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Dark Moments, Deep Prayers
“I had a dark moment.” Those five words capture the internal agony of a popular female celebrity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adjusting to a new normal was part of her challenge, and in her turmoil, she acknowledged that she wrestled with thoughts of suicide. Pulling out of the downward spiral included sharing her struggle with a friend who cared.
We’re all susceptible to tumultuous hours, days, and seasons. Valleys and hard places aren’t foreign but getting out of such places can be challenging. And seeking the assistance of mental health professionals is sometimes needed.
In Psalm 143, we hear and are instructed…
Revelation and Reassurance
Baby gender reveals in 2019 were dramatic. A look back reveals that in July, a video showed a car emitting blue smoke to indicate “It’s a Boy!” In September, a crop-duster plane in Texas dumped hundreds of gallons of pink water to announce “It’s a Girl!” There was another “reveal” though that uncovered significant things about the world these children will grow up in. At the conclusion of 2019, YouVersion revealed that the most shared, highlighted, and bookmarked verse of the year on its online and mobile Bible app was Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in…
Towering dunes along the north shore of Silver Lake put nearby homes at risk of sinking into shifting sands. Though residents have tried moving mounds of sand in efforts to protect their homes, they have watched helplessly as well-built houses were buried right before their eyes. As a local sheriff oversaw the cleanup of a recently destroyed cottage, he affirmed the process couldn’t be opposed or prevented. No matter how hard homeowners try to avoid the dangers of these unsteady embankments, the dunes simply cannot provide a strong foundational support.
Jesus knew the futility of building a house on sand. After…
For Others’ Sake
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Singaporeans stayed home to avoid being infected. But I blissfully continued swimming, believing it was safe.
My wife, however, feared that I might pick up an infection at the public pool and pass it on to her aged mother—who, like other seniors, were more vulnerable to the virus. “Can you just avoid swimming for some time, for my sake?” she asked.
At first, I wanted to argue that there was little risk. Then I realized that this mattered less than her feelings. Why would I insist on swimming—hardly an essential thing—when it made her worry unnecessarily?
God Knows We Feel
Feeling overwhelmed, Sierra grieved her son’s fight with addiction. “I feel bad,” she said. “Does God think I have no faith because I can’t stop crying when I’m praying?”
“I don’t know what God thinks,” I said. “But I know He can handle real emotions. It’s not like He doesn’t know we feel.” I prayed and shed tears with Sierra as we pleaded for her son’s deliverance.
Scripture contains many examples of people wrestling with God while struggling. The writer of Psalm 42 expresses a deep longing to experience the peace of God’s constant and powerful presence. He acknowledges his tears and…
Caden, a young man of almost eighteen, was anticipating attending his first choice of a college on an academic scholarship. He was involved in a campus ministry in high school and looked forward to participating in a similar ministry in the new environment. He’d saved money from his part-time job and also had an excellent lead on a new job. He’d established some great goals, and everything was coming together exactly on schedule.
And then in the spring of 2020 a global health crisis changed everything.
The school let Caden know that his first semester would probably be online. The campus ministry…
Guilt and Forgiveness
In his book Human Universals, anthropologist Donald Brown lists more than four hundred behaviors that he considers common across humanity. He includes such things as toys, jokes, dances, and proverbs, wariness of snakes, and tying things with string! Likewise, he believes all cultures have concepts of right and wrong, where generosity is praised, promises valued, and things like meanness and murder understood to be wrong. We all have a sense of conscience, wherever we’re from.
The apostle Paul made a similar point many centuries ago. While God gave the Jewish people the Ten Commandments to clarify right from wrong, Paul noted that…
Heavy but Hopeful
In a Peanuts comic strip, the very enterprising character Lucy advertised “psychiatric help” for five cents. Linus found his way to her office and acknowledged his “deep feelings of depression.” When he asked her what he could do about his condition, Lucy’s quick reply was, “Snap out of it! Five cents, please.”
