Simple and Dependent

boy holding bible

In this world, a little child is generally considered to be at the lowest level in society regarding knowledge, maturity, experience, and gullibility. Yet in God’s plan, this concept is completely the opposite. He looks with great favor upon little children, more so than adults. Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14b). Why? It is due to the child’s simple and dependent nature. God wants us in complete dependence on Him, not on our self. When Jesus came to this world as a man, He did not rise up and overthrow the government, declaring Himself the almighty Emperor. Instead, He came in dependence on His Father in Heaven for everything—from what He should say, to where He should go next. He was never concerned about how He would get His next meal or where He was to sleep each night. Even while in a boat during a fierce storm, He slept on in peace. He knew that His Father would take care of everything.

Now if Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, was totally dependent on God, how much more so should we be in all areas of our life? Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Which kingdom are we seeking? Is it one where we are constantly struggling to get ahead without God, in order to achieve a high position in a fragile and evil world that will one day perish forever? Or is it a kingdom where our needs can be met just by asking and believing in simplicity like a child—with no room or need for anxiety, fears, or worry?

Father, I surrender myself to You, wholly and completely. Forgive me for my self-centered ways and motives. Turn my heart and life into one that is dependent on you. May I have the simple faith of a child that I may enter into Your kingdom and dwell there forever with You. Amen.

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Greater Than Any Fence

sunset and heron behind fence

A simple chain-link fence was all that separated me from the Great Blue Heron standing at the pond’s edge. Hoping for the “perfect shot,” I carefully inched closer, camera in hand. With each successive step toward the fence, the heron became more wary of my presence. I slowly raised my camera to the fence top, when—whoosh—the heron made its rapid egress gracefully into the sky, evading me once again.

I spotted ibises later, moving across a grassy bank. With the tangled network of trees, bushes, and vines before me, the possibility was small that my presence would disturb them. Yet they still continued to hurriedly move farther down the bank. I cautiously repositioned myself just a short distance down along this barrier between the birds and me. Taking careful aim, I brought the ibises into focus, and waited silently. Suddenly, two boys gleefully bounded out of woods nearby toward my direction. The birds spotted them through this ‘fence’ and quickly flew off. Another fine photograph evaded me!

One would think that birds and animals feel safer behind fences and barriers. Yet almost every time, they flee at the slightest disturbance without hesitation. I’ve seen squirrels and doves high in a tree quite alarmed, that would run or fly away while I carefully walked underneath them. They didn’t know how difficult it was to reach them. So why would they, or a larger animal such as a cow or deer, feel compelled to move away from a human being, even though a large barricade stands between them? Could it simply be that they don’t understand just how secure they really are?

sheep behind fence

Many in today’s world harbor a similar fear. They consider the devil and all the evil associated with him a threat, and flee in the opposite direction at the slightest disturbance. This effort may be effective if someone nearby deliberately planned to throw a large object at them, but the devil operates in both the non-spiritual (natural, visible) realm, and in the spiritual (supernatural, unseen) realm. He is already waiting on the opposite side before they even get near there!

Wait—what about the fence mentioned earlier? Could the devil attack if a fence is in place in our life to protect us? It depends on our relationship with God. When we allow sin in our life, gaps appear in our fence, giving the devil access to us. Ever since the first man’s failure in the Garden of Eden, no human being has been able to be in God’s presence—whether in Heaven or on Earth—because of sin. Sin is disobedience to God’s laws and commandments, put in place for our benefit. Violating them results in both natural and spiritual consequences. God cannot permit or tolerate any sin in His presence, yet God wants every human being to be in His presence.

fence with hole

This is the point where Jesus, God’s only Son, comes in. Sin caused separation in the relationship between God and man. Through the requirements laid out in the Bible’s first five books, God made a way for man to come before Him, but only in a veiled manner back then. Sin couldn’t truly be defeated, because it required something sinless to overcome it—meaning no one from this earth would ever qualify. Sin could only be covered, or temporarily hidden, through the shed blood from the sacrifice of a spotless, innocent lamb. This meant that these lambs had to be continually sacrificed.

Jesus was sinless before He was born on this Earth as a man, and remained so all the way through His death on the cross and beyond. He was therefore able to fulfill this sinless requirement. He was the ultimate ‘spotless, innocent lamb’ that willingly (God never forced Him) shed His innocent blood by sacrificing His life on the cross. He permanently covered the sin of every man, woman and child that has lived, is living, and is yet to be born! Because He was the final sacrifice, no more lambs had to be sacrificed. When He cried out on the cross, “It is finished (literally just “finished,” John 19:30), He was referring to the end of the old physical sacrificial system, and of sin’s control over our lives. Not only did He sacrifice His life on the cross—three days later He arose from His tomb alive, completely victorious over sin and death!

