I wasn’t alone, but I had a friend who was with me. She didn’t allow me to suffer alone. She didn’t stand outside my grief and talk to me from without, but came near enough to allow the rawness to touch her. She cried; she wondered; she listened and she sat. She was like a shadow on a sunny day. She kept showing up. She was fiercely persistent.
In our grief, we remember the ones who show up. Jesus shows us how to be one who does.
In John 11, there is a story I have always been fascinated by. Jesus’ good friend Lazarus died and friends and family were grief-stricken. The One who raised the dead had a close friend who died. No wonder Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters, were perplexed. Surely Jesus could have prevented the heartache. Had He come earlier, there would have been no grief, no tears and no funeral. He could have just showed up, marched up to that closed up tomb and called Lazarus out, but that’s not what He did. First, He allowed grief to touch Him and then John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept“ (emphasis added). He chose to feel the grief. He took a moment to sit in their space and feel what they felt. He felt the pain and allowed Himself to be moved by it. There is profound power when grief is shared by another. Entering another’s grief allows us to partner with God to bring healing to a hurting heart.
Jesus was the exact representation of who God is and the story of Lazarus reveals God’s heart towards us. God comes to us with compassion in our hard spaces. He doesn’t watch us from afar, but comes near. He is not distant, but sits with us in our difficult moments. He is not unfeeling or uncaring, but chooses to feel deeply when we are in pain. He is not a God who does not allow emotion to touch Him but voluntarily moves into those places with us. We can come to Him no matter what it is we are carrying and be sure of His tender compassion and care. We are never alone. He is with us. Sometimes He comes near us through another, just as my friend did for me.
We, too, can learn to be near others as Jesus was. We can choose to enter into other’s places of grief and offer our tears. Through shared tears, healing eventually comes.
Memory Verse: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
In Deuteronomy 11, remembering what God had done is directly linked to obedience. We will not obey a God we do not think we can trust. The chapter begins in verse 1 with Moses declaring that the Israelites are to love God and keep his statutes, ordinances, and commands. Next he reminds them in verses 2-7 that although they had seen firsthand God’s discipline, deliverance from Egypt, provision in the wilderness, and holiness displayed, their children had not. Their children needed the stories to build their faith in the holy and good God until they had stories of their own. In verse 19, Moses makes it clear they were to teach their children God’s commands daily and in ordinary moments: sitting at home, walking, at bedtime and in the morning. Their stories told to the next generation would pass on knowledge of God’s greatness, goodness and holiness. The commands were what they needed to do, but the stories revealed who they were obeying. Without remembering, their children would not know God’s heart or holiness and laws would become arbitrary and disconnected from a good God. Obedience requires trust in a good God.
Faith travels through stories. Sharing our faith with the next generation not only means sharing beloved truths and Bible stories but also new stories. The stories where God shows up in our ordinary lives teach our children the faithfulness of God and encourage them to follow Him in their ordinary lives. Stories build faith and obedience rests on faith.
It is our forgetfulness of God that causes us to lose faith and eventually disobey. When we don’t remember who God is or what He has done, we begin to put more faith in ourselves or things around us than in Him. Tragically, eventually the Israelites forgot and turned from God. Forgetting is easy when remembering isn’t intentionally woven into the fabric of our lives. Stories preserved become a foundation for faith and obedience to be built upon.
As parents of God’s created, we are tasked with the responsibility of teaching Him to them in normal, everyday life. We are storytellers. They learn about Him in Bible stories and teaching His ways, but also through personal stories we tell. Not only do stories help our children to remember, but they help us and others who hear. We easily forget, but we can choose to remember. Let’s be ones who remember and tell the stories of God’s kind generosity and faithfulness to us.
Memory Verse: “In the night, Lord, I remember your name, that I may keep your law.” Psalm 119:55
Since that day, I have heard so many stories. Perhaps, I had heard them before but not really heard them?
So many stories.
I realized these women had a perspective not unlike Paul.
Paul, a hero to many, endured much during his lifetime but always seemed to respond in joy. It was almost as if he sailed above it all. In Acts 23, the secret to his joy becomes apparent. He was living according to God’s story.
