“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you for as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” – Psalm 63:1-8
Thanksgiving is a wonderful day set aside to remember how God has richly provided in our lives and a time to express the gratitude in our hearts. We can praise Him for the blessings of family, friends, co-workers, jobs, homes, a kind word, or simply His unfailing love that never leaves us.
Maybe today you are in a place of overflowing gratitude and thankfulness for how God has shown you His love time and time again, and you feel joy as you experience His presence right now in your life. In this season, Thanksgiving can be such a joy!
But when we are in a season facing a difficult circumstance, it can be more difficult to see where God is working and to praise and express thankfulness.
Maybe you are in a place where you are earnestly searching for God. Longing for His presence–to be reminded that He is real and there.
Maybe you feel like your soul is dry and thirsty and needs satisfying. You long for refreshment for your soul. So many things that surround us try to meet that need, but they don’t quite cut it. After a long and grueling hike, the last thing you want is a soda or tea. Even though they are mostly water they don’t come close to satisfying our thirst.
Maybe your nights have been sleepless. You are calling out to God in the middle of the night as you lie awake unable to sleep, because your mind just won’t let you. The stress of your situation threatens to overtake you and you long for God to bring you rest and peace.
While we may seek after God in our day-to-day life, I find that when we go through difficult seasons in life, we tend to seek God more earnestly. Has there been a time you were desperate for God to provide or answer your prayer for deliverance?
When I read these verses, I can’t help but feel like the Psalmist had that time of longing and need for God. He says:
“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.”
Then he goes on to tell God that he has seen Him work before; seen His power and glory and praises Him for His unfailing love in his life. He turns to God as the one who can satisfy more than the richest feast. Because he knows where to turn in his desperation, he has full confidence that God will deliver him and help him in his time of need.
It is my prayer that you too will see God work in an amazing way in your life. That you will get to experience first hand His power and glory, as he intervenes in your situation. That you are left in awe and your praise will be overflowing.
This Thanksgiving, we hope you will remember the One who provides all things and can satisfy our deepest desires. His love will never fail you. He offers up living water that quenches every thirst. May He be your all in all today!
The holiday season is coming. The local event schedule is filling up with holiday bazaars, concerts, and sales. The annual debate of whether listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving should be allowed is heating up on social media. The stores are filling up with Thanksgiving goodies and Christmas decorations. For many, it is a joyous time of year as they look forward to holiday traditions and time with family.
However, this time of year is not a joyous time for everyone. Unfortunately, many have lost a loved one around this time of year. For these people, it can be a time of sadness as they have to endure another milestone without the ones they love. If that is you, know I see you. I know it is hard.
I want to encourage you that you are not alone in your sadness. You have access to a God who wants to walk with you during this difficult season. Our God doesn’t stay up on his throne, indifferent to the pain of death and sadness. Our God doesn’t watch us suffer from heaven without a care about what we are feeling. No, we believe in a God who knows what it is like to lose a loved one because he lost his Son to the cross. We believe in a God who has promised to comfort us in our times of grief.
Jesus tells us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He never promised life will be easy, but he does promise we don’t have to do it alone because we have God living within us through His Holy Spirit.
And as we slog our way through life, carrying the weight of having to lose the ones we love and other difficult trials, God gives us this glorious hope:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
During this holiday season, if you are looking forward to all the food, festivities, and time with family, I rejoice with you. I am thankful you get to enjoy all the joy the holidays were meant to bring. If you look at this holiday season with a sense of loss and grief, I pray you can find hope and comfort in the fact that our sympathetic and compassionate God walks with you in those hard emotions. May you also find hope and comfort in the promise that one day, God will wipe all the tears from your eyes for there will no longer be a reason to mourn.
A few miles from where I live, there is a butte that overlooks my town. I love driving to the top and gazing down on the place I call home. There is a little river that meanders through town with tall green deciduous trees adorning the landscape. Off in the distance, mountains call out to me, luring me to go hiking, fishing, and camping. For an outdoorsy girl like me, it is a great place to live. But I don’t go up there just to admire the beauty of the town. I go there to pray for the people who live there.
While everything can seem great from high on the hill, things are not all roses and daffodils down in the valley. It seems like every week I hear stories that break my heart: a kid is removed from their home because of abusive parents, another person who becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to escape emotional pain or stories of people struggling with loneliness and lack of self-worth. I know Jesus could speak into their hurt and pain, but only 1-2% of the population have a relationship with Jesus, and it doesn’t seem like the rest are interested.
I can’t help but feel the effects of the hard and heartbreaking things that are happening all around me. I get tired of watching helplessly as people struggle in pain and suffer the consequences of their own bad choices or the choices of others. Sometimes, my fatigue can even turn into frustration and anger directed toward these hurting people, instead of on their behalf.
Sometimes as Christians, it’s all too easy to build a metaphorical hedge around ourselves. We want to block it all out, and just live at peace with Jesus in our comfortable safe places. Then, once the world gets its act together, it can come visit us in our cozy “spiritual compounds.”