So how does this apply to the fence I mentioned? Well, initially you need to admit to God that you were wrong and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross by faith, as if it was your own sacrifice of yourself. He took your place and paid your debt for sin that He didn’t owe (remember, He was continuously sinless and blameless) —a debt impossible for you to repay. In fact, you can’t even pay the interest! Ask Him to forgive you for all of your sins against Him, and turn completely around in the opposite direction of them, thereby allowing Him to be in control of your life. [Click here for more information about giving your life to Him.] Do this, and He, in essence, becomes a hedge or fence around you. Not a literal fence you can see, but a spiritual fence that the devil and his minions are aware of, yet cannot get past.

cross with blue sunset

Because of Jesus’ victory at the cross, the devil no longer has the legal right to break through this fence and attack you—as long as you are yielding to Jesus, allowing Him to work in your heart and life. This doesn’t mean that the devil won’t threaten and intimidate you though. Like the boys running near the barrier scaring the birds, the devil will still create quite a racket—enough to make you believe that he has actually broken through the fence! The difference is, when you put your trust in Jesus, focusing on Him and not yourself or anyone else, that fence will remain secure.

Actually, you will be even more protected than the birds I mentioned. They are only safe from direct attacks on the side that the physical fence covers. But Jesus protects you on all sides. “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2). He is greater than any fence or hedge of protection that you’ll ever find on this Earth. Make a commitment to Jesus today and let Him be your shield and barrier.

More Than Food and Clothing

“Take no thought for your life,
what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink;
nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.
Is not the life more than meat [food],
and the body than raiment [clothing]?
…If God so clothe the grass of the field…
shall He not much more clothe you?”  (Matthew 6:25, 30)

Since Jesus said, “Take no [distracting] thought for your life…”, why do you concern yourself with “what ye shall eat…drink…put on…”? Does He want you constantly anxious, distressed, or puzzled about how to get what you need? This attitude leads to despair and unbelief, which do not honor God. He expects you to leave your life in His hands—can’t you just let Him take care of getting your daily needs also? Jesus said not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear, much less all the rest. Our Heavenly Father has so “much more” for us! Do we think we know more about how to take care of ourselves than He does? He concerns Himself with our circumstances even more than we do. Why do we let the cares of this world dominate our thinking? If we find them constantly competing for our attention, we need to stop and put our relationship with God first instead.

distressed woman

Constant perplexity over how to get what you need to survive is a waste of time, especially coming from a child of God. How we insult the One who promised to provide for us. You don’t need to get worked up about getting through tomorrow, next week, the rest of the month, or next year. There will be plenty to deal with as each new day unfolds. What will tomorrow bring? You don’t know. Why let it worry you sick, when it might be good tidings just around the corner, not more trouble? Take it one day at a time, Jesus said. Otherwise, you take out a ‘loan’ of trouble and worry on the future. You only need enough each day to get through that day.

head shot of man with concerned expression

Why such vexation about getting more fashionable clothing or a bigger house? Flowers don’t worry about buying colorful silk to make beautiful petals. Birds don’t worry about spinning yarn to knit a sweater to get through the winter. They expect to find what they need to get through each day. Both just go on, taking each day as it comes, letting God provide what they need. Can’t you do the same? If God cares so much about little birds, how much more does He care about those created in His very image? Can’t the God of the birds give you enough to get through each day? He gave us life and a body—the greater things. The same God can certainly make sure we get the lesser things—like food and clothing.

glasses and pen on sheet of financial rates

Who provided you with the body you now live in? You had nothing to do with getting it; you received it by no effort of your own. The same God who gave you your body is capable of taking care of it. Planning for the future is not wrong, but constant thoughts about a nest egg for old age should not consume your life now as you struggle to provide for a future you know nothing about. We say we trust God, and then do our utmost to provide everything we need ourselves! Where is our trust? Don’t lose your confidence in God and His provision for you. Having what you need when you need it provides contentment, not constant pursuit of more than you need. Jesus said, “Take no thought…” about your future. Then your thinking won’t be divided or distracted today. Otherwise, your mind will constantly dwell on the future, instead of concentrating on the important matters at hand in the present.