Imprisoned for years and brought in front of many leaders, he shared his testimony over and over again and often to big crowds of influential people. A glimpse into how Paul saw his life can be found in Acts 23:11, ‘The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'"
The truth was revealed! God was using Paul’s imprisonment to give him opportunities to testify and bring the Gospel where it would not have gone. Paul’s small story was difficult, inconvenient, hard and full of physical and emotional pain, but through the lens of the larger story he could see the eternal impact.
What if we began to see the hard circumstances in our lives as a place of opportunity? Maybe even the mundane moments we often find ourselves in actually have us strategically placed to display God’s love and hope to those around us. No matter what season of life we find ourselves, every day is an invitation to partner with God and what He is doing in the lives of those around us. We do not do this alone, because He has promised to be with us no matter what season we are in! May God give us the perspective to see our lives through His eyes.
Memory Verse: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV
I ran to get the ruby necklace and put it on. The little necklace helped me get my bearings and remember not only who I am but who I am created to be. It gave me the courage to go to God and ask for forgiveness. Simply remembering changed the course of the entire day. Knowing who we are changes how we live.
Even Jesus’ ministry started with God declaring Jesus’ identity.
In Matthew 3:16, immediately before beginning His ministry, Jesus approached John to be baptized. When Jesus came up out of the water, God the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Immediately after God’s declaration, Matthew 4 tells us Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted. After forty days of fasting, the devil came to him and questioned Jesus’ identity saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). That statement was an attempt to get Jesus to question His identity and then feel the need to prove who He was. Jesus was so firmly established in who He was, He felt no need to prove Himself. Instead Jesus replied in verse 4, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Bringing Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, Satan once again tempted him to prove Himself in verse 6 saying, “If you are the Son of God... throw yourself down.” Jesus answered, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Mt 4:7). He again did not succumb to the temptation to prove Himself because His identity was firmly established. The Father’s truth was stronger than the fleshly need.
That little necklace reminded me of who I am and helped me resist the temptation to act like who I am not. Whenever I get a bit testy, I have found I am often trying to protect a piece of my threatened identity, but when I remember who I am to God, that need dissipates.
You may not have a little necklace to remind you of what is true, but remembering who we are has the power to change us. We will act like who we believe we are. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, through Him we are:
We do not need to prove who we are because God has already declared it. As His children, we get to live in the identity HE has given us.
Memory Verse: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” I Peter 2:9 NIV
When he approached, God spoke to Moses and told him He had chosen him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses was not exactly excited about the idea. He immediately was aware of his lack of qualifications and asked “Who am I?” in Exodus 3:11. He knew he did not have what it would take to lead thousands of people out of the grip of an evil Pharaoh and into freedom. He was not enough and he knew it, but God was not asking him to do it alone.
God did not answer Moses’ fear with assurances that he did indeed have what it would take to do the impossible task. He did not even tell Moses how amazing he was or that he was made for the moment. God’s plan did not rest on Moses’ ability to lead the mass exodus. His response in Exodus 3:12 was, “I will certainly be with you…” That’s enough, but Moses still was not convinced. In Exodus 4:10, Moses reminds God that speaking was not something he was good at. That didn’t deter God either. God reminded Moses in 4:11 that He was the One who had created Moses’ mouth, would give him the words to say and would teach him along the way. God is not concerned with our ability, but with our obedience. The question is not, ‘Who am I?’ but rather ‘Who is He?’
The loud voices in our culture bombard us with messages that we are enough, but the problem is, we know deep down we actually are not. We try hard and succeed in one thing only to fail at another. When I sat in my chair that early morning, relief flooded my mind as I realized ‘enough’ is an unattainable and an always moving goal.
Thankfully, God has never asked us to be enough. He has asked us to do life with Him instead. He IS enough and always will be. He has all we need in any situation we face. He readily gives wisdom to all who ask and loves to respond when we call. The truth is, we are not left to do life on our own but are invited into a life WITH Him. When we are at a loss, He never is. He is an endless supply of wisdom, grace and all we could ever need. He is the only one who truly knows every part of every situation. He knows the past, present and future. He has invited us to ask Him for wisdom when we don’t have it. We are not enough, and that is okay because He is.