Yet we know that is not the heart of God. God did not sit back in his protected spiritual domain while the people He created needed a savior. Instead, He became one of us, suffered like one of us, to show us a better way to live. He did it because “God is patient towards us, not wishing anyone to perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Christ came and died for those of us who have accepted Him AND for those who don’t know Him yet. (1 Peter 3:18)
God calls us to come out from behind our “spiritual safety hedges” and share His gospel. But how do we begin reaching people in our own backyards with the gospel, when most of them don’t want to hear it? There are so many people that don’t know how much Jesus truly loves them and it seems overwhelming. The Bible shows that I should begin with prayer.
Prayer is where the early church started in its quest to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Before the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, you don’t see the disciples out evangelizing yet. Instead, Acts 1:12-14 shows them gathered together in prayer. At just the right time, God sent the Holy Spirit to empower them to spread the gospel. In Acts 2, we see Peter preach the first gospel sermon and he preached it to his own people. The very people who, just a few weeks earlier, wanted Jesus dead.
But Peter didn’t turn his back on them. Instead, God sent Peter to the very people that killed His Son, knowing they needed forgiveness and salvation, too. Thousands of people who once hated Jesus were now turning to Him for love and forgiveness.
Just like me, the early disciples didn’t know where to start or how to reach the vast number of people who still didn’t know Jesus. But instead of giving up and walking away, they met together and prayed. Then, at the right time, God sent his Spirit to empower them to reach people they never thought possible.
As a disciple in the 21st-century church, it is now my turn to pray for those around me. Instead of running away and ignoring the angry, hurt, and broken people around me, I get the privilege to intercede before God on their behalf.
So I head to the top of the hill and pray for them. I go to my kids’ sports events, and I pray. In my favorite prayer spot in my house, I pray for them. So far, thousands of people haven’t come flocking to my church, but my heart is changing. I have more compassion. I see the sin and brokenness in my community more through God’s eyes which gives me the boldness and strength to regularly sit before him and beg for my town’s salvation. It has given me the courage to step into the difficult lives of some of my fellow neighbors and share the good news about Jesus’ love and sacrifice, and the brand new life they can have in Him. And as I see small changes in them begin to happen, I am encouraged to pray all the more.
I don’t know what life is like in your town. I don’t know who your neighbors are. But I do know this: God loves them and desires them to have the same relationship with Him that you enjoy.
So how can you make time to pray for people around you who don’t know Jesus yet? If you’re looking for a way to get started, here are a few ways you can add this important calling into your prayer life:
Go on a regular walk around your neighborhood or town and pray for your neighbors and the people you see.
Pick one or two people you personally know who don’t have a relationship with Jesus and add them by name to your daily prayer list
Get together once a month with other Christians to pray specifically for your town.
As you pray, may your heart be transformed to be more like God, who stepped right into the middle of the mess to bring redemption, love, and hope. May He give you the courage and boldness to tell others about Jesus, so that all may truly know Him.
I could feel my cheeks flush as a shockwave of anger spread across my face, and through my chest, before it fell like a rock in my stomach. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could someone who had known me for so long, believe lies about me?
I struggled to process the harsh reality in front of me: an old friend (I’ll call her Nichole) was spreading lies about me in an effort to save face. And another dear friend (I’ll call her Marie) had believed her without a second thought.
I knew Nichole well and had learned to be a little cautious in our friendship. She had a little bit of a reputation for being less than honest.
But I looked up to Marie. I sought her approval and wanted to have a good relationship with her. When I tried to reach out to her, I was given a cold shoulder in return. There would be no chance for me to set the record straight, no hope for justice, and certainly no apology.
As someone who prides herself on being friendly, I don’t enjoy having an enemy. I am a peacemaker at heart and I want everyone to get along, but I’m also a bit scrappy. I’m not one to go down without a fight, so not having a chance to defend myself and put certain people in their places was a special kind of torture.
It kept me up at night and chipped away at my self-confidence. I would lie awake, replaying conversations in my mind looking for ways that I could clear the air and change how Marie saw me. I cried big tears of frustration and grief. I had lost not just one friend, but two, and there was nothing I could do about it. Or was there?
One night around 2 am, after a particularly good fake conversation in my mind where I really stuck it to them, I began to pray for justice. My heart was filled with righteous indignation and I was certain that the Lord had my back on this one.
Then the strangest thing began to happen. While I started praying for myself, I ended up praying not just for me, and how I was feeling, but also for Nichole and Marie. I prayed for the places where they were broken to be healed, so they wouldn’t hurt others the way that they had hurt me. I prayed for their eyes to be opened and hearts to be softened to the love of Christ and for the Holy Spirit to work within them. I prayed that God would help me to forgive them, and to be set free from the bitterness that had taken root. I asked God to bring about the best possible outcomes for all of us so that He could be glorified.
Friend, it was not by my own strength that I prayed these prayers. It was God at work in my heart through prayer that formed the words and began to change my entire perspective.
In Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT) Jesus tells us, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.
While my conflict with Nichole and Marie happened before social media was really a thing, it’s not unheard of in situations like this to put someone on blast in a one-sided rant on Facebook. We’ve all seen the posts, maybe we’ve even posted some of them. If it had been an option at the time, I would have loved a chance to get my side “out there” and maybe get in a jab or two of my own.
