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, I curled up in my recliner. Our family had followed God’s leading and had moved from California to Wisconsin. After we arrived, car broke down and left us without a vehicle for two months. Meanwhile, my husband’s limited mobility after an unexpected back surgery and my increasing chronic pain complicated our unpacking. We uncovered costly problems with our new-to-us, old home. Our senior dog suffered with high-maintenance health issues. And though our new pup brought me great joy, raising a furry ball of energy was far more work than I anticipated. My attitude soured. How was I supposed to have unshakeable faith while traveling on a seemingly endless bumpy road of hardships?

As I prayed, God reminded me of the psalmist who had a lifestyle of praise that didn’t depend on his circumstances. David poured out his emotions, often with great vulnerability, and sought refuge in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:1). Acknowledging God as provider and protector (vv. 5–6), he praised Him and followed His counsel (v. 7). David affirmed that he would “not be shaken” because he kept his eyes “always on the Lord” (v. 8). So, he rejoiced and rested secure in the joy of God’s presence (vv. 9–11).

We too can delight in knowing our peace doesn’t depend on our present situation. As we thank our unchanging God for who He is and always will be—Maker and Sustainer of all—His promised presence will fuel our steadfast faith.

Fearless Love

For years I wore a shield of fear to protect my heart. Eventually, my fear became an excuse to avoid trying new things, following my dreams, and obeying God. But more importantly, fear of loss, heartache, and rejection hindered me from developing loving relationships with God and others. Fear made me an insecure, anxious, and jealous wife, and an overprotective, worrying mother. As I continue learning how much God loves me, however, He’s changing the way I relate to Him and to others. Because I know my loving God will care for me, I feel more secure, more willing to place the needs others before mine.

God is love (1 John 4:7–8). Christ’s death on the cross—the ultimate demonstration of love—displays the depth of His passion for us (vv. 9–10). Because God loves us and lives in us, we can love others based on who He is and what He’s done (vv. 11–12).

When we receive Christ as our Savior, He gives us His Holy Spirit (vv. 13–15). As the Spirit helps us know and rely on God’s love, He makes us more like Jesus (vv. 16–17). Growing in trust and faith can gradually eliminate fear, simply because we know without a doubt that God loves us deeply and completely (vv. 18–19).

As we experience God’s personal and unconditional love for us, we grow and can risk relating to Him and others with fearless love.

 

The Call to Courage

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.

A Longing in Stone

“Ah, every pier is a longing in stone!” says a line in Fernando Pessoa’s Portuguese poem “Ode Marítima.” Pessoa’s pier represents the emotions we feel as a ship moves slowly away from us. The vessel departs but the pier remains, an enduring monument to hopes and dreams, partings and yearnings. We ache for what is lost, and for what we can’t quite reach.

The Portuguese word translated “longing” (saudade) refers to a nostalgic yearning we feel—a deep ache that defies definition. In essence, the poet is describing the indescribable.

We might say that Mount Nebo was Moses’s “longing in stone.” From Nebo he gazed into the Promised Land—a land he would never reach. The Lord’s words to Moses—“I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it” (Deuteronomy 34:4)—might seem harsh. But if that’s all we see here, we miss the heart of what’s happening. God is speaking immense comfort to Moses: “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants’” (v. 4). Very soon, Moses would leave Nebo for a Land far better than Canaan (v. 5).

Life often finds us standing on the pier. Loved ones depart; hopes fade; dreams die. Amid it all we sense echoes of Eden and hints of heaven. Our longings point us to God. He is the fulfillment we yearn for.

Bowl of Tears

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 Lord saves me” (v. 16).

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.

Second-Wind Strength

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.

Being Consumed

In his book The Call, Os Guinness describes a moment when Winston Churchill, on holiday with friends in the south of France, sat by the fireplace to warm himself on a cold night. Gazing at the fire, the former prime minister saw pine logs “crackling, hissing, and spitting as they burned. Suddenly, his familiar voice growled, ‘I know why logs spit. I know what it is to be consumed.’”

Difficulties, despair, dangers, distress, and the results of our own wrongdoings can all feel consuming. Circumstances slowly drain our hearts of joy and peace. When David experienced the consuming consequences of his own sinful choices, he wrote, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. . . . My strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3–4).

In such difficult times, where do we turn for help? For hope? Paul, whose experiences were filled with ministry burdens and brokenness, wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). 

How does that work? As we rest in Jesus, the Good Shepherd restores our souls (Psalm 23:3) and strengthens us for the next step of our journey. He promises to walk that journey with us every step of the way (Hebrews 13:5).

Peace-Filled Hearts

For forty-five years after his career as a professional athlete ended, Jerry Kramer wasn’t inducted into his sport’s hall of fame (the highest recognition). He enjoyed many other honors and achievements, but this one eluded him. Although he’d been nominated for the honor ten times, it had never been bestowed. Despite having his hopes dashed so many times, Kramer was…

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, by continuing to use this site you agree to this. Find out more on how we use cookies and how to disable them.