I long for companionship when I am in pain.

I want someone to talk to me, weep with me, and sit with me. I want someone to put human flesh on God’s comfort. I need community.

This need always felt vaguely unspiritual. Until I saw that in Jesus’ darkest moments, he desired His friends’ presence.

Mark 14:32-34 says, “They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Clearly, this longing did not reflect a lack of trust in God or a fragile faith. It was simply human. God incarnate longed for human fellowship because God created us to live in community.

 

Sitting with our friends in their pain is a treasured gift. They rarely are looking for answers to their most profound questions or solutions to their pressing problems. Instead, they just want our presence.

Yet often it’s easier to tell stories, offer advice, recite a Bible verse, or even deliver a mini-sermon on optimism. We want them to feel instant relief, so we try to force their healing, fix their problems, or alleviate their doubts.

I’ll never forget a friend who stopped by after my son Paul died. She sat in the kitchen without making much conversation. Instead, she listened when I spoke about my pain. Since I didn’t want to be alone, her silent presence comforted me as I processed my grief.

So if your friend is suffering, try visiting them with no agenda but to be with them. Pray silently as you sit.

Trust that God is working and may bring about more healing and comfort as you “stay and keep watch” than your words ever could.

Life doesn’t always make sense, especially moments that hurt. It’s such a comfort to know that we have a Father in heaven who loves to restore what the enemy has stolen.

One beautiful tip for choosing healing can be found in the Book of Philemon, written by the Apostle Paul. Paul’s friend Philemon was a pastor whose runaway slave had met Paul and converted to Christianity. The former slave wanted to make things right with his former master, probably having some stolen goods, but he was afraid of being beaten if caught. So Paul penned a letter, beseeching the pastor to be kind for the sake of Christ. He also offered to help make things right.

“If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it (Philemon 1:18-19a),” Paul vowed.

This short letter offers a beautiful appeal to forgiveness, and tradition says that Philemon did forgive the former slave.

One day the Lord prompted me,

What if I wrote you this letter? Suppose I came to you asking, for the sake of our friendship, that you forgive someone who wronged you?

Suddenly I realized that Paul’s letter is a picture of what Jesus asks of us. He never reasons away guilt or denies the hurt caused.

Instead, he asks us to forgive for his sake. Then he goes a step further.

If your offender owes you anything, put that on my account. I will repay.

This idea is a powerful key to the forgiveness process!

“Father,” I often pray, “I choose to forgive this person because of how You’ve shown me mercy.”

Then I take a quick inventory of what I felt “robbed” of. Was my self-worth robbed? Did I feel taken advantage of? Am I feeling the loss of a friendship? Whatever it is, I know that my Father in Heaven desires wholeness for me. With this in mind, I’ll pray,

“Lord, I put these needs on your account and ask you to meet them. You are a good Father who delights to give us good gifts!”

I can’t tell you how many times God has responded to this prayer! By shifting my expectations to focus on God whose very name is Faithful and True, I’m practicing forgiveness and creating an opportunity for Christ to restore in his way and time.

He is the faithful Father!

As a news reporter, I consulted with my team in a hurried phone conference about our upcoming trip to Cairo. Should we still go, in light of the political unrest? Multitudes were in Tahrir Square protesting. The military unsuccessfully tried to quell the building rage since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. So while I apprehensively voted “yes,” secretly, I was both terrified and excited.

As I headed to my gate, I tried to calm my steadily building nerves the morning of my trip. I prayed and asked God for courage while the news from Egypt got progressively worse.

Then, I heard a chime from my phone. A friend sent me the following text:

“Dear friend, I am praying Isaiah 52:12 for you over the next week. ‘You will not leave in a hurry, running for your lives. For the Lord will go ahead of you; yes, the God of Israel will protect you from behind.’

So take heart in this reassurance. With God as your rear guard, there is nothing to fear. Be the hands and feet of Jesus with confidence. Tell their stories.”

God gave her a word of encouragement that was so apt to my circumstances. I even thought about the smoke and fire pillars that led Israel in their exodus out of Egypt) I envisioned the Israelites’ obedience in moving forward, knowing God made the path and watched over them.

Even though Isaiah 52:12 speaks about God delivering the Jews from Babylon, Isaiah’s promise applies to Christ’s salvation to all people. The reassurance of God going before as the advance force and also covering me as a rearguard brought a whole new meaning to the reality that “God’s got my back.”

When someone comes to me asking for advice on an uncertain path or decision, I imagine that the God of the Universe says to them: “For the Lord will go ahead of you; yes, the God of Israel will protect you from behind.”

Then, move forward boldly.

I just turned 64, but I’m not asking what the Beatles asked: “Will you still need me? Will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” I am asking something else.

It started when I hit 40. That day I went for a walk on the loop of our gravel road, my husband and our kids. I had just started to color my hair, which was greying around my face. When I was eighty, I decided, I would go shopping in a purple jogging suit. I would wear bright red lipstick until I died. I would be kind and generous but feisty and wear whatever I like.

