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    The Explanation For Our Difficulties

    If you are going through a time of isolation, seemingly all alone, read John 17 . It will explain exactly why you are where you are— because Jesus has prayed that you “may be one” with the Father as He is. Are you helping God to answer that prayer, or do you have some other goal for your life? Since you became a disciple, you cannot be as independent as you used to be.

    God reveals in John 17 that His purpose is not just to answer our prayers, but that through prayer we might come to discern His mind. Yet there is one prayer which God must answer, and that is the prayer of Jesus— “. . .

    Out of the Wreck I Rise

    God does not keep His child immune from trouble; He promises, “I will be with him in trouble . . .” (Psalm 91:15). It doesn’t matter how real or intense the adversities may be; nothing can ever separate him from his relationship to God. “In all these things we are more than conquerors . . .” (Romans 8:37). Paul was not referring here to imaginary things, but to things that are dangerously real. And he said we are “super-victors” in the midst of them, not because of our own ingenuity, nor because of our courage, but because none of them affects our essential relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

    The Habit of Rising to the Occasion

    Remember that you have been saved so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in your body (see 2 Corinthians 4:10). Direct the total energy of your powers so that you may achieve everything your election as a child of God provides; rise every time to whatever occasion may come your way.

    You did not do anything to achieve your salvation, but you must do something to exhibit it. You must “work out your own salvation” which God has worked in you already (Philippians 2:12).

    The Habit of Enjoying Adversity

    We have to develop godly habits to express what God’s grace has done in us. It is not just a question of being saved from hell, but of being saved so that “the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” And it is adversity that makes us exhibit His life in our mortal flesh. Is my life exhibiting the essence of the sweetness of the Son of God, or just the basic irritation of “myself” that I would have apart from Him? The only thing that will enable me to enjoy adversity is the acute sense of eagerness of allowing the life of the Son of God to evidence itself in me.

    Persevering with Peace

    As I continue trusting God through my struggles with chronic pain, even the simplest setback can feel like a fierce enemy attacker. Problem One jabs me from the right. Problem Two shoves me from behind. Problem Three punches me square in the nose. During these times, when my strength wanes and immediate relief evades me, running and hiding can seem like a good idea. But since I can’t escape my pain, change my circumstances, or ignore my emotions, I’m learning slowly to rely on God to carry me through.

    When I need encouragement, comfort, and courage, I prayerfully read through the…

    With Us in Our Suffering

    Poet Christian Wiman, some time after being diagnosed with an incurable form of blood cancer, reflected on his ordeal, writing, “I have passed through pain I could never have imagined, pain that seemed to incinerate all my thoughts of God and to leave me sitting there in the ashes, alone.” But he found hope in the powerful presence of Jesus. “I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ ” (Matthew 27:46). In times of great suffering, Wiman…

    Into Our Storms

    Wind howled, lightning flashed, waves crashed. I thought I was going to die. My grandparents and I were fishing on a lake, but we’d stayed out too long. As the sun set, a fast-moving squall swept over our small boat. My grandfather instructed me to sit in front to keep it from capsizing. Terror flooded my heart. But then, somehow, I began to pray. I was fourteen.

    I asked God for His reassurance and protection. The storm didn’t weaken, but we made it to shore. To this day, I don’t know if I’ve experienced a deeper certainty of God’s presence than in…

    How Long?

    In Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks, “How long is forever?” The White Rabbit responds, “Sometimes, just one second.” It sure felt that way when my brother David suddenly died. The days leading to his memorial dragged on, intensifying the sense of loss and grief we felt. Every second seemed to last forever.

    Another David echoed this sentiment, singing, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be…

    No Unicorns and Rainbows

    One day Dan McConchie was riding his motorcycle when a car unexpectedly came into his lane and forced him into oncoming traffic. When he woke up two weeks later in the trauma center, he was a mess. Along with a deflated lung and broken bones, he’d suffered a spinal-cord injury that left him a paraplegic. Dan prayed for healing, but it never came. Yet in the midst of this tragedy he experienced peace and learned a profound lesson: “Life isn’t for our comfort. Instead, the purpose of this life is that we become conformed to the image of Christ. Unfortunately,…

    Broken Dreams

    In the 1950s, a promising running back at Florida State University dreamed of a professional career in American football. But an injury prematurely ended these ambitions, leaving the young man adrift. During that uncertain period, he enrolled in various acting classes, surprised by how much he enjoyed the craft. That young man was Burt Reynolds, who would go on to become one of the most famous US actors of the 1970s and 1980s. Few realize that Reynolds’ acting career began with the death of a dream.

    Why?

    Sipping tea at a café, I saw two women sit down at different tables. One, young and attractive, was downing a drink topped with a mountain of whipped cream. Shopping bags sat at her feet like obedient pets. The other, about the same age, gripped a metal walker as she moved to her table. Thick plastic braces guarded her ankles. The clerk at the register had to help her maneuver into her seat. As I looked at the two women, I wondered, Why does God seem to allow some to suffer much more than others?

    Leading from Brokenness

    I know a leader who learned sympathy when he lost his job. He admitted it’s easier to humbly love when life has knocked you down. When, as he would say, “You’ve got blood in your mouth.” I also know a pastor whose heart was softened by the death of his son. This pastor wouldn’t say it was worth it—and he’d be right—but his grief has made him a more compassionate shepherd.

    Suffering and Healing

    The 1986 film The Mission narrates the story of Father Gabriel and Rodrigo Mendoza, a former slave trader, who served together in the jungle bordering Argentina and Paraguay. The two moved into this remote country to befriend a tribe with little contact to the outside world. When powerful slavers descended on the village, Gabriel and Mendoza determined to stay. They were called to suffer with—rather than escape from—the tribe’s agonies and violence. Mendoza and Gabriel lost their lives, though their witness echoed with resounding force.

    Wonders in Focus

    Some of us are inclined to look at the world and see only what’s wrong. DeWitt Jones is a National Geographic photographer who has used his profession to celebrate what’s right about the world. He waits and watches until a shaft of light or turn of perspective suddenly reveals a wonder that had been there all along. He uses his camera to find beauty in the most common faces of people and nature.

    If anyone had reason to focus on the wrongs of the world, Job did. After losing all that had given him joy, even his friends became his accusers.…

    Three-Lettered Faith

    With a tendency toward pessimism, I quickly jump to negative conclusions about how situations in my life will play out. If I’m thwarted in my efforts on a work project, I’m easily convinced none of my other projects will be successful either and—even though utterly unrelated—I will probably never be able to touch my toes comfortably. And, woe is me, I’m an awful mother who can’t do anything right. Defeat in one area unnecessarily affects my feelings in many.

    It’s easy for me to imagine how the prophet Habakkuk might have reacted to what God showed him. He had great cause…