BY JOYCE PELLETIER
"If I say, surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depts of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
It was in the early 70’s when God got a hold of me. I was married for less than 10 years. My life was going nowhere. Our children were six and eight. I was ‘much afraid’ of many things (from Hannah Hurnard’s book, Hinds Feet to High Places.) Death was my greatest roadblock. I thought I had the power to control that anyone I knew or loved would never die, because I could not face that reality.
We got a call that Maurice’s stepmother passed away. Maurice’s siblings from Connecticut offered to pick Maurice up for a trip to Canada for the funeral. Me being the strong mother, I told Maurice that I was not going to the funeral because we didn’t have anyone to care for the children. He was fine with my choice to stay home.
His brothers arrived and Maurice joined them for this trip to Canada. They weren’t close to their stepmother but went out of respect for their dad.
Not 10 minutes after they left, I found myself hit a huge wall of guilt for my selfish decision to not go. I hit rock bottom in my life and choice. I didn’t support the family. I went to see my oldest and dearest friend to pour out my guilt.
After sharing my heart with her. Instead of condemnation, I received was the truth of who God is. She witnessed to me that afternoon as our kids played unaware in the other room. She led me in the sinner’s prayer. And my life turned completely around. I felt the guilt leave me like a shower washing off my body filled with mud. My life changed that day forever.
The darkness tried to hide me in my sin, but when I opened the door, the ‘Light’ came in. That was all that I needed.
Darkness – what is the first word that comes to you? Mine is ‘sin’! Before I met Jesus, my life was filled with “ME” and what I wanted out of life. I didn’t know God then. I know when I got into a time of stress or difficulty, I was in the dark, because I was not with God. I didn’t know Him then. I would call out to God, but no answer came until this situation.
But you say, “dark is as light to you.” In my sin I tried to hide, but how can I hide when the light reveals what is sin and in darkness. It’s revelation! There was a day when His light showed me how selfish I was and that my life was going nowhere. His light didn’t condemn me! He didn’t take a weapon out to threaten me. He spoke in gentle, yet firm words to my heart. Jesus reached out to help me out of my pit.
On that day of my salvation, I faced the demons of selfishness and saw that it was not good. I surrendered my life to the one who could save me. I could not understand why a ‘Man’ had to die for me. Now, I know differently that His death gave me life. He does that for all of us who believe.
The day I became aware that God truly loved me, was one I will never forget. Since then, my life has not been the same. Sitting at my friend’s table and sharing my regrets, I was able to lay it all down and step onto a new journey for my life. My friend and I continue to be best friends for more than 50 years, for which I am eternally grateful for. We are always there for one another. More coming in the next segment.
BY JORDAN MAYER
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
For over a year now, I have been planning to transition into a different role at work. I was presented with a rather amazing opportunity to both fill a need at the company and do something I really enjoy. Talk about a win-win! Yet over these many months, I’ve seen this opportunity seemingly stymied again and again. Although I would consider myself to be a generally optimistic person, I've struggled against the looming cloud of discouragement and disappointment.
Is there something that you’ve been waiting, wanting, and hoping for? Maybe it’s been a lifelong dream or a deep-seated desire. Perhaps it's something that you've prayed long and hard about for weeks, months or even years. It can be difficult when things don’t work out the way we expect. But as I’ve seen again and again, God's Word supplies the answer.
First, I realize that my ways are not God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8). I see only in part, but God sees the whole. I know very little, but God knows all. Given my extensive limitations, I only have a small notion of what I think would be best for me. But I am not God. I cannot see past, present, and future laid out like an unraveled scroll. I cannot weigh in the balances all the countless decisions, actions, and paths to be taken. For four chapters, God answers a man named Job out of the whirlwind, declaring the marvelous and magnificent nature of His sovereignty. Job can only answer thus: “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know”(Job 42:3).
As a follower of this all-seeing, all-knowing God, I believe that, not only are His ways not my ways, His ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:9)! His ways are better than my ways! He has plans for my life, plans for good to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). If God would so love me that He would send His only son to die on my behalf, how can I not believe that He will also graciously give me all things (Romans 8:32)? This is the Sovereign God who watches over the sparrows and numbers the hairs on my head (Matthew 10:29-31). He is the great Provider who supplies my every need (Philippians 4:19).
Life can take many twists and turns, and it usually does not play out the way we expect. Though we don’t know the outcomes, we do know God. He is good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love toward all who call upon Him (Psalm 86:5).
As Romans 15:13 reminds us, it is in believing in this God of hope that we experience joy and peace. It is not just a joy or a peace, it is all joy and all peace! For in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) and the peace that He provides surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6).
By God’s grace, I have gotten to experience a renewed sense of His peace in my life. It defies natural explanation or description. I know a contentment that seems out of place in my circumstances. But that is because it comes, not from myself or my situation, but from my Heavenly Father. His peace is always there, ready and available. But it can only be found in His presence, in believing and trusting Him with all our being.