When I turned 50, my husband threw me a party. A houseful of friends came for lunch. Ten years older than me, Sue gave me the best present of all: “I loved my fifties. It was the best decade ever.” Our mothers and fathers died suddenly. I scattered stones. I mourned. I wondered how to live with such losses.

Then I turned 60. My sons and then my daughter got married. I spent my days locked in closets wrestling with God, writing books. I traveled. I taught. I wore bright lipstick every day, even to the gym, where I tortured my muscles and felt glad to be alive.

At 64 now, I am working harder with more joy. I no longer feel alone. I have people who come alongside me and beloved learners all over the globe. I’m a grandmother twice over, soon three. Even when I feel unworthy and inadequate, I no longer let that stop me from doing everything God puts in my heart.

But I know that someday I will lay it all down. I will arrive where the writer of Ecclesiastes arrives at the end of the book in chapter 12:3, at the door of the house of the bent old woman looking through the windows—seeing dimly. Soon, my “dust will return to the earth,” and my “spirit will return to God who gave it.”

 

I’m closer now to that house than I’ve ever been before. We all are. We’re standing on the porch before that cracked door. I don’t want to be afraid. Because the one who has filled my empty cup every day of my 64 years, he’ll still be there. Listen to what Isaiah says:

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (Is. 46:4)

Dear ones, please don’t resist Him any longer. Let him carry you—all the way through that door.

There’s a Life that Jesus died for us to have.

It’s already set, already in Place,

a Life of Promises fulfilled,

where Good Cheer prevails,

despite the Trials and Tribulations we see.

It’s the simple Life of Faith and Grace that is easily preached.

Yet, it is more complex to Live,

especially on a daily basis.

I found this out first hand recently when my pastor came to stay at our house for a few days. During the first night, my family and I were excited to have our special guest staying at our home. 

However, by the second day, the excitement began to wane and our daily routine started to kick in. And with it, came our normal daily challenges that often turned into disagreements. I almost always ended up saying things I should not have said.

This time, my Pastor was there to witness it first hand, but didn’t say a word, instead, just observed. The next day, she lovingly talked to me privately about what she witnessed and reminded me it’s our daily lives that bear witness to what we truly believe.

John 10:10 says Jesus came

to give us a Rich and Satisfying Life.

But how do we Tap into this?

How do we Experience Christ in Everyday Life?

Enter Grace.

Looking over my Life,

how quickly things can change day by day,

I cannot obtain All God has for me

by my works Alone.

“And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.” (Romans 11:6)

This Faith Life is activated

by what we Believe of God’s Word.

His Word tells us

what we Achieve is by His Grace.

His Word reminds us that God’s Grace is all we need. His power works best in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Enter Faith.

So as our daily lives continue to take shape,

let us be Reminded that

God is really looking for our Faith.

“But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” (Luke 18:8b)

At the end of the day,

This is what will be

Pleasing in God’s sight.

Let’s stay in Faith and be Encouraged in Grace.

We all know the phrase, “It is better to give than to receive.” Leslie and Cassandra gave their voices.

Leslie, our reader for Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Micah and Jonah said,

“I’ve been a student of God’s word all my life. I know that God’s word is written to all people, in all places, at all times. And yet, I’d only heard the Bible read by men.

“I never thought that was a barrier until I heard women reading God’s Word. And it felt like a veil lifted for me. I know that God loves women. Hearing God’s word in women’s voices has helped me experience God’s love for me personally.”

Cassandra, our reader for Genesis, Proverbs, Hosea and Joel shared,

“I’m so honored to be a part of this project. I mean it, from the bottom of my heart.

“When I am recording, I think about a villager on the mountains in the Himalayas. Because the world has become so small and there are no limitations as to where sound can go, so why not let the Word of God be disseminated in these places? To the far-flung corners of the world.”

One such listener in a far-flung corner of the world is Carril in Trinidad and Tobago. Carril received comfort through her.BIBLE voices, like Leslie and Cassandra, when her dad recently passed away. (To see Carril’s story in full, click here).

“It was so traumatic for me. I could not read my Bible, but I knew I needed God. I needed his comfort, but through the tears, I just could not see to read. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to read while crying, but everything is a blur. I remembered the her.BIBLE app on my phone! I just let the Word of God wash over me and comfort me. It offered an added comfort in a female voice because it was almost motherly.”

Would you like to reach more listeners like Carril who are longing to hear God’s word? Your one time or monthly gift of any amount will help us complete the Old Testament and encourage people’s hearts around the world. (You can give online here.)

Thank you and may you have a blessed holiday season!

For many, the vision of a little child running carefree brings feelings of joy and delight. However, for me, I became branded by severely painful life experiences from toddler age, and I graduated with honors in living out the results.

Subsequently, the word ‘victim’ felt stamped across my forehead, like a clearance item holding little value. After each traumatic experience, I took on labels – the burn victim, the sexual abuse casualty, the parental betrayal recipient, the grief-stricken mother, the domestic abuse target, the depressed and the neglected.

Never did I identify myself through the eyes of who God says I am.

Being raised around destructive forces created blinders, making it more of a challenge to accept how God viewed me, as I only could see how life treated me. It took almost my entire life to accept “I am not my circumstances.” It is easy to fall into the trap of defining our worth based on what has or has not occurred in our life.