Are you experiencing the “much more” God promised to those who follow Him? Are you obeying the life He gave you? We get caught up in many things that confuse and distract us. But we only need to be very careful about one thing—our relationship with Him. Seek the kingdom of God first. Let Him be your business. Concern yourself with your soul—the matter of utmost importance. Have concern also for souls who might not make it to tomorrow, much less the distant future. Will their life end without them knowing God? (Will yours?) Help take care of others today and God will not fail to take care of you. In fact, He will provide for you so you can help others.

hands clasped in prayer

Jesus said to pray daily, to make ourselves ready to meet the temptations each day brings. Don’t be worried about fulfilling your every need; leave every need to Him. Those who fully trust and depend on Jesus simply rest in His loving arms. Let Him do all the worrying! He will provide much more than food or clothing!

A Fugitive of Righteousness

man in shadow

Are you in a situation right now where you are oppressed and mocked just for standing up for the truth—whether at work, on the road, or even in your own home? Do feel like you are in the wrong place at the right time? You are certainly not alone. Millions throughout history have gone through situations similar to what you are experiencing right now. Some made it through successfully, although not always the way that they had envisioned that the outcome would be. Thousands of years ago, even mighty King David of Israel struggled daily with enemies who would have swallowed him up.

David wrote about his situation in the book of Psalms: “Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High” (Psalm 56:1-2). This was a very difficult period of his life. He was on the run from King Saul, who continually refused to surrender to the fact that God had appointed David to be king of Israel instead of Saul. David even escaped once into the land of the Philistines, a perpetual enemy to the people of Israel. But to his dismay, the Philistine king, reminded of great victories David had won against his enemies, did not approve David’s entry into his land. Then David pretended that he was insane to escape the king. King Saul had given up his pursuit of David for the time being, but the Philistines picked up where Saul had left off. So David ended up trading one enemy for another, who had many more to fight against him!

The first few verses of this psalm state that every day David felt that his enemies were about to devour him. In verses 5 and 6 he made it known: “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.” This appeared to be a most hopeless situation. But David didn’t give up or give in to his enemies, because He knew someone infinitely greater than all of his opposition combined. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (vss. 3-4).

In spite of the great number of enemies bearing down on him, David put his trust in God. He knew God could take care of the situation. He declared a second time: “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (v.11).

David did not let his situation pull him down to a level of murmuring and complaining. Instead, he turned to praising God. Four times in this psalm he mentions giving praise to God and His Word. This is a definite quality that we, as children of God, need to make note of. In times of distress and impossible situations, our recourse should be just like David’s—trust and praise. When we let our stubborn and rebellious self, or ‘flesh,’ control our walk with God, then many of the problems we encounter will hopelessly overwhelm us. By trusting in God and giving Him praise, we demonstrate that He is in charge, not us. If David trusted in himself or those with him, he would have easily been defeated. Yielding this situation over to God and letting Him resolve it led him to victory.

woman in praise

Our first inclination should never be to worry or despair, but to trust and praise. It is actually a good thing to receive opposition and be a fugitive for righteousness. The devil does not like it when we make the truth known in this world. He will strongly oppose it whenever he can. This does not mean that we are to run away with fear and anxiety, but rather, we are to trust and praise God. Whether open and audible, or deep within our heart, we should always give God praise and thanksgiving in every situation.

We may be inclined to think that David had no pain, anguish or suffering, that whenever a problem arose, he just gave it over to God and everything was fine afterward. But verse 8 tells us otherwise: “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” David spent a good portion of his life in difficulties and struggles, even to the point of joining the enemy’s side. Yet God was aware of all that he was going through, and He kept a record throughout David’s life. No matter what the situation, God stayed by His side.

If the greatest king of Israel—a man declared by God to be one after His own heart—went through trials and problems that nearly killed him as he faithfully followed God, do we believe we will have none? In the end, God brought David through them all because he turned to Him. Even when David committed sins that caused thousands to die (including one of his own sons), he still put his trust in God for forgiveness and mercy, and came to Him repenting of his sins. And God still kept him in His hand. When we become a fugitive of righteousness and are at a loss as to what to do, let’s not put our trust in the world’s solutions. Turn instead to God and give Him our trust. Our hearts should be filled with praise to God Almighty, never to another mortal human being, who has no more hope and victory than we do.

Our resolve needs to be like David’s: “Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:12).

Since Psalms is the largest book of the Bible, full of praises to God both for what He has done and who He is, shouldn’t our hearts be full of the same? We owe it to God to give Him praise and trust whether our situation looks bad or good.