But Jesus says if we are going to behave like true children of God, we should love our enemies and pray for them. I know–crazy right? It’s totally counterintuitive.
Left to our own devices, our perspective remains narrow. We see only through the lens of our hurt and frustration. Before long, bitterness begins to build up, and brick by brick we become imprisoned behind a wall of unforgiveness and pain.
But when we bring our enemies before Jesus in prayer, suddenly things don’t seem so big and overwhelming compared to the magnitude and sovereignty of God. The simple act of prayer helps us to transcend the situation before us, and invites God to go to work in our hearts.
He can smooth out the rough edges where we need to repent, and fortify our souls where we need encouragement and love. When we pray, God meets us with compassion and reminds us that we are loved. What a gift when we feel wounded and rejected by others! Through time with God in prayer, He begins to mend all of the broken places in our hearts.
But something else miraculous happens through prayer. As we are reminded of our own belovedness, we are also reminded of the belovedness of others. God never made a person He didn’t love, including our enemies.
When we pray, we begin to see them the way God sees them, and our hearts are softened. It’s like weed spray for the heart, killing the roots of bitterness before they can get established and helping pave the way for true freedom and forgiveness.
We see in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, that forgiving others is something that the Lord requires of us. He knows it is not easy work, especially when the person we are trying to forgive may not seem sorry. But God never asks us to do anything alone. When we pray to Him, He helps us and heals us so that in due time, we can sincerely forgive and move forward.
It’s ok if you don’t know where to start. Don’t worry if your words aren’t pretty or if your anger bubbles over. God does not require you to check your emotions at the door. He wants you to bring all of your heart to Him. The Holy Spirit will help you find the words and communicate your heart to God. God promises to work all things out for good for those who love Him. He won’t waste a thing. He will use it all to bring about purpose for your pain and beauty for your ashes. (Romans 8:26-28)
Part of God working all things for good is so that others will know that He is God. He’s doing more than just settling a disagreement, or bringing about justice, He is working through our situations so that everyone can know Him.
In the book of Exodus, there are a couple of occasions where Moses prays for his enemy, the Pharoah of Egypt, who has enslaved the Israelites. In that part of the story, we get a little glimpse of why and how God is working. He is working through the stubborn heart of Pharoah so that all of Israel will know that Yahweh is God. God is also working through Moses’ prayer for Pharoah so that Pharoah will know that Yahweh is God. (Exodus 8:8-10, 10:1-2)
When we humble ourselves and pray for our enemies, God reminds us and shows everyone else, that He is God. He can reach into the hearts of people where our best arguments and defenses would fall flat. God can bestow wisdom and grace, change minds and soften hearts, including our own so that all will know that He is God.
About a year after the fallout with Marie and Nichole, after praying and working toward forgiveness, I had finally let go of the whole situation. By the grace and strength of God, I rested in the comfort and security that God knew the truth and that was enough. I had reached a place where the opinion of these two friends no longer defined me. My worth was not in what they thought or said, but in who God says I am.
One day I found out that another friend had bumped into Marie and set the record straight on my behalf. Marie felt terrible about the whole thing and had no idea that all this time she had been believing a lie.
I saw her not too long after that and she came up to me and hugged me. She praised me for the way that I handled the whole situation.
Up to this point, there wouldn’t have been anything I could have said to change Marie’s mind. Only God could have accomplished that. And only God could have kept my heart soft enough to receive her kindness and be willing to reconcile. At that moment, I was reminded of who God is, and other people, including Marie, saw God at work, healing and redeeming a friendship that had been lost.
I know we don’t always get the ending that is tied up neatly with a bow. Marie never really did apologize-not in so many words. But God had already restored my heart and grown my faith in ways that I never could have anticipated. And it was easier to give Marie grace because of the abundance of grace that God had been giving me all along.
So my friend, pray for your enemies. Not sure if you have any? Pray anyway– someone’s name may come to mind that you’ve stored neatly in the back of your mind.
Bring your heart to God, bring any conflict, hurt, betrayal or grief. Lay it at His feet and watch Him take a heart full of frustration, anger, and bitterness, and transform it into one overflowing with peace, freedom, and grace.
Have you ever stopped to think about how you picture God? Not what you know about Him, but how you picture Him. People are very visual and even if we have never seen God, our minds will still conjure up an image that we picture when we come to God in prayer.
Sometimes when I come to God in prayer, I picture Him sitting on this magnificent throne. When I was 5th grade my family took a trip to Washington D.C. I can still vividly picture all the monuments and places I saw. They definitely left an impression on me. My favorite one by far was seeing the Lincoln Memorial. The vast proportion of the size of Lincoln sitting on what seemed like a big throne. It was so big in fact that I barely came up to the middle of his shoe. He sat there with his arms on the sides of the throne chair looking so majestic and dignified.
Ever since then, when I think of God on His throne, that is what I picture. That He is so vast and so magnificent that I am grateful to be able to gaze upon Him. Even though this picture might make Him seem a little more distant like He is watching from above, there are times when I need this view of Him. When I am facing something so big in my life that I can’t see a way through it. I need the God who is big enough to handle it—who is on His throne in the Kingdom of God and who is in control.
