Category Archives: Faith

A Prayer to Have Faith in Difficult Moments

 By Victoria Riollano

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going – Hebrews 11:8

The lights started to flicker. 

Before long, the slight flickering turned into a multi-county power outage. On a chilly day in January, what started off as a small snowstorm turned into a family emergency. The first day with no power, cell services down, and or heat source was uncomfortable, to say the least. That night, my family bundled in layers and prayed that we would soon get relief from the 30-degree house. Yet, with the estimated time for power restoration being a week and downed trees covering the streets, it was certain we needed to find a place of refuge quickly. 

The next day, with the help of many neighbors, we managed to get our 13-passenger van out of our icy snow-trapped home. With no family in sight and all our friends in the same predicament, we knew we had to go, but certainly didn’t know where. All we knew was that the Lord prompted us to leave quickly to keep everyone from getting very sick. With little money and no hotel in sight, we simply drove away and trusted in the Lord.

As we traveled for hours in traffic and icy roads, I was reminded of the story of Abraham. In Genesis 12, Lord speaks to Abraham and says, “Leave your land and go to a place I will show you.” I can only imagine how unsettling it was to pick up and suddenly go. Leaving his place of comfort and having no real direction, Abraham had to trust God with every aspect of his journey. He had to trust him for the provision. He had to trust him for protection. Abraham was a perfect example of walking and changing his entire life by faith! Hebrews 11:8 says it like this,

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (NIV).

God is our refuge, inspirational image

Today, the Lord is searching for those who, like Abraham, will make a choice to follow when it’s not easy. Abraham’s obedience set the platform for many to be blessed. I believe we’ve all found ourselves in this position of having to trust God in a big way. Maybe the Lord was leading you to a new job or out of a toxic relationship? Perhaps, He asked you to go back to school or start a business. In these moments, we seem to have more questions than answers. Do we leave our place of comfort or step out on faith? Do we risk failing or trust the Lord for success? I want to encourage you with this: the Lord will never lead you somewhere to leave you stranded! There will be many times when we won’t know all the details. Yet, there is comfort in knowing that He does. We can walk in pure confidence that He will take care of us, no matter what the circumstance. 

That wintery week taught was a powerful lesson. Though the power outage was unexpected for us, it wasn’t for God. As expected, He took care of everything. He helped us to get to the only available hotel within 50 miles. He sent family, members, and church members who willingly sent money to us, without being asked. When it was all over, every day of the hotel was paid, the food for our family of nine was covered. Even the gas money needed was provided. Once again, the Lord showed that we could trust Him for our every need. Certainly, we can trust Him as we go through the unforeseen trials and the unknown places. Like Abraham, may we be brave and move when He tells us, even when we don’t know all details.

Dear Lord, 

I thank you that you never leave me or forsake me. I ask that you always remind me of your ability to protect, comfort, and lead me. Thank you for going before me in every scenario. Lord, I ask that you help me to trust you in difficult situations. Teach me to have faith when I feel out of control. I ask that you give me courage and help me to keep my eyes on you. You are my safe place and my refuge.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Still Lost, Despite Handheld Directions

By: Meg Bucher

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. - Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

I blindly began to follow the directions after clicking on the linked address, but a quick glance revealed the wrong state map. Thankfully I hadn’t gotten far, because my sense of direction is not reliable!

How easily we trust our hand-held directions, and so often we let our little devices direct our thoughts as well as our traveling routes. Our portable screens can hijack what we think about, are upset over, discontent in, or jealous of. Accessibility can make it incredibly easy to lose our sense of direction, even when we’re grounded in Truth. Though created in God’s image, we have the innate temptation to wander away from Jesus’ lead.

Jeremiah had a troubling message to deliver to God’s people, who had continually chosen to wander the side trails of idolatry, which means putting anything above God in importance. Even though God had made His love for them so evident and clear with centuries full of miracles and rescue moments, their attention remained easily diverted. The consequences wouldn’t be easy for them to hear, or walk through. Many would never return to the land God promised for them, for it would be seventy years before anyone went home. But God still cared so deeply for the state of their hearts, He assured them in today’s verse, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

They would not lose God’s love. Not even in consequence for their rebellious wandering. Though it would be a long and hard journey, Jeremiah prophesied of a Messiah that would be born from the line of David. Something unimaginable for God’s people. When the small remnant promised to survive the exile returned home as God promised, they were still the same easily distracted people they were before. Many missed Jesus when He did, in fact, come exactly the way God said He would. (Fulfilling over 300 prophesies!)

