In October 2017, the Twitter hashtag #metoo reached epic status, but the movement began in 2006 with Tarana Burke’s efforts to bring the reality of sexual assault before the public eye. Recently, my husband and I met with a longtime friend who shared with us her own pain of having been sexually abused by family members at a young age. As we listened, we felt led to tell her that, while God is a God of mercy who could forgive those who had hurt her, He also felt deep anger toward the injustice of the pain created in her life by the violation she’d experienced.
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?”
One evening, after everyone else in the neighborhood had packed off to bed, I walked into our backyard under a hazy, moonlit sky. None of the deer, rabbits, or squirrels that regularly parade across our lawn was there. There was only a brilliant full moon and dark silence. Due to my own internal noise and a hectic day, I hadn’t been aware of God’s presence. But there I was, suddenly immersed in gratitude and awe. I looked up at that magnificent sky and offered God two words: “Thank you.”
A woman’s dog ventured out toward the water on the coast of New Zealand. Trailing behind him, the dog’s owner found herself in a “sticky” situation, sinking in mud up to her waist and unable to move. Thankfully, rescue officers were able to lay a ladder down across the muck and pull her to safety. Later, an official issued a warning, pointing out that the depth of the mud was “quite deceptive.”
A professor, speaking during a symposium, shared that she flies a lot and is often bumped up to first class. While chatting with her seatmates, she sometimes hears variations of her life story—stories of people who’ve graduated from prestigious universities, taken the best internships, and landed top jobs. They’ve done everything the world told them to do, but many still feel empty inside.
Every Wednesday evening from 6 to 7, rain or shine—or even snow—our little band of disciples gathers in our church’s tiny chapel to pray. Our prayer meeting is open to everyone, but there are usually just four to ten people who gather together.
As a 97-year-old friend and I discussed Horatio Spafford’s classic hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul,” she said the first line gives her reason to pause. The stanza “when peace like a river attendeth my way” doesn’t accurately depict all rivers, she explained, for “all rivers are not peaceful.”
In the book Tales of a Fifth-Grade Knight, some children discover an underground world where people can go to become immortal. They soon realize, however, that there’s a catch. The process is wildly unpredictable, transforming would-be immortals into random objects or creatures for years before their goal can be attained. After witnessing the harrowing ordeal of those trapped in “the strange in-between,” the children decide that immortality isn’t worth it.
Hanging up the phone, I gathered a few items and waited for my husband to arrive. He’d just called from the church where he and our son had been working on a few building repairs. From the brief exchange, I learned that our son had been in an accident but was stable enough for us to drive him to the hospital. Even with uncertainties pounding in my mind, I knew in that moment how important it was to make my worship stronger than my worries. The supremacy of God and His goodness had not changed.
A poll released in early 2017 revealed that nearly one in five Americans define themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Though it’s difficult to nail down what exactly that means, the phrase generally reveals a person’s subjective sense of some higher power or essence but no commitment to any tangible religious tradition or community.
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.
After cancer took the life of a Ugandan child I’d been caring for during his final months, the boy’s family and village leaders gathered to decide how to thank me for what I’d done on behalf of one of their own. They concluded that the best way to express gratitude, while also consoling me as I grieved the loss of the child I dearly loved, would be to give me his younger brother.
With his masterwork of physics, the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Isaac Newton changed our understanding of how the world works. He was able to describe and predict natural phenomena to a degree which had never been done before, and his principles continue to be used to this day. Yet Newton was never under any illusion about the limitations of his brilliance. Despite all he’d discovered, he admitted to feeling like “the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered before me.” Even the great Isaac Newton knew he didn’t know it all!
During a hard time for my family, tears came to my eyes when Alabama’s hit song “Angels Among Us” came on the radio. The song describes how, in our darkest times, when we feel lost and alone, God can use the kindness of others to give us just enough hope to keep hanging on, to keep believing in a God of love. As the words washed over me, I was reassured by remembering how in the hardest times God has always reached out to me through others’ love.
When I Googled “God in the Old and New Testament,” the results included questions such as “Why is God so different in the Old Testament than He is in the New Testament?” and “Why was God so harsh in the Old Testament, but more forgiving in the New Testament?”