While such light-hearted entertainment brings a momentary smile, the sadness and gloom that can grip us when real life happens is not that easily dismissed. Feelings of hopelessness and despair are real, and sometimes professional attention is needed.
Lucy’s advice wasn’t helpful in addressing real anguish. However, the writer of…
A Strong Heart
In his book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, co-authored with Philip Yancey, Dr. Paul Brand observed, “A hummingbird heart weighs a fraction of an ounce and beats eight hundred times a minute; a blue whale’s heart weighs half a ton, beats only ten times per minute, and can be heard two miles away. In contrast to either, the human heart seems dully functional, yet it does its job, beating 100,000 times a day [65–70 times a minute] with no time off for rest, to get most of us through seventy years or more.”
The amazing heart so thoroughly powers us through life that…
Storms of Fear
In a TV commercial I saw recently, a woman casually asks someone in a group watching TV, “What are you searching for, Mark?” “A version of myself that doesn’t make decisions based on fear,” he responds soberly—not realizing that she was just asking what he liked to watch on TV!
Whoa, I thought. I wasn’t expecting a TV commercial to hit me so profoundly! But I related to poor Mark: sometimes I too feel embarrassed by the way fear sometimes seems to direct my life.
Jesus’ disciples also experienced the profound power of fear. Once, as they headed across the Sea of…
Free at Last
Twenty long years passed before British journalist John McCarthy—a five-year hostage during Lebanon’s grueling civil war—met the man who negotiated his release. When McCarthy finally met U.N. envoy Giandomenico Picco, McCarthy simply said, “Thank you for my freedom!” His heartfelt words carried great weight because Picco had risked his own life during dangerous negotiations to secure freedom for McCarthy and others.
We as believers can relate to such hard-won freedom. Jesus gave up His life—enduring death on a Roman cross—to secure spiritual freedom for all people, including each of us. Now as His followers, b we know “it is for freedom…
Taught by Turkeys
Do you know what a group of turkeys is called? I didn’t. Had to look it up. It’s called a rafter. Why am I writing about turkeys? Because I’ve just returned from a weekend at a mountain cabin. Each day, I marveled at the train of turkeys parading past our porch.
I’d never been turkey-watching before. They scratched fiercely with spectacular talons. Then they hunted and pecked at the ground. Eating, I assume. (This was my first turkey-observation time, so I’m not 100% positive.) The scrawny scrubs in the area didn’t look like they could sustain anything. Yet here were these…
What’s Wrong with the World?
There is an oft-heard story that The London Times posed a question to readers at the turn of the twentieth century.
What’s wrong with the world?
That’s quite the question, isn’t it? Someone might quickly respond, “Well, how much time do you have for me to tell you?” And that would be fair, as there seems to be so much that’s wrong with our world. As the story goes, The Times received a number of responses, but one in particular has endured in its brief brilliance. The English writer, poet, and philosopher G.K. Chesterton penned this four-word response, a refreshing surprise to the usual…
Back in my sermon-making days I approached some Sunday mornings feeling like a lowly worm. During the week before, I had not been the best husband, father, or friend. I felt that before God could use me again I had to establish a track record of right living. So I vowed to get through the sermon as best I could and try to live better the coming week.
That was not the right approach. In Galatians 3 it’s said that God continually supplies us with His Spirit and works powerfully through us as a free gift—not because we’ve done anything or…
On the Bubble
A news article in May 1970 contained one of the first uses of the idiom “on the bubble.” Referring to a state of uncertainty, the expression was used in relation to rookie race car driver Steve Krisiloff. He’d been “on the bubble,” having posted a slow qualifying lap for the Indianapolis 500. Later, it was confirmed that his time—though the slowest of those who qualified—allowed him to compete in the race.
We can feel at times that we’re “on the bubble,” uncertain we have what it takes to compete in or finish the race of life. When we’re feeling that way…