Other times when I come to God in prayer, I picture Him receiving me like a loving father. When I was a kid one of my favorite things was to curl up on my father’s lap when he was sitting in his recliner chair watching tv. I would climb into the big oversized chair and snuggle into his big strong arms. I felt safe and I felt loved. Now, when my heart is feeling tender and vulnerable and afraid, I come to my Heavenly Father, picturing Him as a loving Father opening His arms up wide and allowing me to snuggle into His embrace. There I find shelter from the storm, a peace in my soul that everything is going to be alright, and that I am loved by Him.
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
What we think of when we think of God is one of the most important things about us. Our view of God and his relationship with us, especially how he deals with us when we stumble and fail, is critical to us growing in our faith. If we don’t have an accurate view of God or how He sees us, then it will keep us from coming to Him. The way we follow Jesus, how we read the Bible, how we live out our faith, how we see ourselves, all revolve around and are influenced by how we see God.
Sometimes we struggle with coming to God in prayer because we are afraid of His reaction. The more we walk with Jesus, the more we try to actually do what He says, the more we are going to start running into our weaknesses, limitations, and sins. Unless we are equipped with grace, shame will rear its ugly head and we will give up.
This is why what we think of when we think of God is so important. Do we picture Him looking upon us with disappointment? Do we see Him looking angry and ashamed of us because we just can’t get it right? Maybe we just see Him as aloof and uninterested, or even simply absent.
Dear friend, making us second-guess God’s love is one of the devil’s oldest tricks. He will twist our thoughts and parade our failings before us until we shrink away in shame and self-doubt. He’ll tie us up in knots, until we are prisoners of self-loathing. He wants to make us forget who we are, and believe that we’ve wandered beyond God’s reach. It’s the biggest lie ever.
We need to confront the lies of the enemy with the truth of who God is. This is why it is so important that we have an accurate view of God and of His character. The God we carry around in our minds needs to align with the God we see in the Bible. We read about Jesus interacting time and time again with compassion for the people He encountered, but it can sometimes be harder to see God this way. It is easier for us to have a screwed up picture of God, to see him more distant and stern and upset with us. What we need to remember is, if you can picture Jesus doing it, then you can picture God doing it, because Jesus is an exact representation of God (Colossians 1).
When we approach God for help and go to Him in prayer, we need to know who we are encountering. Scripture tells us that He is a God of love, and more specifically—of grace. Remember the song? Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. We know this in our heads. But how far down into our hearts does this go? Do we truly believe this to be true about us?
Here’s what we know to be true….God is love and it is the defining thing about him. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.”1 John 4:16
God is not just loving but He is the embodiment of love itself. He knows no other way. Born out of His great love, He chose to create us and give us life. Out of His love He also chooses to give us His grace, mercy and forgiveness.
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
If you have children or a niece or a nephew, how do you feel about them? You probably have a fierce love for them–the feeling that you would do anything for them. Now, If they came to you upset because they messed up or feeling repentant, how would you respond? If it were my kids, I would want to receive them well and be a safe place for them to come and tell me anything. I would want them to know that their mistakes don’t change the love I have for them. That they are now and forever will be my children and nothing can change that. Now imagine your best version of yourself and how you want to be or respond as a parent, aunt, grandparent, etc. God is this times 100 million.
God does it the right way every time. He doesn’t look at you with scorn or disappointment. He isn’t shaking His head because you messed up again. When we see God this way, it is because it is how we see ourselves. We end up making God in our image, assuming He would feel as we do or act as we would. We end up transferring our shame on Him, because of how we feel about ourselves.
What’s so amazing about God is that He isn’t us and He isn’t a broken human–His love is not dimmed by the Fall. He is love itself! He knows no other way.
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” (NLT)
Dear friend, I want to invite you to take a moment today and think of how you see God. Are there insecurities or broken places in your heart that are affecting how you perceive God’s love for you? Are you projecting how you feel about yourself onto God and how He feels about you?
Take stock of some of the things that come to mind and then go over the Scriptures in this devotional again. Meditate on the truths of God’s character and how He loves you. Sit in that space with Him for a little while and ask Him to help you form a more accurate view of Him.
I pray that as you begin to see the truth of who God is and how He sees you, that you will not fear coming to Him. Invite Him into your mess. Bring Him all your fears and your doubts. May the truth of His love settle deep in your heart. Your Heavenly Father delights in spending time with you. You are God’s beloved daughter, and you are so very precious and loved.
When my kids were little and I was just starting out in campus ministry with my husband, God revealed to us the need to have people in our home for a meal and games. I will admit that this was not a calling I had wanted. I was nervous. I had seen the magazine headlines on the covers of home and garden magazines, “How to Wow Your Guests in 3 Easy Steps.” Included with the heading was a picture of a nicely dressed woman, with perfectly styled hair, serving mountains of gourmet food on a crystal platter. The dining room in which she was serving her smiling guests was the size of my kitchen, dining room, and living room combined and was perfectly decorated.