From there, failure can easily find its way to the depths of our hearts. After so much trauma, our identity and worth naturally come from others’ estimations of us. And, yet others’ opinions are often problematically revealed through their own brokenness.

One thing I know to be true is the Creator’s view of us never alters. On the contrary, it is always consistent and full of delight for His children.

Taking ownership of this truth changed me from a “damaged goods” outlook to the beautiful proclamation that I am a loveable child of God. “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12).

No matter what horror or loss has occurred in our lives, God has already decided to love us anyway (Romans 5:8). Being a part of His family brings so much richness.

We are all now loved, forgiven, treasured, deserving, protected, beautiful and worthy.

His identity for us is the only one identity worth embracing.

“As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” Jeremiah 18:6b

In Biblical times, potters were necessary components of a community. They produced the dishes, containers, cooking implements, and storage pieces needed by everyone in daily living. Biblical imagery is often lost on us because potters today are artisans who create for display rather than everyday needs.

Clay was readily available in Palestine in Jesus’ time. When gathered, it required preparation before use because it was either too wet, too crumbly, or filled with sticks and pebbles. Potters often had helpers who would clean the clay—much like the Holy Spirit, God’s Helper, who reminds us how to live in holiness.

Two essential steps were required to make valuable ceramics. The first was kneading, creating consistency in texture so the pot would hold up when fired. This step was hard work, with persistent pressure that works out air bubbles that could ruin a pot.

When the clay was ready for the wheel, the next important step was centering the clay while the wheel turned to make a uniformly consistent pot. Clay is not cooperative; its very nature moves from the center while the wheel is spinning. Force is needed to shape and center the pot; the potter leans his elbows against his knees to apply equal pressure from both hands. We fight centering; our hearts are prone to wander.

When the pot is finished, it is set aside to dry completely. Moisture causes breakage when fired. When it’s bone dry, it’s in its most fragile state. It’s then fired, and the intense heat is what makes it strong and resilient. The second firing glazes and seals it to make it ready for use. Potters rarely fired single pieces; many were fired together to fill his kiln. We’re still fired in community, made to bear each other’s burdens.

It’s not the pot that makes the difference; the potter knows what He wants to accomplish through His creation. Too often, we have “pot envy”–wanting to be like someone else. But who we are is His unique design for us. Submitting to the potter gives Him the freedom to make us according to His intention.

My friends and I rolled out of bunk beds early and headed for the start of the Shadow of the Giants trail race. The air was brisk. “Three, two, one, go!” the race director bellowed, his voice echoing through the forest. And we were off.

My lungs burned as we headed uphill through the grove of Sequoia trees at 5,000-feet elevation.

Inhale. Lift. Exhale. Lift. Inhale. Lift.

I tried to find the rhythm of my breath and feet to make it up that first five miles of hills. I couldn’t help noticing the landscape.

The trail through the Nelder Grove—near Yosemite National Park—looked strikingly different from the year before when I ran the same race. Fallen trees and blackened trunks provided a striking stark contrast against the backdrop of the blue sky.

A wildfire earlier in the year blazed its way through this forest. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it threatened communities and historic buildings.

When a fire rages through dry underbrush, it clears thick growth so that nourishing sunlight can reach the forest floor. This encourages the growth of native species. Where forest fires destroy, new life springs up.

A resilient tree that survives the fire can even experience a growth spurt.

As I ran, I noticed evidence of new growth. Green grass and leaves sprouted. Wildflowers dotted the trail. As I rounded one corner, angled light beamed through the blackened tree trunks.

Beauty rose from the ashes.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,

for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted…

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.

In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:1-3

After my husband’s death, a fierce sense of hope has risen in my life. I still bear the scars of loss, but God uses these to open doors to encourage others.

Sometimes life is about breathing and lifting, moving forward one step at a time. Our hearts are scarred, but we have found unexpected joy in the ashes.

It is not easy to feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and thanksgiving when you’re going through a trial. Many years ago, I pleaded for God to resurrect my dead marriage. I prayed each day, repeatedly asking for the same thing.

Then, early one morning, just as I began to open my mouth to pray, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “Come, not asking anything, but praise.”

The words halted me and shifted my focus from asking God to do what I wanted Him to do to praising Him for what He had already done. It takes quietness before God and reflecting on what He has already done for gratitude to spring forth from the depths of your heart.

Giving thanks empowers us to overcome anything that comes our way. Life can be challenging, but God is always good. And if we look hard enough, we will see His goodness.

There is always a reason to give God praise, but we need our eyes to be opened to see God’s blessings all around us. Before long, I experienced a miracle in my marriage.

In your own painful places, I urge you to look to Psalm 100 for guidance. It is a psalm of thanksgiving. It offers us a picture of a heart attitude approaching God in prayer.

First, we are to worship the Lord with gladness and come before him singing with joy (v. 2). Secondly, we are to enter his gates with thanksgiving and go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name (v.4). Why? Because the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation (v.5).

Thanksgiving and praise have less to do with our hardships and more to do with our faith.

Approaching God with a thankful heart is giving Him what He truly deserves.