“The Well is Deep”

old water well

I once went hiking near the massive rock formation of Sugarloaf Mountain, with its great, striking view, toward the low forest area of the lower footpath. After a while, it brought me close to a beautiful meadow. I could have taken a longer way around which would have led me to the main road. But it was one of those sweltering summer days. So, when I spied an opening in the weathered split-rail fence surrounding the vast open field, I took the well-worn footpath cutting through the middle of the open meadow instead.

Taking the footpath shortened my walking distance during the intense midday sun of this picture-perfect summer day. After I had hiked almost the full length of the path, it directed me down, going from side to side, to a wide, picturesque sight of numerous wildflowers growing throughout the meadow. It finally led to an old, dusty crossroad where I saw an insignificant, weathered, wooden structure nearby, originally a farmhouse. I discovered a long-standing, isolated, stone well there, sharing the same spot with an ancient oak tree, whose canopy of branches and leaves extended out far and wide providing welcome shade. Tiny, tightly-closed blooms peeked out from scattered morning glory vines nearby, while beautiful wildflowers in full bloom grew near where I stood. Then a small breeze stirred the very dry dust of the road, and the summer sun finally succeeded in penetrating the canopy that had been sheltering me from the midday heat.

I moved closer to the old well, hoping its water would quickly satisfy my thirst. Then I discovered that it was very deep. A tattered rope once held a bucket, but now swung freely back and forth around an old, rusty, cranking mechanism. And there I was, sitting under the shade from the massive oak tree at the well, with no means to draw water!

“The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?” (John 4:11)  

“The well is deep….” The well here was a lot deeper than expected. And this woman of Samaria could see that Jesus had nothing to lower into the well to get a drink of water. There are troubles and issues inside our human nature that can be very deep too. And we know we have nothing to draw them out with ourselves. But do we believe that Jesus has nothing to work with also?

He may come to us as we worry about issues in our heart that we cannot penetrate or come to understand and say to us, “Let not your heart be troubled.” But we shrug and argue, “Lord, this well is deep. I have tried and tried, and I can’t get any calm or comfort out of it. I don’t really see how You can do anything either.”

Why do we think Jesus is poor and powerless in dealing with our situation? He does not draw our help from deep wells of trouble anyway. He reaches up and brings our answer and comfort down from above.

We recall something we let Him do for us in the past, thinking: “Yes, He helped me that time, it’s true, but this time I can’t expect Him to solve this situation.” Why do we limit Him? Is He God Almighty or isn’t He? We want Him to comfort us, and to sympathize with us, but we don’t welcome Him as Almighty God in relation to our problem.

We have attributes and experiences that are Christian, but we don’t abandon ourselves to Jesus. What poor examples we are of Christianity, because we don’t draw on an Almighty Christ. We get into hard situations, and, instead of turning to Him, we say He cannot help us—that He is not able to do what we need. Then we try to go down into the deep well and get the water out ourselves. But the answer isn’t there anyway. We should know that if we look to Jesus, He can give us what we need. The Samaritan woman came for water at the well. But Jesus addressed her deepest unspoken problems and situations instead, and she left with her life totally turned around!

Yes, the well is deep and you are very thirsty. Don’t try to get the water yourself, though. Draw on the One who is the “Water of Life,” and you will never thirst again!

God is a Rewarder

Jesus reaching out to Peter on the water By François BoucherUnknown, Public Domain, Link

Jesus told His “…disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away…[then] He went up into a mountain apart to pray…” (Matthew 14:22-23). Jesus wanted His disciples to go to either Bethsaida or Capernaum in the boat. These two cities were only a few miles apart on the same side of the Sea of Galilee. They made their way along the western coast of the sea, most likely expecting Christ to meet up with them along the way.

Imagine how they felt after nightfall out in the middle of the sea, as storm clouds rapidly forming in the distance came toward them. This time they were alone, without Jesus in their midst. Strong winds and enormous waves came and continually beat against the boat. It wasn’t long before it began to take on water and they thought they were going to sink. In vain they tried to bail water out of the boat, while enormous waves continued crashing all around. When they looked at their terrifying circumstances, the situation appeared hopeless. Satan, the prince of the power of the air, most likely sent the storm. But the Lord would not allow it to harm His disciples, because it was designed to test their faith.

Sometime between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them “…walking on the sea….” When the disciples saw Him walking on the water, they became very troubled. They said to each other, “…It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:25-26).

How often have we also cried out in fear in response to the stormy tumult of the world? And how often have we been distracted by our circumstances, and failed to keep our eyes on the presence of Jesus in our midst?