After seeing those pictures, I knew having people over to my house for a social gathering was not a good idea. First of all, my hair is never perfectly done. Second, my house was a total of 1,008 square feet. And finally, I am not a gourmet cook. If I try to make something fancy, it never ends up right. Just ask my family. I was overwhelmed and incompetent, or so I thought.
God continued to nudge me, and I took my first step toward hospitality. I decided the four-person table that barely fit my family of four needed to be replaced with something bigger. I headed to Craigslist to find a used table. If I was lucky, I could find something similar to what the magazine cover showed, but for a reasonable price. My house was not big, but perhaps I could wow my guests with a beautiful table. All the used beautiful hardwood tables still cost thousands of dollars. I simply couldn’t afford them.
After a couple of weeks of looking, I finally found a table that was larger than the one I had, and for the price I could afford. It was not solid wood. It was made out of pressboard with a plastic laminate top. I was disappointed. How was I going to do good hospitality in a small house with a pressboard table? It turns out, with the help of God, I could do a lot of good hospitality with unimpressive things.
Because you see, God saw what I could not: that there is an epidemic of loneliness in the United States. Harvard University came out with an article recently that discusses this very thing. They found that one in three Americans frequently feel lonely. For mothers with young children, the percentage goes up to 51%. Then an amazing 61% of people ages 18-25 struggle with extreme loneliness.
That means that as we go to work, walk in the stores, and sit in our churches, we are surrounded by people who feel deprived of meaningful relationships with others. Perhaps you even fall into one of these categories.
This epidemic of loneliness is heartbreaking and it is a real problem that affects not just our hearts and minds, but our overall health as well. According to the study, “loneliness is linked to early mortality, and a wide array of serious emotional and physical problems.”
The fact is that many people just don’t feel loved and valued. They don’t feel they can be open and vulnerable and still be worthy of love and included in relationship. And it’s no wonder when we were created to be in community. We were made to rejoice with one another, and share each other’s burdens.
How do we combat this pervasive epidemic of loneliness? God, in His infinite wisdom, tells us the remedy. Hospitality.
Romans 12:13 simply states, “Practice hospitality.” A simple command to practice hospitality. But when I ask people if they intentionally invite people into their lives for a game night, a meal, or even a walk around the neighborhood, a majority tell me they couldn’t do it. When I ask why they are hesitant, they say they are afraid of doing it wrong. What if my house is too small? What if I cook the wrong thing? What if I say something wrong? All the what-ifs make them too afraid to ask another person into their life.
This fear comes from thinking of hospitality from a worldly view, instead of from a Biblical understanding of hospitality. In America, when we think of hospitality we think of the hospitality industry. Their goal is to make sure customers have every need met and are always comfortable. If we approach personal hospitality with this mindset, it’s so easy to overthink things and let the what-ifs take over. If we think we have to anticipate and cater to our guest’s every possible need to be a good host, it can feel like we’ll never truly be up for the task. But the hospitality industry is trying to make money. Biblical hospitality is about caring for souls.
The Greek word for hospitality in the New Testament literally means ‘loving strangers’. It’s not fancy dishes, perfectly decorated homes, or fancy food. If you have these gifts and you love to share them, by all means, do it! But in a country where our physical needs are often met, loving strangers is less about perfecting all the physical details, and more about addressing the emotional needs. It’s about creating an environment where meaningful conversations happen. A place where people can feel loved and valued.
This can be done in large, beautiful homes with gourmet food, or over frozen pizza on paper plates in a cluttered house. It doesn’t have to look like a Pinterest-perfect event. The key is being present with those you are with. It is simply loving the person in front of you with your time and attention because they are worth it and loved by God.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel totally at ease the first couple (or ten) times you practice hospitality. Just like anything else, stepping outside of your comfort zone to try something new takes practice.
After placing our “new” table in our dining room, I began my journey into the world of hospitality and I’d love to say I immediately felt at ease. Honestly, for a while, I was a complete wreck every time we had people over. I still stressed over all the details. Was the house clean enough? Did I cook the right thing? I had toddlers, so in my eyes, my house was never as clean as I wanted. I would try to bake or cook fancy things, but they never looked like the magazine picture. After a couple of years, my husband gently told me, “Quit stressing. Nobody cares about those details but you. They are here for the conversation and the company. Not for your fancy punch recipe.” He was right. No one complained about the food or the cleanliness of my house. They always left saying they wanted to do it again sometime.
And once I got past stressing over details, I realized God had been working in my clumsy attempts of hospitality the whole time. Over my laminate table, I got to listen to people share their joys, fears, and sorrows.
God provided the space for a young married couple to share that they were pregnant after only being married for 6 months and their fears of how they were going to pay for a baby while still in college.
At my laminate table, I listened to an Iraqi couple share the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s genocide of the Kurdish people. I got to rejoice with a couple who had recently eloped but hadn’t told many people yet. I celebrated job promotions with some and cried with others as they shared family heartaches.
We prayed with all of them and parted a little closer, a little less lonely, and feeling much more loved. In the process, my heart overflowed with the joy of being with each person, and the little details that once felt so huge and important paled in comparison to what God was doing.