The VOICE paraphrase of today’s verse reads: “I have loved you with an everlasting love- out of faithfulness I have drawn you close.” 

God’s love cannot be earned by what we do, or lost by what we’ve done or will do.

He is God, and His love does not waver like human love. He is not like our earthly caregivers, who become exhausted with our antics. His embrace is always at the ready, faithful and steady. Our Rock. Our Redeemer. When we get lost, we can drop to our knees,  and in an instant remember who we are. There is power in the name of Jesus, and when we are lost, whether on the road or in our thoughts, we can call it out knowing He will calm our souls and guide our minds.

Important for us, today, is the sacrifice Jesus made for ALL. Meaning, we will share in the inheritance of God’s people, all who believe in Jesus Christ, and the salvation He died to give us. God’s plan cannot be overturned. He faithfully reminds us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

Skydiving with JesusBarb Roose

Today’s Truth:

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here” (Matthew 14:27 NLT).

During a Monday morning planning meeting, I was given two choices: pet a tarantula or jump out of an airplane. I picked jumping out of an airplane because I am that afraid of spiders! Which one would you choose?

The next morning, I drove across my home state with two co-workers to go skydiving. As I passed the highway exit near my hometown, I considered giving my parents a call. However, wisdom, or maybe self-preservation, prevailed. I figured that if I didn’t die skydiving, my mother would surely kill me to keep me from jumping out of the plane.

After I arrived, the training staff taught us the basics of how to jump and how parachutes worked. I appreciated the information; however, thousands of nervous butterflies were skydiving in my stomach. It was knowing that my experienced jump instructor would be present and tethered to me during the jump that made the difference with my anxiety.

In Matthew 14:27, Jesus reminds the disciples of His presence in perilous circumstances. Shortly after feeding 5,000 men and their families, Jesus sent the disciples across the lake to wait for Him. Even though the disciples knew how to manage the boat, that didn’t take away their fear when a fierce storm blew across the lake. The disciples were in trouble and in Mark’s account, he wrote that the disciples were rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves (Mark 6:48).

Are you “rowing hard and struggling” in one of life’s storms? It’s easy to panic when you’re doing all that you can and you still fear that all will be lost. Perhaps you’re facing a parenting challenge and no matter what you’ve learned from the therapists or books, you’re still pacing the floor at night. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with a life-changing illness and while you’ve got treatment plans and expert care, the waves of grief and uncertainty pummel you day and night. Not only do you feel the fear, but it’s exhausting, isn’t it?

Jesus speaks eight, powerful and practical words to the disciples that apply to you today, no matter what you’re facing:

“Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here.”

Notice how Jesus didn’t tell them to steer the boat differently. Furthermore, He didn’t criticize them for being afraid. In their panic, Jesus knew that the only effective measure was to show up with his calming presence. Jesus called the disciples to take their eyes off the storm and focus on Him and experience His peace in the midst of the storm. An interesting note, as the story continued to unfold, Jesus invites Peter to walk on water and yet, the strong winds and waves continue. Yet, in Jesus’ presence, Peter had the courage to step out and walk on water in the midst of the storm.

Today, you can be encouraged! Jesus’ presence is always near, so you can live in bold courage rather than fear. Even as the circumstances of your life whip and whirl around you, courageously do whatever God has called you to do. He is right with you!

When the tiny crop plane reached 10,000 feet over the jump point, my instructor tethered his jumpsuit to mine and opened the door. The loud rush of cold wind filled my ears, but I heard his voice in the wind: “I’m right here.” Even though we would free-fall at 120 mph back toward earth, I felt the intensity of the fall, but never the fear because my instructor was near.

What are those waves named in your life? Imagine yourself sitting in a boat and picture Jesus walking toward you saying, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here.” Even if you can’t see him in your difficult moment, he is near to you today.