Our doubts, fears, and unbelief hinder us in our walk with God. When we face any type of difficult circumstances, Jesus wants us to reach out to Him in true, believing faith. He wants us to trust Him no matter what type of circumstances or difficulties we may go through. “…without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Jesus calls for us to “come” to Him, just as He told Peter to do. He wants us to become a chosen ‘living vessel’ unto Him, “…which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Those who are a ‘living vessel’ are unconditionally chosen to do the works of God. He wants us out of our comfort zone of life. Peter was able to actually walk on the water when he turned to Jesus to help him. When we respond to the divine presence of the Lord in the midst of our storm, He promises to provide for us also. He will encourage us to ‘walk on the water’ in spiritual pursuits. But we cannot come to Jesus unless He upholds us by His divine power.

If we understand that God sustains all life, then we can begin to better understand who He is. Jesus said, “If you have known Me, ye should have known My Father also (John 8:19).” He is Jehovah-Elohim (“Lord God”)—the Creator-God—who is not detached from His creation. He attends to the needs of His people. In fact, the Lord Himself came down in person to help and save us all, demonstrating that He really is the covenant-keeping God. And when Jesus manifested Himself to His disciples on the sea, He revealed who He really is.

The greatness of Jesus’ power and grace was demonstrated to Peter when he trusted Jesus and stepped out of the boat onto the water.

But Peter took his eyes off of Jesus when he looked down fearfully and saw his own weakness of faith. He failed to keep his eyes on God there with him when he started to sink, because he was overcome by his doubt, fear, and unbelief. So he cried out to Jesus, “Help me, Lord, save me!”

When we look fearfully at the magnitude of the difficulties that come against us, we also take our eyes off Jesus. Then we, like Peter, begin to sink. But when we call out—“Save me, Lord, from these difficulties opposing me!”—He stretches out His arm and rescues us! Jesus shows Himself with more grace for the sake of those who believe in who He is. For all who have Jesus near them, and know that He is theirs, nothing should overwhelm them to an extreme degree with fear and anxiety—not even death itself. Jesus Christ is fully able to take whatever divine action He desires to save His people.

Are enormous waves beating against you right now? This same Jesus is right there with you and is coming toward you—His ‘living vessel’. The same One who stretched out the heavens and walked “…on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8) is now calling with His gentle voice of peace—“Come to Me.” He walks on the water so that you will know His power.

But He also does it so that you will know your weakness in yourself, as you step out of the safety zone of your life as His disciple. We are never brought to this position on our own—until we find ourselves sinking.

Then this same sense of need drives us to Him. Come to Him as you begin sinking in the deep waters of your own difficulties. Cry out to Him, “Lord, rescue me!” He will stretch out His arm and rescue you.

The Best Kind of Tranqulizer

man with insomnia

Stress, turmoil, anxiety, worry, tension, uncertainty, pressures, hassles, revenge, lawsuits, bankruptcy, crime, assault, disease, accidents, anger, tragedy, violence, suffering—the list goes on and on. At various times, there will be upsets in our life that will leave us sleepless. It might be a major ordeal or maybe just a minor event. Whether we are young or old, married or single, rich or poor, weak or strong—something will bring us to a point of being disturbed and restless. Even if we are extra cautious, watching our every thought and move, a situation is sure to come our way that will not let us sleep in peace. There will be times when we are totally innocent, minding our own business and doing what is right, and we still end up in the wrong. We might find ourselves in error over something that we had no control over, or we might happen to be in the wrong place at the right time.

It may feel like we are the only ones going though a particular problem. There was a man who lived thousands of years before us who had to struggle like this as well. In the Bible, King David of Israel was a person whom God declared to be a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22b). David was a mighty man who killed a lion and a bear at the same time when he was rescuing a lamb from the mouth of a bear. Later, with only a stone and a slingshot, he slayed a giant that had been threatening his nation for quite some time. And all of this occurred when he was only a young man! He later killed tens of thousands of enemies of his kingdom, yet, in spite of all his strength and his favor with God, he still went though struggles that would keep any of us today agonizingly awake for a multitude of nights.

What did he ultimately do about his troubles that robbed him of sleep? Did he flee, never to be found again? Was he discovered attempting to take his own life? Did he give up and just surrender to the enemy? Did he go insane? Did he personally take vengeance on those who were against him? Did he relegate his problems and torments to someone else in his kingdom and order them to come up with a solution? No, he did none of these. Instead, he turned to God. Look at what he said in verses three through five of the fourth Psalm, “But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” King David knew by past experience that God would hear him when he called out to Him. But he also knew that he could not continue in the path of sin and still expect God to readily hear him. He had to surrender to God, forsake his sin, and put his trust in the Lord—then wait on Him. He knew that God would provide for His circumstances in a way far greater than those who were against him.

