• Topic > Life Struggles

    God’s Special Treasure

    Imagine a vast throne room. Seated confidently on the throne is a great and powerful king. He is surrounded by all manner of attendants, each on their best behavior. Now imagine a box that sits at the king’s feet. From time to time the king reaches down and runs his hands through the contents. And what’s in the box? Jewels, gold, and gemstones particular to the king’s tastes. This box holds the king’s private treasures, a collection that brings him great joy. Can you see that image in your mind’s eye?

    The Hebrew word for this treasure is segulah, and it…

    Beautifully Burdened

    I awoke to pitch darkness. I hadn’t slept more than thirty minutes and my heart sensed that sleep wouldn’t return soon. A friend’s husband lay in the hospital, having received the dreaded news, “The cancer is back—in the brain and spine now.” My whole being hurt for my friends. What a heavy load! And yet, somehow my spirit was lifted through my sacred vigil of prayer. You might say I felt beautifully burdened for them. How could this be?

    In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus promises rest for our weary souls. Strangely, His rest comes as we bend under His yoke and embrace His…

    Fruitful to the End

    Although Lenore was ninety-four years young, her mind was sharp, her smile was bright, and her contagious love for Jesus was felt by those whose lives she touched. It wasn’t uncommon to find her in the company of the youth of our church; her presence and participation were sources of joy and encouragement. Lenore’s life was so vibrant that her death caught us off guard. Like a runner with energy at the end of the race, she sprinted across life’s finish line. Her energy and zeal were such that, just days before her death, she completed a sixteen-week course that…

    No Longer Afraid

    When the Ethiopian police found her, a week after her abduction, three black-maned lions surrounded her, guarding her as though she was their own. Seven men had kidnapped the twelve-year-old girl, carried her into the woods and beaten her. Miraculously, however, a small pride of lions heard the girl’s cries, came running and chased off the attackers. “[The lions] stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest,” police Sgt. Wondimu told one reporter.

    There are days when violence and evil, like that inflicted on this young girl, overpower…

    The Safest Place

    As Hurricane Florence was bearing down on Wilmington, North Carolina, with devastating force, my daughter prepared to leave her home. She had waited until the last moment, hoping the storm would veer away. But now she was hurriedly sorting through important papers, pictures, and belongings, trying to decide what to take with her. “I didn’t expect it would be so hard to leave,” she told me later, “but in that moment I didn’t know if anything would be there when I got back.”

    Life’s “storms” come in many forms: hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, unexpected problems in marriage or with children, the…

    Just a Touch

    It was just a touch, but it made all the difference to Colin. As his small team was preparing to do charitable work in a region known for hostility to Christians, his stress level began to rise dangerously. When he shared his worries with a teammate, his friend stopped, placed his hand on his shoulder, and shared a few encouraging words with him. Colin now looks back on that brief touch as a turning point, a powerful reminder of the simple truth that God was with him.

    John, the close friend and disciple of Jesus, had been banished to the desolate…

    Strengthened in Song

    When French villagers helped Jewish refugees hide from Nazis during World War II, some sang songs in the dense forest surrounding their town—letting the refugees know it was safe to come out from hiding. These brave townspeople of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon had answered the call of local pastor André Trocmé and his wife, Magda, to offer wartime refuge to Jews on their windswept plateau known as “La Montagne Protestante.” Their musical signal became just one feature of the villagers’ bravery that helped save up to 3,000 Jews from almost certain death.

    In another dangerous time, David sang when his enemy Saul sent…

    Hang in There

    My father-in-law turned seventy-eight recently, and during our family gathering to honor him, someone asked him, “What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?” His answer? “Hang in there.”   

    Hang in there. It might be tempting to dismiss those words as simplistic. But my father-in-law wasn’t promoting blind optimism or positive thinking. He spoke those words as someone who’d endured tough things in his eight decades. His determination to press on wasn’t grounded in some vague hope that things might get better, but in Christ’s work in his life.  

    “Hanging in there”—the Bible calls it perseverance—isn’t possible…

    Shelter from the Storm

    As the story goes, in 1763, a young minister, traveling on a cliffside road in Somerset, England, ducked into a cave to escape the flashes of lightning and pounding rain. As he looked out at Cheddar Gorge, he pondered the gift of finding shelter and peace in God. Waiting there, he began to write a hymn, “Rock of Ages,” with its memorable opening lines: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”

    We don’t know if Augustus Toplady thought about Moses’s experience in the cleft of a rock while writing the hymn (Exodus 33:22), but perhaps he…

    Trust Your Armor

    As a young writer I was often unsure of myself when I was in writing workshops. I would look around and see rooms filled with giants, if you will—people with formal training or years of experience. I had neither. But what I did have was an ear formed by the language and tone and cadences of the King James Version of the Bible. It was very much my armor, so to speak, what I was used to, and allowing it to inform my writing style and voice has become a joy to me, and I hope to others.

    We don’t get…

    He Calms the Storms

    Jim was frantically sharing about problems he was encountering with his work team: division, judgmental attitudes, and misunderstandings. After an hour of patiently listening to his concerns, I suggested, “Let’s ask Jesus what He would have us do in this situation.” We sat quietly for five minutes. Then something amazing happened. We both felt God’s peace cover us like a blanket. We were more relaxed as we experienced God’s presence and guidance, and we felt confident to wade back into the difficulties.

    Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, needed God’s presence. One night he and the other disciples were sailing across the…

    False Places of Safety

    When our dog Rupert was a puppy, he was so afraid of going outside I’d have to drag him to the park. After getting him there one day, I foolishly let him off his leash. He sprinted home, back to his place of safety.

    That experience reminded me of a man I met on a plane, who began apologizing to me as we taxied down the runway. “I’m going to get drunk on this flight,” he said. “It sounds like you don’t want to,” I replied. “I don’t,” he said, “but I always run back to the wine.” He got drunk, and…

    A Shield Around Me

    Our church experienced an agonizing loss when Paul, our gifted worship minister, died at the age of thirty-one in a boating accident. Paul and his wife DuRhonda were no strangers to pain; they had buried several children who hadn’t made it to term. Now there would be another grave near the small graves of these little ones. The life-crushing crisis this family experienced hit those who loved them like a knockout blow to the head.

    David was no stranger to personal and family crises. In Psalm 3, he found himself overwhelmed because of the rebellion of his son Absalom. Rather than…

    I Will Fear No Evil

    In 1957, Melba Pattillo Beals was selected to be one of the “Little Rock Nine,” a group of nine African American students who first integrated the previously all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In her 2018 memoir, I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith under Fire, Beals gives a heartbreaking account of the injustices and harassment she struggled to face courageously every day as a fifteen-year-old student.

    But she also wrote about her deep faith in God. In her darkest moments, when fear almost overwhelmed her, Beals repeated the familiar Bible verses she had learned at…

    You Have to Relax!

    “You must relax,” pronounces a doctor crisply in Disney’s Rescuers Down Under, attempting to treat the injured albatross Wilbur, a reluctant patient. “Relax? I am relaxed!” a (clearly not relaxed) Wilbur responds sarcastically as his panic grows. “If I were any more relaxed, I’d be dead!”

    Can you relate? In light of the doctor’s dubious methods (such as a chainsaw dubbed an “epidermal tissue disruptor”), Wilbur’s misgivings seem justified. But the scene is funny because it captures how we tend to feel when we’re panicking—whether or not what we’re facing is actually life-threatening.

    When we’re terrified, encouragement to relax can feel ridiculous. I…

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