I share my story because I want you to know the joy God has in store for you when you practice biblical hospitality. Not only will you be battling this national epidemic, but God will walk with you and bless you. You don’t have to invite someone over for a meal and games like my family does. You could invite them on a walk or to a playdate in the park. Maybe you could invite someone to a conversation over a hot beverage at a local coffee shop. Do what fits you and experiment. The goal is to simply love that person by giving your time and attention. Look at your calendar and find a time to ‘love a stranger’ and start transforming loneliness into community.
As my toddler, Daniel explored our backyard, I could feel my leg muscles starting to burn a little as I followed him around in a weird, traveling half-squat. Watch anyone with a toddler at the park and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. As silly as I looked, I wanted to keep Daniel within arms reach in case he ventured into terrain he wouldn’t be able to handle quite yet. At the same time, I also wanted him to enjoy the victory of conquering the yard without too much help from Mom. So I told myself the traveling half-squat would be my workout for the day and around the yard we went.
I watched him closely, keenly aware of his every move. I anticipated potential trips and stumbles, steered him around obstacles, and was ready at a moment’s notice to scoop him up in my arms or let him take a soft landing so he could learn what he can do under the safety of my watchful eye. It didn’t matter if Daniel was my third kid or my first, nobody knows him better than I do. I’m his mama, and I know him like the back of my hand.
We played in the yard for a while and after Daniel went down for his nap, I curled up on the couch with my coffee and my Bible. In this rare and precious moment of quiet, I was especially moved as I read Psalm 139:1-5.
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. (NLT)
It is a verse I must have read a hundred times, but today, it just struck me in a way that felt more real. You see, there are lots of days when it is easy to feel unseen, invisible, or unappreciated. But I realized reading this passage of Scripture, that today would not be one of them.
Instead, today would be a day when I could settle down into the truth that God knows everything about me, the good, the bad, and the ugly. While there was a time in my life that would have felt like a scary prospect, today I could rest comfortably in the knowledge that there’s not a moment in my day when I am not seen and loved beyond measure by my Heavenly Father.
He knows when I am going to sit down or stand up. He sees the obstacles in my path and steers me around them. He’s ready to scoop me up in His arms and rescue me from danger or let me take the soft landing so I can learn under the safety of His watchful eye.
Because of this, I can lean into the love of a God who knows my every thought, even before I have found the words. I can rest in the comfort of a Father who never gives up, who welcomes me with open arms, even after seasons where I may have wandered far away from Him. He is the God who knows my daily rhythms. He sits with me as I sip my coffee in the stillness before the chaos. He sees me when I am changing diapers, wiping noses, and folding laundry. He is there when I succeed, and when I cry in the shower after a hard day.
The truth is, I can go through every day secure in the One who goes before me and follows behind me, in a Divine traveling half-squat, lovingly leading me at every turn. And at the end of the day, He places His sweet hand of blessing on my head, as I close my eyes, safe and secure because my God never sleeps. He watches over me day and night and tomorrow, He’ll do it all over again.
My friend, there is not a moment that God does not see you fully, know you completely, and love you beyond compare. He’s got you, more than you can comprehend. You are safe with Him. You need no explanations with Him. There’s no place too far that He cannot reach you, no height or depth that He cannot go to save you. Lean into His love. Hunker down in that truth, wrap up in it like a warm hug. You are absolutely precious to Him, simply because you are His.
The shortest sentence in the Bible yet one of the most profound statements ever uttered.
These two words can seem so insignificant–they are just two words in the midst of a bigger story. In fact, it’s so easy to even blow right past them as we are reading the story of Lazarus. They are just two simple words but they have been speaking volumes to my heart.
In recent days, I find myself understanding the depth of those words more and more. They are resonating with my soul. My heart has been so heavy these past several weeks. The shooting in Uvalde has me weeping for all the mothers and fathers. I’m a mother and I can’t even begin to comprehend this horrific tragedy and so many like them. As I see the news and hear reports from missionary friends in the Ukraine, my heart breaks yet again for the people who are experiencing such great suffering and loss. Two weeks ago, I lost my Aunt who has been struggling with multiple sclerosis for many years. She was too young to die.
It’s not supposed to be this way. Every time I face the death of a loved one, every time I hear of a tragedy on the news, every time a friend gets bad news from the doctor, these words ring in my ears. It’s not supposed to be this way.
I can feel deep in my soul–this ache that is more than just heartache, it is a deep longing for what God had intended for this world. He never intended for us to have to live in a broken world full of such suffering and loss. As I struggle with all the emotions that come with the heartache of this world, my heart has found comfort in the story of Lazarus in John 11:1-44. Starting in verse 17 it says:
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Reading this story recently, I was caught off guard by the two little words, “Jesus wept”. When I usually read this story, I get so caught up in what is about to happen and how Jesus is going to save the day, that I miss the middle part where Jesus stops to weep with Mary and Martha. Have you ever wondered why Jesus wept?
Jesus knew he had the power to fix this. He knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet he still stood next to Lazarus’ loved ones, in front of the grave stone and wept. Why did he weep? Why didn’t he just turn to Mary and Martha and say, “now, now it’s going to be ok. No need to cry. I’ll fix everything.”?