So what happened? Verse eight sums it up nicely: I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” He didn’t lie awake all night agonizing over everything that was coming against him. Instead he declared, “…thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” What better sleep aid could anyone ask for? David turned to the Lord and put his trust in Him. He did not pursue the matter in his own strength any further. David stated this again in the first two verses of Psalm twenty three: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.”Still waters” here literally means ‘waters of rest.’

young girl praying

What a wonderful antidote to the situations that torment us throughout the night! All that we have to do is come before the Lord with all our distress and release it to Him. We need to stop sinning through doubt and unbelief, and trust in Him to resolve the conflict. He continually waits for our most feeble cry. He wants us to lie down in peace and sleep. But without God, we will never “dwell in safety.” He told us to “…commune with your own heart upon your bed…” With our own heart we are to commune with whom—our spouse, our relatives, our neighbor, our closest friends? Of course not! We are to commune with the Lord. Next comes “and be still.” Don’t drop your problems in His lap and go on your way. Spend your time with Him in intimate fellowship, reading His Word, and then—just be still. Don’t fill your mind with all kinds of trivial nonsense and needless thoughts, just “be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10a). God never wants us to lie awake and be restless, our hearts and minds filled with worry or stress. Let’s open our hearts freely to Him like a child does and let Him lead us by the waters of rest. With the Lord in charge of our life, we can truly sleep in peace—for He alone is the best kind of tranquilizer.

Can God Help with Your Cares, Burdens, and Afflictions?

man carrying burden

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

To cast your burdens upon God means resting upon what He has promised and on what He provides. Cares can heavily weigh your heart down, but the Lord won’t allow you to come to the point of being totally cast down. He will bear the burden of all your sorrows. Therefore, let Him bear the burden of all your cares too. He knows what is best for you and He will provide according to your need. Sin and corruption are also heavy burdens. But He will bear those heavy burdens too, and will bear you up at the same time. Let Him pick you up and carry you in His powerful arms, like a father carries his little one. Your load can safely be placed upon Him. The Spirit of God will lift your spirits and make them stronger, so that you can stand up under whatever trial you may be enduring.

man in looking with distant thoughts

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34).

Affliction refers to a state of distress, pain, or grief. It can also refer to being tried, tormented, or tortured. Afflictions are the cause of continued pain of the mind or body, like sickness, calamity, adversity, losses, or persecution. What a heavy load they can be, especially if they follow the temptations of the devil.

“…He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard” (Psalm 22:24).

No matter what cares, afflictions, or trials oppress you, you can lay them all upon God’s shoulders. What a glorious promise He has given for every tempted and afflicted soul! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (2 Corinthians 4:17). You do not know what God is working out in you as you steadily endure affliction.

depressed woman

God will never allow the righteous (those in right standing with God) to be moved, to fall, or to be lost forever. Nor will He allow troubles to upset you to the point that you slack off in finding your comfort in Him, or in doing your duty to Him. He may allow you be shaken for a while, but it will never be to the point of being utterly overwhelmed. If you are righteous, you can be sure that you can continue to trust and depend on Him. And if you continue to trust God and do what is righteous, you will be as safe as if you were already in heaven.

What is the way of relief from all your cares, all your burdens, and all your afflictions? Look to Christ, who has already borne them all on the Cross for you. Lay them all directly upon His shoulders in faith by prayer, then confidently expect a good outcome. How can you do the work of God in this world if you fold up under the burdens that interfere with your efforts? Therefore, hand them all over. Whatever you want God to give you, let Him give it to you in His own time and in His own way. In the meantime, be satisfied. Commit all your ways and works to the Lord; then let Him do what He knows is right.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand (Psalm 37:23-24).

Call upon the Lord in every kind of trial. He will hear you and He will rescue you. He will not be upset with you for coming too often. In fact, the more often you come to Him, the more welcome you will be!

The Breath of God

entrance to old mine

Curiosity and zeal for adventure provoked a small band of teenagers to succumb to the urge to explore an old mine they knew about on the side of a large mountain. The mine had once been the center of much activity, but when the quantities of ore began to dwindle, so did interest in pursuing it any further. Many past reports had told how huge the mine had become over the years, having branched off into many tunnels that sprawled over several miles. This proved to be the lure that these young teenagers could not resist. Their plan was to get into the mine somehow, and then go only a short distance, just to see what it was like. Before they realized it, they ended up traveling further and further away from the main air shaft where they had so carefully come in.

