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.
Golf, with its myriad rules and special victor jackets, is marked by tradition and sportsmanship. But feuds between golfers can be surprisingly bitter, perhaps few more so than the rift between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia. So when Garcia won his first major tournament in 2017, commentators expected Woods to scoff and point out how his own accomplishments dwarfed his rival’s. But instead, he tweeted brief but sincere congratulations to Garcia, calling the victory “well-earned.” One can only wonder how Garcia reacted to this unexpected response!
“God means us to delight in his world. . . . Just observe. And remember. And compare. And be always looking to God with thankfulness and worship for having placed you in such a delightful corner of the universe as the planet Earth.” These were the last words Paul Brand’s father wrote to him before his death. They had a profound effect on Paul’s life. He eventually became a missionary doctor in India and was well known for his pioneering work in the treatment of leprosy. He never forgot his father’s urging to enjoy and delight in God’s creation.
Marilynne Robinson, the Pulitzer-winning author of Gilead and Home, has, in addition to her marvelous fiction, also spent much time pondering the current plight of modern America. Robinson has especially contemplated Christian faith in these times, and how modern pressures erode and distort our faith in insidious ways. Though there are numerous causes for our predicament, Robinson suggests that these questions always return her to a two-part conviction: “First, contemporary America is full of fear. And second, fear is not a Christian habit of mind.”
The lead singer of a local Christian band shared how he sat in a doctor’s office awaiting test results. Alone in the waiting room, he cried out to God and felt an overwhelming sense of peace. Like others in the audience, I leaned forward, expecting a joyful proclamation that the result of the cancer test was negative. Instead, the testimony ended with a quiet prayer of gratitude that God answered when he’d called, confirming the promise that He will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). For this believer, the test results took a backseat to resting in the knowledge that God was with Him.
“The self-esteem movement has failed us,” argues Simon Smart in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Smart describes how, in reaction to the (often humiliatingly) performance-based way people’s worth was assessed in the past, culture shifted to emphasize self-esteem. The problem, Smart explains, is that the self-esteem movement implied “you can find everything you need from within yourself”—which ironically left many “feeling deeply inadequate,” isolated, and unprepared for the world’s harsh realities.
Although God’s unconditional love is the foundation of faith in Jesus, really believing in unearned love isn’t easy. As Dale Ryan, CEO of Christian Recovery International, points out, even jokes depicting St. Peter’s questions at the “pearly gates” reveal an assumption that God’s love is extended based on our beliefs.
First words can be significant and transformative. The first words ever heard over a telephone were spoken by Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the new technology. On March 10, 1876, Bell called his assistant, Thomas Watson, and said: “Mr. Watson, come here.” On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey composed the very first words on Twitter, that “global water-cooler meeting place” of news and culture. It was a succinct message: “Just setting up my twttr.”
When we arrive at school each morning, my kids unclick their seatbelts, heave their backpacks onto one shoulder, and climb out of the car. But before my son shuts the door, I call after them: “I love you!” I want my children to face the challenges of each day knowing that I support and care for them.
A “love calculator” can be found on the Internet. As strange as it may sound, all you’re instructed to do once you’re on the website is to key in your name and the name of the person you’re interested in, and the love meter calculates your “love percentage”—supposedly revealing your chances of a successful romantic relationship. I wonder how many have naïvely tried to find true love using this website!
In The Newlywed Game, a popular game show in the US that ran from 1966 up until 2013, newly married couples were asked questions to determine how well the spouses knew each other. As I reflected on the program, I was reminded of how amazing it is that we have an intimate relationship with God—who both knows us perfectly and helps us to know Him.
Soccer fans around the world are known for being passionate about their teams, but Boca Juniors, a team from Argentina, may have some of the most enthusiastic followers. Besides typical expressions of support like jerseys, colorful wigs, and face paint, entire stadiums of Boca Juniors fans will even go so far as to set off fireworks simultaneously in an amazing pyrotechnic display, all to communicate one simple fact: “We love our team!”
Two siblings went down truly divergent paths. One turned his back on Jesus and eventually spent years in prison. The other lived out the grace and love of God, compassionately caring for family, those inside the body of Christ, and those on the outside. Two lives marked by actions that spoke loudly.
Fear is not a Christian habit of mind,” the novelist Marilynne Robinson has remarked. Yet fear is one of the most powerful and consistent forces in human behavior. Even outward obedience can be driven more by fear than love. What does it even mean, we might wonder, to live without being motivated by fear?
My friend was walking through a sculpture park when she saw the sculptor Rodin’s statue of Eve, which captures the moment Eve understood what she had done against God. My friend wept at Eve’s desperate, twisting figure, shattered by shame and fear, hanging her head and raising her hand in an attempt to block Him from smiting her.