“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV
Has God ever called you into a new ministry that was out of your comfort zone? Did you feel fearful about taking that first step? This happened to me when we were called to become foster parents. This was not something that my husband and I had ever considered, but it became clear that this was a path set by God. After months of paperwork, background checks, interviews, home visits, and training, our house was about to open to foster children. While waiting for the phone call (which was a lot harder than I thought it would be), I began to ponder the “what ifs.” What if there’s a behavior that I won’t know how to handle? What if there is a medical issue that I don’t know how to deal with? What if there is no longer peace in my home?
But I had nothing to fear. God revealed a message of truth to me about walking in faith. Like the children in the picture, it may be scary to cross the slippery log over the creek, but I can stand firm with God and know that He will finish what He has started. I realized that I am not capable of carrying out this ministry by myself, and that is actually a blessing. All I have to do is begin walking and when I can’t go any further, then God will equip me. I don’t have to have all of the answers before I begin. I only need to trust Him.
Since then we have had three foster children and there have been many difficult times (some of the most challenging of my life). These times require me to surrender to God, and he has never let me down. The beautiful moments in which I have seen the foster children seek God have been more rewarding than if I had never taken those scary steps to get to that point.1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV says “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Stand firm. Don’t let the chaos cause you to lose balance. The Lord is working in their lives.
I can tell you from this experience that if God called you into a new ministry, He will be faithful to carry out his work through you. You do not need to be fearful, but only to surrender in faith and take the first step. You will see that He will be there equipping you the whole way.
“’But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”
Mark 9:22b-24 NIV
I remember one summer night when I couldn’t sleep. Everyone else was in bed and I was looking out my bedroom window because a spectacular storm was going on outside. The lightning was flashing across the sky and rain was falling in sheets. What was keeping me awake though wasn’t what was going on outside but was within me. I was struggling with a deep and challenging storm in my life that felt hopeless and unending. I had spent a lot of time in prayer asking God to deliver me, but I had not heard a response yet and felt alone. As I stared out the window at a tree in my front yard with its branches blowing in the wind, I desperately asked God to strike the tree with lightning to show me that he was there with me and could see my struggle. It was a question asked out of weakness, from being overcome with emotion.
It is easy to feel the presence of the Lord when life is going well, but when we are going through a storm, it is often hard to remember that Jesus is still with us. In Mark 9, a man desperately asks Jesus if He can do something to save his son. Jesus responds with “If?” The man then realizes his lack of faith and in Mark 9:24 NIV says “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” That summer night I gave into fear and like the man in the story, began asking God to show up (even though He was already there). Instead, I should have been praying “Oh God, help me in my unbelief. I know the truth but I am weak. Please give me patience to wait, listen, and trust that You will carry me through this storm. Help me to be still.’
Obviously, God did not strike down that tree with lightning, but looking back on that night in hindsight, it is easy to see that God was working in my life at the time. In fact, the events of that summer have strengthened my faith and have acted as a testimony to God’s power. Exodus 14:14 NIV says “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” and Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV states that “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” I know He was there and had a plan. The tree now helps me to remember that I need to trust God and hold onto His truth next time a storm comes.
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’”
John 11: 33-36 ESV
I have always remembered John 11:35 ESV “Jesus wept” as the shortest verse in the Bible. When I was a child, if a Sunday school teacher asked us to memorize a verse, someone would jokingly suggest that one because it was the easiest. Also, the question ‘What is the shortest verse of the Bible?’ would come up in trivia, and I always knew the answer! Recently though, this verse has given me a deeper meaning, and it has caused me to see the two words “Jesus wept” in a whole new way.
One evening last fall after the kids were tucked in bed, I was watching TV with my husband, and my phone rang. We both looked at each other because it was the time of night when no one usually calls, and we all know that feeling of dread that washes over us when this happens. I answered the phone and received the shocking news that a young family member of mine had died tragically. This type of life event usually causes us to stop our daily routines and spend time reflecting on questions that we do not normally think about. Over the next days as I drove 18 hours to the funeral and spent time grieving with my family, I struggled with this news and tried to find answers. Through it all I asked God ‘Why weren’t you there?’
In John 11, Mary and her sister Martha had lost their brother, and when Jesus arrived, they both said to him “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21 and 32 ESV). It strikes me that they asked the same question that I did. Jesus responded in a very human way. He knew God’s plan and what was about to happen, yet he was deeply moved and wept. This scene in the Bible reflects how Jesus is both God and man. He had flesh like us and therefore knew sorrow like we do, and yet he is God and we can go to him for comfort when we are grieving.
The words “Jesus wept” are no longer the answer to a trivia question to me. These two powerful words mean that when I am struggling (and we will experience tragedy on earth), that Jesus is with me and he knows grief too. Jesus is both my savior and comforter, and I am not alone.