Let’s Pray

God, I am grateful that I can face the storms of life with peace and courage because Your presence is always with me. Whisper Jesus’ words to my heart and soul today whenever I focus too much on the waves of fear, uncertainty or stressful circumstances. Thank You that I am never alone! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Prayer for Ukraine

This prayer was written by a Resonate missionary in Ukraine, Rev. George de Vuyst. As conflict escalates in this country, consider using this prayer on Sunday to pray for peace for our brothers and sisters around the world. In the midst of war and conflict, we join our voices as one to pray for one of our own and for many of God’s own.  **NOTE THIS HAS BEEN UPDATED TO REFLECT THAT RUSSIA STARTED A FULL SCALE INVASION**

Heavenly Father, we come to you with heavy hearts as we see war in Ukraine.  We pray that you would be merciful on the people of Ukraine and Russia and end this war.  Grant wisdom to world leaders to effectively stop evil.  Allow for the truth to be known, for lies to be shown for what they are, and for evil-doers to be thwarted.

Lord, we pray for those who have lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods.  Comfort and provide for the needs of those who have been displaced and seek refuge.  Lord, we ask for mercy and we seek justice.  We pray that you would be at worked in both.

We pray for the day when all wars will cease and when your peaceful reign will come fully.  But in the meantime, we pray that you would use us to facilitate the coming of your kingdom here and now.  Help us to take action to bring peace, to care for the victims of war, and to work for justice.  Help us to live according to the principles of your Kingdom today, and to remain faithful until your Kingdom comes fully at your return. Grant courage to your church in Russia, in Ukraine, and here to speak truth to power and to prophetically proclaim the truths of your Kingdom as well as the day of grace that still remains for those who repent.  

Lord, we pray for Vladimir Putin.  We pray that you would change his heart and work your miracle of salvation in his life.  If he continues in his wicked ways, we pray that you would restrain his evil and have mercy on those who suffer because of it.

In all these things, we trust you, because you are our loving Father.  We ask that you would keep us faithful by the power of your Spirit and that you would be with your church in Ukraine – that in times of war it would faithfully follow you and represent you before the nations.  Heal the wounds, we pray, both physical and the wounds of the heart.  Reconcile the nations with you and with each other by the power of the cross of our reigning Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

A Prayer to Remember Where Our Help Comes From

By: Maggie Meadows Cooper

I look up to the mountains- does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! – Psalm 121:1

Over the years there have been many people and places that we turn to when we need help: Facebook friends, Dear Abby, Google, our moms. But so often, in spite of good intentions, their advice leaves us longing for more. Many times the advice hurts more than helps, and sometimes they are simply dead wrong. So why do we choose them? Convenience, proximity, or maybe a secret hope that they will tell us what we want to hear? All possible reasons that each of us can identify with, I think. But when Mary was faced with a problem and needed help in John 2:3, she turned to the only One who could be her Helper that day. The only One who is the Helper we all need: Jesus.

Mary, Jesus, and the disciples were attending a wedding in Cana, and the hosts ran out of wine. According to their culture and that time in history, they risked great humiliation. Mary called Jesus for help and told the servants to “do whatever He tells you.” So they did. And Jesus performed his first public miracle, turning water into wine. If only our problems were that simple to solve, right? But maybe they are. The truth is that their problem was resolved because of two simple choices, the same choices we all have to make:

First – Who will we ask for help?

“I look up to the mountains- does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” -Psalm 121:1

Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.” – John 6:68

Our problems do not always have simple solutions, but the decision of who to ask for help should be the simplest of all. David, Peter, and many others knew Who to go to. It didn’t mean they didn’t fear or fret or doubt at times. But they made a choice to trust, to hope, to turn their hearts and minds and souls and spirits to the One who is able to do so much more than we could ever ask or imagine (Eph.3:20). And sometimes the help that the Lord offers may come in the form of Godly counsel from other Believers or counselors. It may mean waiting and doing nothing. But seek His will and wisdom and guidance first, and the rest will fall into place.

Psalm 121:1, inspirational image

Second – Will we do whatever Jesus tells us to do?

“If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15

I sure wish this was easier to carry out. I know from experience that my heart wants to obey. I want to speak and act and love like Jesus would have me do. But carrying those things out with my earthly flesh that wants what I want when I want, that gets offended and hurt and embarrassed, that, truth be told, wants to rebel many times because of my feelings and judgments, is much easier said than done. And I find myself half-obeying many times. I may feel His nudge to forgive and actively serve the person who hurt me. So I agree to forgive…but don’t carry out that action of love and service. The “whatever” He tells me may seem unreasonable at times. Too odd or unjust. And I don’t know what people will think…so I choose to blend in with the crowd rather than risk looking foolish.