I think of the words from the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
“O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!"
Prayer is an exercise and measure of our faith. If we don’t believe, we won’t pray. But oh what peace we forfeit when we do not pray, when we do not believe.
So we pray believing that God hears, that He answers, and that He acts. We believe in who He is, what He's done, and what He promises. And it is in believing that we come to experience the joy and peace that God offers in himself. And it is in Him that we hope.
BY GABRIELLA FECHER
“But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.”
“God, do you hear me?”
The words were whispered as I sat in my car, enveloped in a swathe of darkness that was only broken up by the dim light of the clock on my dashboard. I had just received news that I never expected nor wanted to hear as I was driving home that night. For some reason, my reaction was to just pull over and go numb.
At some point or the other, we’ve all said those words. Maybe they were whispered into the night sky like mine were; maybe they were shouted in desperation. Maybe they were never audibly spoken, taking the form of thoughts that circulated around our own minds. In those moments, we’re craving some assurance that the Triune God— Creator of all, the Good Shepherd, Lion of Judah, Alpha and Omega, Prince of Peace— is there, sharing the space with us, acting as a Father who notices and cares. We want to know that He, in fact, meant it when He said that He would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), or when He said that we wouldn't be forgotten by Him (Isaiah 44:21), or that His eye is on those who hope in His steadfast love (Psalm 33:18). We want to know that He meant it and that He meant it for us specifically.
The idea that a God of such magnitude would meet with us in the fear, grief, shame, etc. doesn’t make sense. And yet, the Psalmist wrote, “But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer” (Psalm 66:19). It even says that He “inclined” to hear the prayer (Psalm 40:1), demonstrating not only a willingness to engage with us but a positioning of connection.
It’s significant that He hears. However, it’s just as significant that He also speaks. And, when He does, we have to be ready to hear the answer…because He has one. His answer to that question always reminds us who He is, inviting us to see His hand, hear His Word, and trace His heart. When we effectively hear His answer— an ever-needed reminder of His presence and control in our lives— our response isn’t passive. Interestingly, the word “hear” throughout the Bible is often translated from the Hebrew word, shama (also spelled shema). It appears over a thousand times in Scripture, and always points to an active form of listening. In fact, shama is also translated as “to obey.” The correlation cannot be overlooked. When God speaks, we have to not only believe that He is speaking— and speaking to us specifically— but we also have to do something with what He says. When, for example, the Scripture says that “not one word has failed of all his good promise” (I Kings 8:56), we have to believe that that statement was not an isolated truth for the Israelites; it’s a statement that is just as true for us. And, from there, we have to faithfully apply that truth as a guide, a stronghold, and an encouragement in our daily lives.
The thing about faith is that it can’t be boxed into our comfort zones. It doesn’t come on a silver platter with a nice cup of coffee and a pastry. It’s more like a push into vulnerability, making it impossible to lean on our own understanding. It’s as though the wall that we are leaning against is stripped away from us, and we’re forced (or, rather, welcomed) to change position, orientation, and support. Faith is surrendering the need to see because we know that He is good, true, and faithful to His children. He doesn’t just give us confidence in situations; He is our confidence, promising to equip us (2 Timothy 3:17) and give us rest (Matthew 11:28). His very presence is the epitome of comfort and strength when we can’t even formulate the words beyond the initial question, “God, do you hear me?”
He knows the loneliness you feel in a crowded room, the hurt that hides behind the crevices of the blinding smile you show the world, the fear that is masked by steady calculations and a pretense of control. He knows when you have poured yourself into building a safety net that— in reality— is but a cage that keeps you locked into a narrative or situation that was never intended to be a “forever home.” That night, He knew the news before I did, and He also knew that I would break from it. And what a beautiful thing it is that He knew.
We aren’t able to effectively hide our own brokenness, nor do we need to. The Omniscient God is an Omnipotent One. And, incredibly enough, He’s also an attentive Father who will reassure us that He’s heard every word when He meets us alongside the road in the dark.
BY JORDAN MAYER
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
(1 Peter 1:13)
When learning how to ski, one of the first things to learn is to look where you want to go. As a beginner, the tendency is to look down to see what your skis are doing. But to build any amount of confidence and balance, you have to keep your eyes looking ahead. As if by magic, you soon realize that your body will naturally follow the direction that your eyes point.
In Peter’s first letter, he has much to say about what we set our minds upon.
When skiing difficult terrain, an experienced skier doesn't simply ski down and hope for the best. Rather, they have already mapped out the “line” or route that they are going to take. By doing so, they can see the obstacles ahead, know where to make their turns, and see where the trail ends up. In short, they are prepared and have a plan.