What I find so comforting about this story is that Jesus didn’t just rush past the grieving and move straight to the resurrection. No, instead he took the time to stand next to them and weep with them. He met them in their grief. He came alongside them, into the midst of their situation and wept with them.
Lazarus was his friend too and he loved him dearly, but I believe that Jesus wept for more than just the death of his friend. Since he knew he was about to bring him back to life, there had to be more to his tears. I can only imagine that Jesus wept because it pained him to see those around him in such heartache. I believe Jesus wept over the brokenness in this world. He wept for the fall of creation, he wept for the pain his beloved were in, he wept over the heartbreak of death itself.
It’s not supposed to be this way.
I can imagine that was what was going through Jesus’ mind too as he stood there weeping. Weeping for the pain of the world, weeping for what had been lost.
Heartache and pain was never God’s intention for the world or for us. Humanity sinned in the Garden of Eden and death stole in–decay, destruction, evil, malice and the like. The world is now broken, we are broken and our hearts break again and again each time we are reminded that the world isn’t as it should be.
Maybe your heart is breaking too. Please know Jesus is right there beside you. He is strong enough to stand in the midst of your grief and weep with you too. Your heartache is his heartache. God longs for so much more for his children. When we grieve, He takes the time to comfort us but he doesn’t stop there. God has been at work since sin first came and broke the world, to restore everything to the way it was supposed to be.
Even though Martha had hope of the resurrection someday, Jesus gives her even greater hope. He sits with her in her grief and isn’t content to leave her with the hope of someday, but gives her hope in the present by revealing that he isthe resurrection and the life. Through our belief in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have hope right now that death does not win. It may think it has won but the story isn’t over.
Jesus has already conquered death and defeated the evil powers of this world and will return someday to complete the restoration and resurrection he has started. Like me, maybe you have a deep longing for that day! We long to see God finish His glorious work of restoring this world to its original intention. To bring us to the day where He will wipe every tear from our face. A day where there will be no more need for tears because He has made all things new again.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Until then, we wait in hope knowing it’s not supposed to be this way—and it won’t always be this way. Just like when Jesus stood before Lazarus’ tomb, he knows that there will be a day when he is coming back to make things right again. And until that day comes, we can be comforted by a God who will stay by our side through the trials of this life and weep alongside us in our grief, reminding us that the day is coming when there will be no need for tears anymore.
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19, NLT
This past month, I had the opportunity to catch up with a friend who’s been going through a challenging season. She told me that for the past few years it has been one thing after another. Her difficulties ranged from the things like COVID, unrest in the world, returning to the workplace, a serious medical condition for a family member, and inconveniences like her washing machine breaking down, finding new daily rhythms in life as her kids still do a mix of in-person and online schooling and feeling a lack of energy. She told me every time she thinks life is going to get back to “normal” something else happens.
Have you ever experienced a season like that? I have and so did the prophet Habakkuk. In chapter 3, we read that Habakkuk is watching as the country he lives in keeps experiencing one setback after another. First, the fig trees didn’t blossom, which meant no figs to enjoy. Maybe not a huge problem, if you are like some folks who don’t like figs to begin with. Then they lost the grapes, which meant no wine to be had. Again, if you are not a wine drinker, you can live with this loss. However, losing the olive crop started impacting everyone because that meant no oil for cooking or lighting lamps. Then the grain fields didn’t produce, which impacts the food supply chain and the last blow is they lost their livestock. Things looked bleak. Yet, Habakkuk doesn’t end his writings with despair, but rather with delight.
What caused him to have remarkable hope even though the world seemed to be falling apart? Habakkuk knew that his hope was not rooted in his circumstances, but rather in his Creator. Even though the crops and everything else may fail, Habakkuk knew that God never fails. Habakkuk drew joy and strength from his hope in the God of His salvation.
Habakkuk’s hope was not built on wishful thinking or just positive affirmations, but on God’s character, acts and promises. So, what can you do if you are in a season in your life when things seem to be falling apart all around you and things on the horizon don’t look any better?
Refocus on the Bigness of God: On my water bottle is a sticker that reminds me to “set your mind on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2, NLT). I use it as a daily reminder that all of my “even thoughs” are just temporary and that even though they may seem impossible for me, for God they are not. The truth is, the challenges that we are dealing with might linger on longer than we desire, but God cares deeply about the hurts, the frustrations, and the annoyances we feel. However, we must intentionally choose to refocus on the bigness of God not the bigness of our problems or emotions. How do we refocus? By remembering who God is and the promises He gives like: that He is loving, that He cares about the details of our lives, that He promises to rescue us, that He is ever-present. As we hold onto and declare these truths, we can then refocus on the bigness of God who promises to always be with us no matter what season we are going through.