“Whatever He tells you…” Those servants risked looking foolish that day as they filled jars used to cleanse others with water, expecting it to somehow become wine. Noah, Moses, Esther, John the Baptist and so many others risked looking foolish because they agreed to do what the Lord told them to do. His directions take faith, y’all. They take extreme courage and a longing to please God rather than men. And in this world, that is so very hard. But the choice is ours to make.

Pray. Pray hard and seek the Lord and His will above all else. Avoid the temptation to seek earthly wisdom first. Then wait. And see how the Lord will help you when you choose to seek His approval above all else.

Dear Jesus, 

Forgive me for running to the people and things of this world for help before coming to you. Thank you for being my Helper and loving me in spite of my shortcomings. Help me remember Who you are and where my help comes from. Give me strength, courage, and a boldness to seek you and your approval above all else.

In Your Mighty Name,

Amen

A Prayer for You, God’s Masterpiece

By: Alisha Headley

“The Lord will work out his plans for my life — for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not abandon me, the works of your hands.” – Psalm 138:8

I love the idea that God, through the work of His own mighty hands, created me and only me once. Like paintings by a world-renown artist – there’s something unique about the first one. Anything else after the first one, are copies and replicas.

How beautiful to know that we were worth the work the first time. God threw away the mold because one of us is enough for Him. We are enough. We are a sacred painting, the original piece. And God has made us for our own unique purpose.

Psalm 138:8, inspirational image

Today’s scripture verse reminds us that he will never abandon us, His beautiful creation, His “masterpiece – His workmanship.” (Ephesians 2:10He won’t abandon the work He created.

Yes, He will work out His plans for our life. He didn’t just create us and then leave us. Oh no, He created us with intention, His very own masterpiece.

Whatever God has called you to, He will equip you for it. He will work His plans for your life. You might not feel ready, or feel you have the tools or the skills to do what you feel God calling you to do. But if He’s called you to it, you better believe He’s also equipped you for it.

You are his work of art, created by Him for a purpose of doing good works for His kingdom. He didn’t create you for nothing. You were beautifully created for a purpose, a one of kind, unique purpose. He will accomplish what he started by the work of His own hands.

Rest in the promise today that He will work out all that He planned to work out for you. Rest in the knowledge that He is our faithful God, and you “can be confident, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until it is finally finished on the day that Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6)

Dear Lord,

Thank you that your love is so personal, that you created me, and that there is only one of me. You set your eyes on me from the beginning. You created me with a purpose and you promise to work out all the plans you have for my life.

Thank you that you are a faithful God. That all throughout Scripture, time, and time again, you showed your faithful love to your people. Lord, remind me in moments of doubt, that you will never abandon me, for I am your unique workmanship. I am yours. I am your creation.

Lord, help me to not compare myself to others. You created me, just as I am, and you view me as your masterpiece. Help me to see myself the way that you see me, not as the world sees me. Remind me that you have given me everything I need to work out the plans you have set before me. Help me remember that if you have called me to it, you have also equipped me for it.

Thank you for your Word as my guide, the “lamp unto my feet” (Psalm 119:105), and for the Holy Spirit as my “Helper” (John 14:26). Allow us to rest in the confidence that you will finish what you began in us. We worship you, Lord, praising you for your everlasting love for us.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

A Prayer to Our Longsuffering God –

Prayer to Our Long-Suffering God
By Meg Bucher

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9 NIV

The love the Father has for us is displayed in His patience with us. He is a long-suffering God! Long-suffering means enduring injury, trouble, or provocation long and patiently.

“Scoffers use the delay of His second coming to question if He is going to return at all,” the Voice Translation says, “Peter responds by saying that God’s perspective on time is not like ours. What seems long from a finite, human perspective is incredibly short from an eternal one.”

The Voice paraphrase of 2 Peter 3:9 says,

Now the Lord is not slow about enacting His promise – slow is how some people want to characterize it – no, He is not slow but patient and merciful to you, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but wanting everyone to turn away from following his own path and to turn toward God’s.”