In order to set our hope on the right thing, we first need to prepare our minds. Trials will come. Lies and mistruths are sure to arise. The devil, himself, is said to prowl around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:9). Satan is a liar and a father of lies (John 8:44); he will use any means necessary to get us off the path and shift our eyes off of Christ. In Ephesians 6:12, we are reminded that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil. We are under attack and the enemy is on the move. How crucial, then, that we prepare and ready our minds. Peter uses the word sober-minded. We must think clearly, seriously, and be singular in our focus.
Having prepared our minds, Peter now says to “set your hope”. The word “set” implies an active, intentional action. There may be a great many things that vie for our attention or capture our interest. And we all have a natural bent toward choosing the wrong thing. Even as believers, our sinful flesh wages war inside us (Romans 7:23). But, because of Christ and the work of the Spirit, we now have the ability to choose the right thing. If we walk by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
New skiers often suffer from something called target fixation. Your eyes get locked in on an obstacle, such as a tree or another skier, and before you know it, you begin heading right for them! It feels as if a magnet is pulling you in their direction, but really the issue lies in looking at the wrong thing. Rather than focusing on what you’re trying to avoid, the solution is to keep your eyes fixed on where you want to go.
Peter calls us to be intentional about what we set our minds on. Likewise, Paul says "to set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth" (Colossians 3:2). We must fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Remember that it was this same Peter who called out to the Lord to beckon him out onto the water. With his eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter walks across the water as if it were merely a wet floor. But as his gaze shifts, and he begins to notice the crashing waves and the swirling winds, he begins to sink. He cries out and the Lord saves him. Peter did not have perfect faith, but he had faith. I am thankful for a God who is always ready to pick us up when we are sinking, who promises to forgive and cleanse us when we confess our sins before Him (1 John 1:9).
If you have experienced this amazing grace of God, let us endeavor to set our hope and fix our eyes fully upon it. How easy it is to let the cares of the world consume our thoughts and shape our attitudes. But Jesus calls us to something greater and more glorious. For we look not to things seen, but what is unseen. We look past what is transient and look on to what is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
But perhaps you read this and have never known what true hope looks like. Instead hope has been elusive, and life nothing more than one discouragement or disappointment after the next. But hope is not a passing feeling or pipe dream. Do you realize that the God of the Bible is called a God of Hope? He not only wants to give you hope, He wants you to abound in it, to be filled with joy and peace in believing (Romans 15:13). Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, you can be born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3)! It is a hope that does not put us to shame (Romans 5:5).
This hope is the hope we cling to in this life, one that allows us to rejoice with joy inexpressible in the face of trials. And it is the hope we long for as we await the day when Jesus returns in glory.
BY JOYCE PELLETIER
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
This week I want to continue the reflection on Psalm 139:7-10.
As a child of God, I should know the Spirit is always with me, yet when things get challenging and things seem to go from one thing to another, you begin to question things. As time goes on and I keep my trust in the ever-present Holy Spirit, things work out as they should.
I’m a strong believer that God does great things in our lives. The answers may seem at times, to not be in sync with our understanding. However, when I learn to surrender and hold back my assumptions that I know the answer, I learn to step aside, take a breather, and then I can watch what God does. It’s a humbling thing to think we know the way to go, when in essence, we don’t have all the facts. That’s when we hang on to truth that the Holy Spirit of God lives in the hearts of the believers. I need to rely that maybe the Spirit hasn’t revealed himself in a given situation, I still believe He is wherever I am.
At Easter, Jesus rose from the grave. He returned a short while later to bring His Holy Spirit to live within us. There is a song I’ve heard recently, that has become one of my new favorite verses; “He will never stop fighting for me.”
Truth be told He’s always at bat for us. He’s got my back; He knows what is best for me. I don’t need to wonder where He is. We don’t have to seek where His presence is. He is deep in our hearts.
I struggled impatiently recently waiting for a decision for the eye surgeon to do the cataract in my left eye, which is giving me stress. When I read, I have double and triple vision. He wanted me to return to my Optometrist to see what is going on and if it can be fixed another way.
I am very impatient when I think I know the answer, but that does not necessarily mean I know what should happen. I want it over and done with. So, over and over again, God allows things that embed in my heart the right way to go. Even if I do know the answer, I need to go through the process, so that I can learn other things that I seem to push to the wayside. It’s the patience I learn when I have to ‘wait!’ What I probably don’t know is that there are things I don’t know, that need to happen before it’s my turn for the answer to happen.
It’s going through this process that I look at verses 9-10. 9 ‘If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.’ I’ve not arrived, I know that God has me in His care and I have much to learn about His timing. As the words state, I will rise on the wings of the dawn and His hand is ever there to guide and protect me.
May His hand be on your heart every step of your journey in this life. Grab ahold of what He wants to teach you. May each new sunrise bring His truth in all things.