The aurora borealis, also called the northern lights, is one of the most magical sights of the night sky. When I lived in Iceland, I saw it many times. One memory stands out.
It was February 2009, and I was about to leave Iceland to join another volunteer project in Ireland. I had spent most of the day trying to make arrangements to send my belongings ahead, and it hadn’t gone well. Each phone call to find out customs procedures had ended in frustration.
I see your struggles and hear your calls for help. When you feel all alone, I am there. I feel your heartaches, and wait for you to come to Me in prayer. Come into My sanctuary, into that secret place that you and I can share. There I am able to lift the worries, the cares, and the confusion. There I can restore your feeling of purpose and infuse you with strength to go on.
Life can be a struggle, but you do not have to struggle alone. Many times I have placed burdens in your life that seemed like mountains. They weigh your spirit down and you wonder why I have placed them there. I have not done these things to reprove you or as some sort of punishment.—I have done them to bring you closer to Me. I know your heart better than anyone else ever could, and love you more dearly.
God comforts and strengthens us in our suffering.
John 14:18: I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Many things that seem to us to be curses are in fact gifts from God, oddly packaged.
The story is told of a woman who loved Jesus very much and wanted nothing more than to please Him. “I’ll gladly do whatever You ask,” she promised, hoping secretly for some noble and noticed place of service.
To her dismay He handed her a heavy, rough burlap sack and asked her to carry it as they walked through life together. She was curious about the contents of the sack, but it was tied closed with a strong cord and so many intricate knots that clearly it was not meant to be opened just yet.
“Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” Elisha’s servant asked.
The king of Aram (present-day Syria) was at war with ancient Israel and had sent an entire army to the city of Dothan to capture the prophet Elisha. They came by night, so when Elisha’s servant woke and went out early in the morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet said. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”
“Miserable!” That was the only way to describe how I was feeling that day. My husband had had to travel—again!—and there I was alone with our four children. Finances were low, my health was bad, and my teenage daughter was going through a crisis. I prayed—oh, how I prayed!—that Jesus would make things a little easier to bear.
Looking out my window at a grove of trees swaying in the gentle breeze, I recalled other times when Jesus had encouraged me to hold on until He could work things out.
Have you ever noticed how some people can stay afloat when engulfed in troubles and hardships, while others sink to the bottom? What sets the swimmers apart from the sinkers? From what I’ve seen, the biggest factor seems to be faith in God’s love. When those who understand how much God loves them find themselves in over their heads, they know He won’t let them drown. So, unlike those who don’t have such faith, they don’t wear themselves out struggling just to keep their heads above water—or worse, panic and go down all the quicker. Buoyed by their faith, the swimmers can concentrate their energy on getting to solid ground.
The rugged climb doesn’t dissuade the determined mountain climber; he revels in the challenge. Nothing can stop him from pressing on until he reaches his goal. No adversity can cause him to turn back. When he looks at the steep cliffs ahead, he doesn’t focus on the danger but on the toeholds and narrow rock ledges that will take him to the peak. He isn’t held back by the harshness of his surroundings or the toll the climb is taking on his body; he is propelled onward and upward by the thought of triumph.
For many millions of us, this Christmas will be unlike any we’ve ever had. Those who haven’t felt the full impact of the worldwide economic downturn themselves are surrounded by people who have. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers whose annual bottom lines depend on Christmas sales are bracing for the lowest volume of sales in many years. Charities that count on Christmas giving to finance their projects for the next year face the prospect of having to scale back those projects, even as the need for them grows.
“Can I stay with you tonight?” Carlos asked in a trembling voice. He’d had a terrible argument with his wife, he explained over the phone, and he couldn’t return home. My wife and I knew that Carlos had already been going through a very difficult time in his life. To begin with, he’d hoped to be promoted to general manager of the company he worked for, but the job had gone to someone else. A few days later he’d been involved in a traffic accident, though fortunately no one was injured. Now this! Everything seemed to be going wrong.
I invited him over, and before he arrived, my wife and I prayed for Jesus to help us encourage him, as well as for wisdom in how to advise him in this personal situation, if he should ask for that.