• Topic > Life Struggles

    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…

    Spiritually Exhausted?

    “Emotionally, we’ve sometimes worked a full day in one hour,” Zack Eswine writes in his book The Imperfect Pastor. Although he was referring specifically to the burdens pastors frequently carry, this is true for any of us. Weighty emotions and responsibilities can leave us physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. And all we want to do is sleep.

    In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah found himself in a situation where he was depleted in every way. We read that Queen Jezebel threatened to put him to death (vv. 1–2) after she discovered he had the prophets of Baal killed (see 1 Kings…

    Indestructible Love

    When we first saw the stream in our backyard, it was just a thin vein of water trickling through a bed of rocks in the heat of the summer. Heavy wooden planks served as a bridge we could easily cross. Months later, torrents of rain pounded our area for several days in a row. Our tame little creek swelled into a quick-moving river four feet deep and ten feet wide! The force of this water heaved the bridgeboards up and deposited them several feet away.

    Rushing water has the potential to overwhelm almost anything that stands in its path. Yet, there…

    Beautiful to God

    When Denise began dating her boyfriend, she attempted to maintain a slim figure and dress stylishly, believing she would be more attractive to him in that way. After all, it was what all the women’s magazines advised. It was only much later that she discovered what he really thought: “I liked you just as much when you were heavier and didn’t worry about what you wore.”

    Denise realized then how subjective “beauty” was. Our view of beauty is so easily influenced by others, and often focused on the external; forgetting the value of inner beauty. But God sees us in only…

    Ending Envy

    The famous French artist Edgar Degas is remembered worldwide for his paintings of ballerinas. Less known is the envy he expressed of his friend and artistic rival Édouard Manet, another master painter. Said Degas of Manet: “Everything he does he always hits off straightaway, while I take endless pains and never get it right.”

    It’s a curious emotion, envy—listed by the apostle Paul among the worst passions, as bad “as every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip” (Romans 1:29 nlt). It results from “foolish thinking,” Paul writes—the result of worshiping idols instead of…

    Blooming in the Desert

    The Mojave Desert includes the expected sand dunes, dry canyons, mesas, and mountains of most deserts. But American biologist Edmund Jaeger observed that every few years an abundance of rain results in “such a wealth of blossoms that almost every foot of sand or gravelly soil is hidden beneath a blanket of flowers.” The Mojave Wildflower Show isn’t a yearly phenomenon, though. Researchers confirm the dry earth needs to be soaked by storms and warmed by the sun, at just the right times, before blooms will cover the desert with vibrant colors.

    This image of God bringing forth life despite the…

    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…

    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.…

    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…

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