Samaria, the capital of Israel, was being besieged by the Aramean army. Food was soon depleted, and many died of hunger while some resorted to cannibalism (2 Kings 6:24-31). The prophet Elisha told the unbelieving king that God would rescue them and provide food for them (2 Kings 7:1). Soon, the divine army that Elisha’s servant had seen earlier scattered the enemy (2 Kings 6:14-17, 2 Kings 7:6-7).
I know you have a plan, God, but why does it hurt so much? I closed my eyes and flopped onto my bunk bed in my dorm room. It was my final semester in college, and it wasn’t going as I had hoped. I was busier than I wanted to be, and two of my closest friends were battling depression while others were also struggling.
Poet Christian Wiman, some time after being diagnosed with an incurable form of blood cancer, reflected on his ordeal, writing, “I have passed through pain I could never have imagined, pain that seemed to incinerate all my thoughts of God and to leave me sitting there in the ashes, alone.” But he found hope in the powerful presence of Jesus. “I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ ” (Matthew 27:46). In times of great suffering, Wiman realized, only the One who carried all human suffering can sustain us.
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure,” said Eric Liddell to his sister Jenny in the movie Chariots of Fire. Eric was a famous Scottish Olympic champion in short distance and a missionary to China. Although his sister was urging him to return to China as soon as possible, he knew God had given him a gift. By choosing to delay his return and run in the 1924 Paris Olympics, Eric was convinced he was honoring God by pursuing his calling as a world-class runner.
Following World War I, there was no more accomplished golfer than Bobby Jones. In 1930, he achieved the Grand Slam by winning the US Open, British Open, US Amateur, and British Amateur championships—all in the same year! The golfing world was stunned, however, when shortly following those victories Jones decided to retire from golf. He didn’t decide to hang up the spikes because his skills had diminished in any way. Instead, the talented athlete made his decision because he had accomplished the greatest feat in golf at the time and had nothing left to prove. He simply chose to give his golf career a rest.
In 1882, Antoni Gaudí began construction on the Sagrada Família, a basilica in Barcelona slated for completion in 2026. The National Geographic reports that at the time of Gaudí’s unexpected death, less than 25 percent of the exterior was finished. Even if he had not died prematurely, Gaudí knew he’d never see the completed work; but it didn’t bother him. He believed he was working for God. Whenever asked about the immense time for the project, he answered, “My client is not in a hurry.”
“Hope is the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul,” poet Emily Dickinson once wrote. Hope, as she describes it, is a gift that simply comes. No matter how dark or cold the storm, hope gently finds us, warming us and singing a wordless song, but never expecting anything in return.
I’ve heard it said that “the church is the only institution that shoots its wounded.” Sadly, the idea possesses a real grain of truth. It’s not unusual for local churches to botch a crisis situation, causing members to leave deeply hurt.
The origins of crucifixion are unknown, but the Roman Empire was infamous for inflicting the debasing practice on society’s lowest. Yet today, the cross—the representative symbol of crucifixion—is often prominently displayed, cherished by believers in Jesus around the world.
As an educator, each spring I feel the promise of summer break beckoning me. I appreciate the respite from the usual demand to complete projects, grade papers, and participate in countless meetings. With more opportunities for quiet, summertime reminds me how often busyness can tempt me to see each commitment as merely a task to be checked off a list. Choosing to instead be present in the moment allows me to savor uncomplicated joy.
As I waded through a sea of vendors and their handmade crafts at an outdoor market in East Africa, I came across a woman so poor her inventory consisted of only a few cheaply made bracelets. To help her make ends meet, for that day at least, I purchased a few of her items. One of the bracelets I selected had the name “Jesus” woven into it. After paying her, I put it on my wrist and—referring to the name Jesus—said to her, “Sometimes I need a reminder.”
Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) and John Wesley (1703–1791) lived more than a century apart and in very different contexts. But both created a means of self-examination to aid in their spiritual transformation. Ignatius recommended that those in the religious order he formed pray an “examen” prayer twice a day to open themselves to the Holy Spirit and to discern the movements of their soul either toward or away from God. John Wesley, similarly, formed a series of twenty-two questions that he and his small group in Oxford asked themselves each night, including, “Did the Bible live in me today? Am I enjoying prayer?” Both men longed to be changed and molded by the Spirit to be more like Jesus.
The story is told of a king who was looking for satisfaction in life. His advisors told him to wear the shirt of a contented man for a day, and he would be cured of his discontent. His men searched the kingdom for a contented man so they could bring his shirt to the king, but they returned empty-handed. The king was furious. In response, his men told the king, “We found a contented man, but he does not own a shirt.”