2 Peter 3:9, inspirational image

The word slow, as Peter used it, means to delay. “Delays are not denials,” the NIV Study Bible clarifies. God’s delays don’t nullify His promises. The LORD is patient with us. He does not lose heart. He preservers patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles. He is patient in bearing our offenses and injuries. He is mild, slow in avenging. He is long-suffering, slow to anger, and slow to punish. (Strongs.) No matter how crazy the world becomes, we can rely on God. He is the same yesterday, today, and always.

Father,

We thank you for your faithfulness. We praise you for your promises. Great are you, Lord, who has made a way for us to come to you, through Jesus.

Father, I pray you are quick to stir our hearts through the Spirit living in us. Remind us that your presence is with us always through Christ Jesus. Help us to be long-suffering, God, as you are. Teach us to be patient, willing to wait, slow to anger and slow to punish.

God, you are a promise keeper. Some of the direct answers to the questions of pain and suffering in the world will allude us on this side of eternity, but your promises reign true. And eternal life, beyond this world, awaits all who embrace Christ Jesus as their Savior.

You are not slow in keeping your promise, Lord. Not as some understand slowness. You are patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but all of us to come to you in repentance. Thank you for being long-suffering.

Bless our lives, Father. Keep us safe, healthy, and guard our hearts in Christ Jesus.

In Jesus’ Name, 

Amen.

The Bow & The Arrowby Shawn McEvoy

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Wisdom, suggests the book of Proverbs, is prized above all things. And wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. Therefore, the wisest thing one can do is to trust and honor God.

And trusting and honoring God, according to Proverbs 3:1-12, “not only delivers one from evil, but promises certain rewards,” according to my Ryrie Study Bible notes. Among those rewards are:

  • Longevity and peace (vv. 1-2)
  • Favor with God and man (vv. 3-4)
  • Health (vv. 7-8)
  • Prosperity (vv. 9-10)

Pretty good stuff. Stuff we all like, and seek hard after. Barns filled with plenty, length of days, refreshment to your bones. And yet…

The section of Proverbs 3 that we know, love, cherish, cling to, and quote most often is the part that promises not peace, not health, not abundance. It is the part that promises guidance. “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”

Let’s not miss that. In this promise-rich portion of Scripture, the part we people recite more often than the others is the part about trusting God more than ourselves so that in our “ways” and “paths,” we will know which way to go. We will know what to do. We will get there directly. We will be able to read the signposts planted by the Almighty. The child of God receives many additional gifts when he or she receives wisdom. Is it possible that the most highly prized among them is a highly-tuned sense of spiritual direction?

If you’ve ever listened to peers ponder or authors write about the subject of seeking / finding / learning / doing “God’s will,” then I think you might agree that the answer could just be yes. We long to serve, to offer ourselves worshipfully. To walk so closely with God that “in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Symbolically, what might this sense of direction, guidance, straight paths, and complete trust look like?

Perhaps… an arrow? Consider:

  • Arrows point the way to other destinations
  • Arrows indicate which way it is okay to turn
  • Arrows are straight and narrow
  • Arrows are colorful, sleek and efficient
  • Arrows attempt to hit the target, but sometimes “miss the mark”
  • Arrows can not be projected forward well by anything but the bow, they were made to fit into it (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart“)
  • Arrows are completely dependent upon the bow, and they were made to go out from it (“lean not on your own understanding“)
  • Arrows discussing how they got somewhere without crediting the bow would sound ridiculous (“In all your ways acknowledge him“)
  • Arrows, if properly knocked, fly true (“he will make your paths straight“)
Image by Paul Barlow from Pixabay

Today’s verse appeared on the program for our wedding, because it has always been one of my wife’s life verses. It is even more meaningful to me as I re-study it today because of something else I had written for Valerie long before she became my wife. I wrote the following thoughts about arrows for her after we had been dating for two months, just before she moved several states away from me:

I used to teach archery at camp in Texas. It’s the kind of sport where it’s not hard to find a few life metaphors – hitting the target, nailing the bull’s-eye, missing the mark… But in the arrow itself, I found a wealth of lessons. It’s such a simple, effective, and elegant weapon, with its sleek shaft and colorful feathers, but it can’t function without help. It needs the bow in order to reach its potential, to drive it forward, or it is worthless.