After about three hours of climbing throughout vast stretches of the mine, the group encountered a junction where the tunnel they were hiking in forked into three more tunnels. They were wary of splitting up, unsure about what they might encounter ahead. So they finally decided to remain together and take the tunnel they thought might lead them back toward the entrance. By this time, they were getting hungry and growing tired from all of their exploring in such a huge place.

partially lit cave
unsplash-logoMatt Kochar

Step after step after step, they trudged on. They had started with one flashlight each, but now had only two left between all of them that still worked. One of the units had reached the dimmest point since they began, and they had already used up all their spare batteries. Then the other light was dropped accidentally when they almost fell off of a small cliff. Now the tunnel they were in seemed to wind on endlessly, with no exit in sight. After another hour of wandering, the lone flashlight finally quit shining, leaving them in utter darkness. All hope of escape began to fade away. Weary from all their wandering, one by one they slumped down onto the floor of the mine. One girl began to tremble and sob almost uncontrollably, succumbing to the fear that she would never to be found again and would die there. Two others tried to hold her and console her. The oldest boy began to question himself out loud, wondering why they had ever dared to go this far in the first place. Another boy began angrily throwing various sized stones and rubble at the walls and down the tunnel in frustration.

Then the girl who had been consoling the sobbing girl remembered something she had heard her grandfather once say. He had worked briefly as a coal miner decades before. In one of the many stories of his life, he mentioned that if he ever got lost in the mine, or if his light quit working, he knew that he should stop and remain very still. Then he would try to feel what direction the air was moving, since the air always moved upward toward the air shaft, and ultimately, the way out. Although the others were skeptical when they first heard this, one by one they began to just sit still and wait. They continued to wait and wait for some time in hopeful anticipation, not really knowing what to expect. Then one of them suddenly jumped onto his feet and shouted, “I felt it! I felt it!” Moments later another burst out, “Me, too! I felt it on the side of my face!” Then another and another said the same, until all of the teens had sensed the gentle waft of air.

They determined that the air was actually coming from the direction that they had thought would bring them to the way out. So they turned around and began to walk in the opposite direction, heading back where they had come from. Even though they had lost the main source of light, they were still able to slowly find their way, guided by the gentle glow of their cellphones and other assorted small electronic devices they had in their pockets. Whenever they became unsure of their way, they would stop and wait again until they felt the ever-so-gentle movement of air, and then continue in its direction. Finally, they arrived back at the air shaft and scrambled up out of the mine, back to the remaining light of day.

people leaving mine

In life, there will be many points where you will also find yourself in the darkness and lost at times, with no apparent way out. It might be that your source of light has gone out, and you are not able to find the rest of the way to go. You may have been wandering and your light has not yet gone out, but you don’t know what direction to take next. Your life may have been progressing just fine, and then suddenly, everything goes into confusion and you do not have a clue as to what to do. Does any of this apply to you? Don’t fall apart in despair. Don’t succumb to a fit of needless anger, or collapse into a pool of tears.

It is in times like these that a gentle and sweet breath from God will come to you. Sometimes it is so subtle and discreet that you hardly notice it is there. Most often, there will be a time of sitting still and waiting before you sense its presence. When you do, make sure you don’t ignore it and turn to follow your own way. Don’t feel that it is too insignificant to be of any value. Instead, yield yourself to God and be led by it. He wants to bring you out of the darkness and confusion that you are in, but it takes desire and effort on your part for the breakthrough to happen. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The Lord wants you to stop trusting in what you think is the best way out, and to learn to lean on Him for guidance. While it may seem contrary to you, by doing so you will find yourself being led out of your hopeless dilemma into “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Even though you don’t see Him, God is always there with you. “Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name” (Psalm 33:20,21).

