During my master’s degree studies, I attended a church with people from many different nations and ethnic backgrounds, where we often worshiped by singing songs in various languages. One year for Christmas the choir director asked me to teach the other choir members a carol in my native Romanian language. Tears streamed down my face when we sang it on Christmas Eve. I was away from my home country, yet at home with brothers and sisters in Jesus who loved me enough to learn a song in my heart language.
Inspired by Polynesian mythology, the Disney animated movie Moana skillfully depicts the story of a brave teenager who strives to save her people from hunger and ultimate destruction. A selfish demigod had stolen the heart of “Te Fiti,” the goddess of creation. Because her heart was stolen, the world began to die. After a dangerous journey, Moana returns the heart to Te Fiti who is then transformed. Instead of death, Te Fiti provides life and hope to Moana and her people.
“How can you sing joyful songs during this difficult time?” our relatives asked. It was the night before my brother’s funeral, and we were singing his favorite worship songs. My brother David had tragically and unexpectedly died a few days before. He was just eighteen years old when he drowned in the Danube River. Our family and the entire community were in shock. But there was a glimmer of hope in all of this. David was a believer in Jesus, and we knew that one day we would see him again.
Theologian George Ladd once rhetorically asked, “Does mankind have a destiny? Or do we jerk across the stage of time like wooden puppets, only to have the stage, the actors, and the theatre itself destroyed by fire, leaving only a pile of ashes and the smell of smoke?”
After reading an encouraging and inspiring passage from the Old Testament, I suddenly felt the urge to praise God. Finding myself bursting into worship was a beautiful, unexpected experience. Although my problems weren’t suddenly solved, I felt an immense peace and confidence in God’s presence with me.
During a tumultuous year, Martin Luther penned what became one of his most treasured hymns. Ill and suffering with depression, things got worse for Luther when the plague hit his town. But, inspired by Psalm 46, he chose to proclaim God’s character and His triumph over evil with the words “a mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.” This hymn has been called the “Battle Hymn of the Reformation” for its impact.
When I was growing up, my mother established a wonderful pattern for our family. Every night before bed, she would gather us around her, open the Bible, and have us take turns reading a few verses. Afterwards we would all briefly discuss the passage, and then we would pray together. No matter how tired she was, my mother would always bring us to the Scriptures.
It was the night before a job fair, and my husband was discouraged. Past attempts to land a job had failed, and he felt that meeting with recruiters would only lead to more dead ends. But he realized God was greater than his fears (Isaiah 41:10), so before practicing possible interview questions, we decided to meditate on specific, encouraging passages of Scripture. We also prayed and recounted God’s numerous blessings. By the end of the evening, we both experienced a sense of peace even amid our fears.
A study conducted by a group of neuroeconomists from the University of Zurich found that people who showed generosity were happier than people who acted in a selfish way. In fact, they found that if people were even a little bit generous, they still experienced a pleasant feeling. The researchers measured activity in areas of the brain linked to contentment and generosity. Interestingly, the feeling of happiness that one experiences when giving has been termed a “warm glow.”
It was late at night when Paul, a pastor, received the news that his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He went outside, sat on the front steps, and began to pour his heart out to God. “Why is this happening to my wife?” he asked. “She’s faithful and devoted.” After struggling for a while, Paul looked up to the clear sky and, with open hands, said, “Jesus, You know. You know, and that is enough for me.”
The Smiths (not their real name) and I hadn’t talked for years. The last time we interacted there was much frustration and anger on both sides. Mr. Smith called once or twice, but I wasn’t ready to reconcile. But as God began to mend my wounded heart, I had peace about working on the relationship. Healing came when I went on a prayer retreat during which I talked to Jesus, read the Scriptures and worshipped through songs. On the last day, I decided that if the Smiths called, I would agree to meet with them.
Abbie had been working in the same company for two years when she began to realize that her colleagues were more than just people who happened to work in the same place. They were an important part of her life. So she began to learn more about them, and they would sometimes even share a meal together. Even though some co-workers were difficult to relate to, Abbie and her colleagues began to create an environment where everyone could grow and develop together.
As my friend and I were talking while she was washing the dishes after dinner, I looked up and noticed a wooden plaque above the sink. Engraved on it were the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” After I asked her why she chose to display that verse, she told me it reminds her to honour God through every situation, even when she’s washing dishes!
When my grandmother was in her twenties, she became very ill. Nothing she or the doctors tried healed her. She believed there was a God but didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. One day a co-worker told her to visit a house church nearby and ask the people to pray for her. In her desperation, my grandmother decided to go. And after the prayer time, she was healed! This miracle changed her life. Since then, she’s been thanking Jesus daily for healing her body and her soul.
If you get to know Lilian, you’ll soon discover that she has a contagious love for Jesus. After much prayer and counsel, Lilian and her husband left their careers to share the love of Jesus with college students in India and later in the United States. Even after her husband’s passing, Lilian continues to mentor and pray with young people who need direction in their lives. Her favorite time of the day is any time she gets to talk with Jesus and hand Him all her worries and problems.