Yield to Yet: In verse 18 Habakkuk utters three little letters, but together they produce a powerful word–”YET”. He says that even though all these challenges were happening “YET, I will rejoice in the Lord.” He creates a new perspective. So, the next time your day is falling apart, try this practice. Grab a scrap of paper and write out: Even though ___ and _____; even though ___ and _____; YET I will rejoice in the Lord! It might sound something like this: “Even though I am losing my job and income; even though my hot water heater needs to be fixed and I cannot get a repair man here until Friday; even though my kids are fighting and not getting along; YET I will rejoice in the Lord!” This can be your way of declaring your trust in the Lord and His faithfulness, even when you are feeling afraid and out of control.
Grab on to Gratitude: I was listening to Brene Brown’s “Unlocking Us” podcast recently and her guest talked about how she had been practicing gratitude for many years and because of this habit she was able to find something to be grateful for even as her family dealt with the tragedies from hurricane Harvey. She said that even though her house was filling with water, there were kind friends who opened up their house and gave them shelter from the storm. Gratitude allows us to turn our focus away from our problems and turn our attention to the ways that God is providing for us in the midst of the storm. Gratitude enabled Habakkuk to rejoice in a bad-to-worse situation. I know it has definitely helped me through some tough seasons. And it can help you with any challenging situation you are facing, too.
There have been a lot of “even thoughs” these past two years globally and personally, but we don’t have to lose hope. Even though there is war, even though there are gas shortages, even though we may be experiencing loss or failure, YET we can return to joy in God and be lifted to new heights.
Heavenly Father, please help us to remember that nothing is too big for you to handle. Help us to be grateful instead of grumbling when hard things come our way. Remind us of your greatness so we are not overwhelmed by the size of our problems. Thank you that you are with us always and that our strength lies not in ourselves but in you. Like Habakkuk, we choose to root our joy in you and rejoice in the God of our salvation! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
As the war in Ukraine stretches on, my heart has been heavy for the friends I know there, for the families separated, for those mourning losses, all while fighting for their freedom. I’ve heard countless stories of people helping one another and of God working in their midst through neighbors and friends. Stories of neighborhood women feeding soldiers on the front lines, moms leaving strollers at border train stations for parents who had to leave all their belongings behind, and soldiers throwing a birthday party for a little boy who was waiting with his family to flee to safety.
From where I sit, in peace and safety, I feel helpless to intervene, and frustrated and overwhelmed by all I see and hear in the news. My heart breaks for the tragedy I see unfolding and I find myself longing for God’s comfort and reassurance that He is present and working in this terrible situation.
A friend of mine in Ukraine was recently sharing how much comfort and hope she, and other people in Ukraine are finding in the Psalms. Another missionary echoed her thoughts, saying “The heartfelt pleas, angry outbursts, explosions of joy and moments of peaceful stillness -all match the rollercoaster of feelings happening within my own heart.”
One of my favorite verses that has brought me comfort and peace is Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. In the past it has been a gentle reminder of God’s sovereignty, love, and provision, especially in times of stress and difficulty. When life feels overwhelming and I feel helpless to change my circumstances, this verse invites me to rest before the Lord and remember that God is already powerfully at work.
Today, however, I read the whole Psalm instead of just my favorite verse and noticed some things I hadn’t noticed before. My favorite verse that brings me so much peace is surrounded by scriptures describing chaos and destruction. In verses 2 and 3, Scripture paints a picture of a world in tumult and crisis—mountains falling down, and oceans roaring and foaming. In verse 6 it speaks of nations in uproar and kingdoms falling. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the state of the world today and all we are witnessing in Ukraine. This part of Psalm 46 that had once felt so removed and abstract in times of peace, now hit hard and close to the heart.
But all of this chaos described in Psalm 46 is also contrasted with the true and steady character of God. He is described in verse 1 as an “ever-present help” in trouble, our refuge, our safe place. In verse 7, we are reminded that God is with us. And in verses 8-9 our eyes fall upon the hopeful promise that God will bring about an end to fighting and strife and make wars cease.
The truth is, God is far bigger and more powerful than any worst-case scenario we can imagine, and I can imagine a lot! Even when the world seems out of control, God is always in control, so there’s no reason to be afraid. This amazing truth was exactly what my heart needed to remember.
In verse 10, God is giving a gentle but powerful command to us to “be still” and know that He is God. He speaks to our frantic hearts with the same loving authority that He commands the winds and the waves. He calls us to surrender, cease striving, and rest assured with absolute certainty, that He is God.
So dear friend, when our newsfeed is filled with turmoil and chaos, and we feel helpless against the overwhelming troubles of the world, be still and know that He is God. He is the same God who parted the Red Sea, who freed captives and delivered nations and is at work this very moment. He is a mighty fortress and faithful deliverer. He is an ever-present help and He hears our prayers. We don’t have to fear, He is mighty to save.
Almighty God and Father,
Our world feels chaotic and overwhelming. As war and turmoil continue in Ukraine, our hearts are heavy with sorrow for those who are suffering. We pray for those who are weary and long to find refuge and rest under your wing. Be their ever-present help and hope. Be a fortress around them, and shield them from evil. Make wars cease, that you may be exalted in all the earth.
When our own anxiety rises, help us to be still, and remember that you are greater than anything we will see or experience in this world. You alone are strong enough to hold us steady when the wind and waves threaten to take us down. Help us to lean into your loving arms and feel the power of your presence and peace.