The arrow also has been prevalent in my doodles for as long as I can remember, probably due to its symbolic significance in direction and guidance. But take another look at the feathers – do you notice how one, the one facing outward, is a different color? That’s called the cock feather. It’s unique in that it must face away from the bow, or outward, in order to fly straight when shot. As Christians, too often we cover up what’s different about ourselves, and we wind up missing the mark, or sinning. But when our unique side faces outward for the world to see, we fly straight and true, exploding towards the target in a glorious burst of color.

 What is unique and different about you? Your faith, poise, depth, and grace, to name a few. Keep those true colors facing boldly outward; trust the Lord’s aim as He pulls back the string; fly straight. Let Him choose the targets, and you can’t miss.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Wisdom is often called the greatest gift, and no wonder, because it brings with it so many other gifts, not least among them the sense of guidance and direction that flying forth from God’s Great Bow brings. What gift of wisdom do you prize above others? Remember the example of the arrow when you wonder what it looks like to trust in the Lord with all your heart, and to acknowledge him in all your ways. A true straight arrow can do no other! It is nothing but ineffective flash apart from the bow!

Epiphany Now

The extraordinary season is upon us

by:Diana Butler Bass

On January 5, the eve of Epiphany, I went for a night walk. We’d just had a big snowstorm in Virginia. The trees were still encased and frozen a silvery white, their branches sparkled in the moonlight against a deep blue sky. Everything was silent; the only sound was the cracking crust of hardened snow with each footfall. I wondered: Is this what it is like to dance across the stars?

And that is what Epiphany is--a season of stars. Magic. 

Of course, in more conventional use, Epiphany is a season in the Christian year — the weeks that follow Christmas until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. In the northern hemisphere, it is the deep winter season, a time of starkness, cold, ice, and snow. Madeleine L’Engle once wrote that winter “reveals structure,” that which is behind the riot of leaf and flower of spring. Stripped down to the icy branches, Epiphany manifests a January spirituality helping us see what we cannot otherwise see.

Epiphany is not just a liturgical placeholder between two important Christian holy days. It may well be the most undervalued — and, in many ways, the most contemporarily relevant — season of the Christian year.

The traditional themes of Epiphany are light, glory, sight, revelation, and enlightenment. The seasonal cycle begins with the story of the Magi — three wise mystics — following a star, a journey that takes them to Jesus, God’s promise birthed into the world, wonder embodied as a tiny child. The most ordinary of human moments — birth — becomes extraordinary.

Epiphany is about seeing the extraordinary in the everyday. Some Christians call Epiphany “ordinary time,” but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Week after week, with each story presented in the yearly lectionary, what seems ordinary is revealed as something extraordinary. A baptism turns into a divine announcement; water becomes wine; reading holy words introduces a prophet of the Kingdom; a day’s laborious fishing breaks the nets with a great catch; the poor are blessed; and love, mercy, and forgiveness are offered not to friends but to those who seek to do us harm.

Epiphany is a cracking of the ice underfoot. The frozen world starts giving way to something else — the branches sparkle in the moonlight, a star leads to a barn, the beauty of the deep structure of things is revealed. We begin to wonder: Maybe every baptism announces God’s love. Maybe water always has been wine. Maybe we are all prophets of liberation. Maybe every day’s work holds abundance. The poor and sad and persecuted have always been the blessed. Perhaps we are always dancing on the stars and just don’t notice. Not until an epiphany. It is far more than a day. It isn’t just the “weeks following” Christmas or the Magi visit. This is the season of extraordinary time, the in-breaking of creation’s promise. This Epiphany, this seeing, this glory of the cosmos manifested here and now.

Indeed, Epiphany is best expressed through paint and poetry and imprecise preaching; it is the delight of theologians of imagination and children playing in snow. I suspect that is why it is largely ignored by those who have lost the sense that faith is magical and that miracles are real. But Epiphany is real. And you know it is real because of a single, powerful, and relevant truth: each of its miracles is met by a violent counterforce bent on extinguishing the extraordinary.

The Magi’s visit is followed by Herod’s infanticide. Jesus’ baptism happens in conjunction with John’s arrest. The miracle of water and wine is followed by an angry encounter with religious profiteers. Proclamation of the Kingdom results in a mob attempting to throw the prophet off a cliff. The great catch of fish causes the disciples to abandon their families and jobs. Blessings are followed by woes. And the call for mercy and forgiveness is countered with vicious rumors and the hatching of a plot to do away with Jesus.