Memory Verse: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 NIV
The story of mankind laid out in God’s Word is much like the stories I loved to read. There is a Hero, a villain, and a people who need rescue. The story starts out beautifully, only to have something dark and sinister captivate the beloved. There is One who is stronger than the villain, ready to do what it takes to rescue. In this story, the weak become strong, the broken become whole, the sinful become righteous, and the shamed are healed. Sadness turns to joy, and despair turns to hope. Chaos is turned to order, and what is wrong is made right again.
Revelation is the final chapter when all things are complete and all is made new. The villain is conquered, the pain is relieved, the relationship is restored— there is happily ever after.
In Revelation 21:3-5a, the Apostle John shares his God-given vision. He says, “Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: ‘Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.’ Then the one seated on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new.’”
Though we don’t live in Happily Ever After yet, this message is hope for us today. Because of Jesus, we are invited to know Him and live a life of intimacy with Him now, but in the future there is so much more promised for those who put their hope in Him. Knowing how the story ends anchors our hearts through the twists and turns of life. We can know whatever trial we are going through will not last forever.
Stories with tragic endings like untimely death and loss are not the final chapter. We may not like the chapter we’re in, but we can be sure of the ending because the last hope-filled chapter is promised. We will once again be with God and see Him as he truly is. We will be unhindered by sin and its effects and every ounce of grief, sadness and pain will no longer be ours.
Knowing the final chapter of God’s story, and the story of mankind makes life worth living. Today, let us lift our eyes above our present trouble, and fix our eyes on our promised Hope.
With our eyes on the future and the One Who holds it all, we can be courageous to face our day. The end of the story is not our small story, our pain or even our joys, but the end of our story and the story of us all is being with the One who created us all and loves with an intensity we cannot comprehend.
As it turns out, God created us to be reflections of who we spend time with and what we turn our attention to. We were designed for intimacy with Him, and intended to reflect His goodness and grace.
I Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, to contemplate something means “to think carefully or deeply about something.”
The surest way to any transformation is the way we think. We can be transformed for the better or for the worse depending on who or what we contemplate.
How often do we contemplate...
The “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios and become filled with anxiety?
How we’ve been wronged and find ourselves bitter and filled with unforgiveness?
Everything our marriage is not and find our marriage degrading into further turmoil?
How we’ve messed up with our kids and fallen into further burdensome shame?
On what others have (or have not) in comparison to us and become envious or prideful?
The truth is, we become like who or what we behold. The surest way to become who God originally created us to be is to spend our time looking in the right direction. When we look to Him, our perspective begins to change to what is true. When we look at the wrong things, we begin to believe lies rather than truth (much like what happened with my hair situation.)
What if, instead of the negative, we began to contemplate…
God who is with us no matter what life holds for us?
God who loves us, defines who we are, and is the defender of our hearts?
God who fights with us for the good and restoration of relationships?
God who is our Forgiver and the Lifter of our heads?
God who is the One who loves to satisfy us with Himself and teaches us to walk in humility?
As Christ-followers, we should be becoming a little more like Jesus each day. Today, take special notice of what your mind is focusing on. Are they thoughts of comparison, shame, or pride? Or are they thoughts towards Jesus, His truth, His perfection, and His glory?
If we begin to find ourselves wandering towards old ways of thinking, let’s turn our focus back and contemplate the God Who is with us, fighting for us and bigger than any situation we could ever face.
I didn’t realize it then, but this mission can be summed up in one of the most familiar prayers of all time; a prayer that Jesus Himself invited us to pray. The “Lord’s Prayer” is spoken far and wide, but when we really dig in, we find there is enough power to change our lives in the first two verses alone.
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name...’”
This prayer is a beautiful invitation into a different kind of life than the common self-reliant life most of us live. ‘Hallowed’ is a bit of an ancient word, but a synonym for the word is the word ‘honored.’ When we honor His name, we honor all of who He is. He is Provider, Healer, Friend, Banner (Victory), Shepherd, Peace, Refuge, Present, Righteousness, Holy, Love, and so much more.
Can you imagine if we rehearsed who He is every single day in this prayer? I imagine our fears would be calmed, our trust would deepen, we would be inwardly at rest and our identity would become fixed in Him. Focusing on God shifts perspective, gives courage and promotes love. It changes who we are and in turn changes how we live. Looking at Him paves the way for the next verse.