Seeing the Whole City

city skyline in daytime

Suppose you live in a very large city, and friends you haven’t seen for many years come to visit for a short time. After you all chat a while, they say that they want to “see your city.” Naturally, you are eager to oblige. You get everyone in your vehicle and proceed to show them the city. You drive to the waterfront first, telling highlights of various buildings of importance along the way. Then you head up a large hill to the north side where they can see the city’s skyline. You mention additional points of interest visible from there. Next you go into the heart of downtown. You let them wander around a bit to look at various shops, landmarks, and parks the city has to offer. Then you shuttle them to the tourist section on the east side. Everyone, including you, is exhausted after this tour. You finish off the day by stopping for dinner at a well-known restaurant on the way home.

city skyline night panorama

During the meal, you ask if your guests enjoyed seeing the city. They agree that what they have seen is very nice and interesting, but then they say they would still like to “see the city.” Even though this reply puzzles you, you take them out again the following day to “see the city.” You escort your friends to the subway station early the next morning to take them all around the city. You take the blue line, the green line, the yellow line, wherever the subway lines go—that’s where you all end up going. After nearly getting lost three times, you all finally arrive back home in late afternoon. During the meal that evening, you casually inquire again if they feel that they have now “seen the city.” To your surprise, they conclude that everything that you have shown them has been wonderful and they are very grateful for your efforts. But, they still would like to “see the whole city.” After a long sigh, you reluctantly agree to do your best once more to show them “the whole city” before they return home.

Now you are really stumped for a solution to fulfill their request. You have done all you could to “show them the city”; what else could you possibly do to satisfy their request? The next day you contact friends in the city for advice, but they are as clueless as you are for a solution. Late that night, as you are just about to fall asleep, the perfect answer finally strikes you. The next morning, after everyone has eaten breakfast, you announce that you know a way that just might fulfill their desire to “see the whole city.” After a few phone calls, everyone gets into your vehicle again and you head to a small airport just outside city limits. There you meet up with an old friend who does aerial photography. He gladly agrees to take you and your friends up to “see the whole city.” After pointing out all the various places of interest in the city from the air, he brings everyone back down to the airport. Only a few moments after exiting the plane, your friends gleefully express their satisfaction. They all eagerly agree that they have really “seen all of the city” this time. They can now return home to tell everyone all about your city.

aerial view of sprawling city

How often have you felt that God is sometimes unfair and cruel is His actions toward you or others? When a tragedy, natural or manmade, strikes the lives of innocent individuals, do you question or blame God? Do you become confused or angry when the wicked prosper and those who do good fall into poverty or despair? How often do you face a problem that seems unsolvable or face a situation where you feel defeated before you even do anything?

Your confusion, anger, and despair all stem from the fact that you are coming to all of your conclusions based on a single area that you see of “the whole city” (or situation). As a result, you wonder why God allowed these things to happen, as if He can only see this one area too. But, thankfully, God always sees the big picture or “the whole city.” While you only see one part at a time, God sees “the whole city” all of the time. When a circumstance occurs in your life or someone else’s, it is only a part of “the whole city.” If you were to go up in the air and look down over the city like your friends did, then you would see just how your problem or area of the city connects with all of the rest of it. You would also be able to see just how small your problem really is from God’s point of view.

city block at street level

You may be wondering by now why you cannot see “the whole city” like God sees it. It is because you, in your finite physical body, could not handle such a view. You would be overwhelmed beyond despair. Our loving Heavenly Father knows these limitations and spares you from things beyond your current comprehension or physical ability. He has no intention of harming you by placing you in an area beyond your capability.

Instead, you are to trust in Him. When you feel overwhelmed by the situation that surrounds you, just put your concern and despair into His hands. Let Him take care of it.

When you don’t understand why things turned out the way that they did, just remember that He sees “the whole city,” the big picture, and the connection these things have to everything else that you cannot see.

When He chooses to move you to another area “of the city” or expand your existing area, don’t resist or rebel. Let Him do the work He desires for your life. Many trials and circumstances occur in your life because you thought you knew better and refused to allow Him to work in your life.

On the other hand, don’t feel limited to just seeing the small area you are in now. As you spend more and more time in His Word, and begin to grow in Him, don’t be afraid to ask Him to open your eyes to see more “of the city.” “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed [circled] the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17). Elisha’s servant could only see the small picture of the enemy that had them surrounded. This view looked hopeless. He could see no way of escape. But there was something in the bigger picture that the servant could not see. When God opened the servant’s eyes at Elisha’s request, he could then see a bigger portion of the picture. It contained a mountain “full of horses and chariots of fire,” a picture of something far greater than the limited one of a seemingly impossible situation.

panoramic view of city at twilight

Remember, God is not limited to only the view “of the city” that you see; He looks at “the whole city.” He knows what is going on everywhere at any given moment and how everything going on is connected to everything else. His hands are not tied. He is not helpless regarding what is happening in your area at any given moment. He sees the big picture and He has a plan. He wants you to trust in His plan, regardless of how you see things now or later. Then you can say, “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion” (Psalm 71:1).

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).