This extraordinary season induces awe. It reveals that there is more to the world than what we accept as “ordinary.” And there are powers and principalities that will press against Epiphany with fear and great violence. To see the deep structure, to follow the star, to hear the breaking of the ice encasing the earth is threatening to those who benefit from “normal,” the accepted veneer of “ordinary” injustices and oppressions and indignities that bedevil and deceive the human race.

And thus: Epiphany is the season we need now. We need its clarity, its sharp starkness. Maybe our moment in history is an epiphany — the ordinary is being pulled back to reveal that which has been hidden from view. The mundane is charged with meaning — and epiphanies are everywhere. It is as if the universe has cracked open with truth — and terror. We live in awful and awe-filled times. For some of what we know as ordinary has become the gateway to glory; and some of what we’ve accepted as ordinary is only another guise of vainglory. It takes an epiphany to reveal which is which — to know the deepest love in the world and live in the tailings of the star

Is Suffering Inevitable?

by Shawn McEvoy

For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
1 Peter 3:17, NAS

Suffering. It’s not standard daily devotional fare, because let’s face it, usually we want to begin or end our day being uplifted, or even better, lifting up God, rather than focusing on our pains and problems.

But there’s the rub… we all have pains and problems. Christian and non-Christian. Lifelong disciple and baby believer. Red and yellow, black and white. Everyone, from the moment he or she was born, has struggled, tried, failed, hurt, sinned, misunderstood, and reacted. Humanity shares a true brotherhood over suffering, one that we might understand a lot better if suffering weren’t also so relative. By which I mean, one person’s issues may sound simple, easy-to-solve, even petty to another. “That’s nothing compared to what I’ve had to endure!”

But the fact is, your sorrows and difficulties are real to you. It’s one reason why I’m no fan of when people say a certain place or time in their lives isn’t “the real world,” as if the spot they are currently tucked away at is immune from any degree of difficulty.

Suffering is very real, and there’s certainly no reason any Christian would expect life to be otherwise. We purport to follow a “Suffering Savior.” His stripes have healed us, and wow do we seem to feel them sometimes, which is as it should be, as we deserved them instead of Him. If we agree that no person but One – no matter where they lived or how easy or hard they had it – has escaped sin’s corruption, then how much more must we agree that truly NO person has escaped suffering?

Look at what Peter suggests in today’s verse: you can suffer for doing good, or you can suffer for doing bad. By extension, some of the problems in your life may be a result of your own rebellious choices, while other hurts may naturally result from walking so closely with Christ that you ache at the injustice and hardship around you, with the world despising and persecuting you.

In the classic allegory Hinds’ Feet on High Places, Much-Afraid journeys with companions named Sorrow and Suffering, and these two assist her in her climb up the Injury Precipice, which is a part of her transformation into “Grace and Glory.”

The same is true for you. Your sufferings have informed you, educated you, helped you along in your journey. You may despise them, but they are yours. And they will be with you whether you are doing right, or not. Of course, the nature of them will be quite different.

There may yet be one way, though, to avoid suffering. There’s a third option, left out here by Peter, but not left out by John in the Revelation. It’s the middling, lukewarm response to life, the do-nothing approach. This is the approach that cocoons itself off from life and all of its pain (but also all of its involvement). And make no mistake, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something,” says that famous theologian the Man in Black in The Princess Bride.

Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something,”

says that famous theologian the Man in Black in The Princess Bride.

You may not feel anything from inside a cocoon; in fact, it may be an abundance of pain and suffering that forced you in there. But remember, no creature that cocoons itself is intended to stay locked up forever. The point is to be rested, healed, matured, transformed. To become more beautiful, useful. Even the emerging process itself carries a degree of struggle, but one that, if the insect did not go through unhindered, would leave it too weak to fly.

So be lifted up in your suffering today.

It is a companion.

It is designed to transform you.

It gives you a share in the inheritance of Christ and the brotherhood of humanity.

And it gives you empathy, which gives you every excuse for ministry.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Make it your goal to partake, as much as possible, only of the brand of suffering that comes from doing what is right according to God’s Word.