“‘...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’”
When we pray these words, we are asking for His Kingdom ways to infiltrate the earth. It can feel overwhelming to pray this until we realize His ‘Kingdom come’ is simply the result of individuals living differently. When we live with a “Your Kingdom come, your will be done” mentality, we begin to live our days on mission. We want HIS will to be done, not our own. This kind of heart changes our actions. We don’t get to choose other’s choices, but we always get to choose ours.
His ‘Kingdom come’ in our lives may look like…
Handling a temper tantrum with grace
Responding well when offended
Staying up late speaking life to a hurting friend
Welcoming others into our home with open arms
How many of the most important moments of Jesus’ ministry were, at the time, seemingly small and inconsequential? What if ‘His Kingdom come’ isn’t always a splashy moment in time, but a display of His grace, love and kindness in our hard world? What if like our friend’s home, our homes become a refuge, a sanctuary of sorts where His Kingdom ways are operating more and more?
What if we lived like that wherever we find ourselves? Never perfect, but always growing.
Father, who is above and over all, honored be your name. May YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done, in our lives and in our homes as it is in Heaven today.
Memory Verse: “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:9-10, NIV
Growing up, I was a sticker on a chart sort of girl. Little rows of boxes filled with shiny stars marking perfect attendance, good behavior, and recited verses motivated me to continue.
When I entered motherhood, mental charts replaced physical ones:
Patience today? Sorry, no sticker!
Kindness? There were a couple moments...
Peace? If you count laying down in the middle of the chaos imagining myself at the beach, then I guess yes.
Time for husband?
Time for friends?
Time for other important things?
I had a spiritual chart too. Enough Bible study, prayer, serving? I was never quite sure. Every night I bemoaned the missing stickers on my chart, and I was sure God was disappointed too.
The problem was, I was trying to work my way to God instead of living from what Jesus had already done. Instead of living my life IN Him, I was trying to live my life to get TO Him. Those two ways of living are worlds apart.
As we read in Exodus, the Israelites frequently found themselves in the same predicament. They witnessed God part the Red Sea, then lead them as a shading cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. He provided manna for them to eat, and even made water pour out of a rock. God had been tender towards them, telling Moses to remind them in Exodus 19:4 that He had carried them on eagle’s wings and brought them to Himself. His purpose in delivering them was for them to be with Him. This always was and still is God’s heart. He has always wanted to do life with us, since the Garden of Eden.
In Exodus 20:1-17 God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. These laws were an invitation to live a different kind of life— a life of wholeness and holiness. A life in good relationship with both people and God… and isn’t that what we all truly want?
Two times the Israelites declare, with all the gusto of good intention, “We will do everything the Lord has said!” However, the people found themselves in a place of wanting to do the right thing, but continually failing. They constantly teetered between faithfulness and faithlessness, leading to more sin and frustration.
Their good intentions weren’t enough. (They never are!) The Israelites desperately needed something else— a Savior.
Jesus came to fulfill what we could not. Because of Jesus, we no longer just do the right things outwardly, but become the right kind of people. Perfection is no longer required because He is perfect.
In Hebrews 4:14-16, we are told Jesus is our great high priest who sympathizes with our every weakness. We are invited to come to His throne of grace where we will find kindness, forgiveness, hope and mercy. We don’t have to wait for the right time, the right place, the right person or the right ceremony. He is near us, beside us and walking with us no matter what our day looks like.
Living from what He’s already accomplished, we can come to Him readily, even on no-sticker days, knowing He loves us and always wants us close to Him.
Devotionals by Author
All Abby McDonald Angi Morrison Anne Say Audra Powers Breanna Faith Spearman Brenna Kurz Brittany Marlow Caroline Hultgren Courtney Filippin Dana Schaefer Danielle Biddy Debbie Burns Heather Kenny Jannetta Cox Jessica Parker Jess Ridgeway Joan Lavori Katelyn Wilson Katie Gibson Kelly Orlowski Kerri Barfield Keryn Stokes Kristen Williamson Laura Pendley Lindsay McNeely Lonette Baity Martha Rudolph Nancy Ehlinger Renee Robinson Saretta Wells Tara McGill Taylor Watkins Tierney Nashleanas Wendy Gerdes