Surprised by Joy

From the beginning to the end of her memoir Surprised by Oxford, Caro (aka Carolyn) explores her journey into the Christian faith. Yet she also invites us on her exploration of God’s love and her discovery of the joy which accompanies faith in Christ.


Caro’s memoir does not serve as an invitation for you to explore God’s love by yourself. Her memoir captivates you to embark on a journey of experiencing fellowship with God in community with others. As her Christian friends drew near to her in fellowship, she experienced the touch of Christ’s love upon her life. God began to seem far less distant and much closer than she had ever imagined.

The joy present within their lives created this paradox which ultimately won her attention. While they took their faith in Christ very seriously, they did not take themselves too seriously. Indeed their charm and humor served as a witness that Christ does not alienate you from the world nor does it cripple you from making a positive impact on people in the world. And their intellect demonstrated that reason and faith do not oppose each other—but rather each informs the experience and application of the other.

We should not underestimate the power of the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10). As we live out the light of Christ, we captivate our neighbors to walk out of darkness, turn towards Christ, and enter into fellowship with Him. Moreover, we encourage each other to remain in fellowship with God as temptation and trials press us to turn away from Him.

Most importantly, we represent Christ. As we open ourselves up in a spirit of vulnerability and hospitality to our neighbor, we demonstrate the vulnerability and hospitality of Christ. While we stood banished from His kingdom, He entered our world to be cursed on a tree outside of the walls of Jerusalem so that we could celebrate eternal life with Him in the New Jerusalem.

Mystery and Pain

Caro did not arrive at this conclusion without first struggling with the questions which seemed to haunt her past and present. As she lived out those questions, she trusted that God would answer them in his own time. With that as the main thrust of the book, this line seems to summarize her journey as illustrated in her memoir:

“A question mark is a good metaphor for the Christian life. Trusting even when it’s hard. Appreciating the mystery and being surprised by the joy” (Weber, 420).

This runs full circle from the beginning of the memoir’s prologue. Caro asked her professor Dr. Deveaux for his opinion on her final presentation of her senior year in undergrad. His response ended with this remark:

Anything not done in submission to God, anything not done to the glory of God, is doomed to failure, frailty, and futility. This is the unholy trinity we humans fear most. And we should, for we entertain it all the time at the pain and expense of not knowing the real one (quoted by Weber, 3)

As she left Canada for England, Caro submitted to nobody. As she tried to make sense of her world, she referred to herself as her ultimate reference point for understanding.

Caro might have appealed to literary works, but even her interpretation of those works began and ended with her own categories of truth, goodness, and beauty. Those same categories composed what she considered to be desirable and rational. As she attempted to make sense of both the good and the bad times from her past, Caro appealed to what she reasoned to be logical and what she felt to be right. Throughout her journey of faith, she began to understand the foundation for all the pain afflicting her and the rest of the world.

This foundation pertains to our reference point for understanding reality. We use this standard to verify claims of fulfillment as we search to define our meaning and purpose. We use this guide to answer these key questions: “What is true? And what is false? What is good and beautiful about this world? And what is bad and ugly about it?”

When mankind began to understand reality according to its own understanding apart from God, death entered into the world. Now we strive to answer these key questions: “If pain and suffering feel so wrong, why do they exist within this world? And what is the solution for this dilemma?” As Caro discovers, the Gospel stands as the only remedy for the dilemma of death.

Caro uses a cherry tree as an analogy for her childhood which also serves as an analogy for the rest of mankind. In the memoir, she recalled many sweet memories with her father as a child. As her childhood transitioned from the definition of sweetness to bitterness, Caro remembered how she and her father picked cherries from a tree during the evening time. As they spat the pits into the grass, they enjoyed sweet fellowship while they relaxed in their lawn chairs.

One night during the middle of winter, Caro woke up to the loud strike of lightning. She looked outside to see her beloved cherry tree split into two halves. As she beheld this tragic sight, she heard the snow hissing from the lightning bolt. Soon after that event, her relationship with her father and the stability of her household collapsed.

Seen in the gospel story, as soon as man chose to turn from God, we could no longer eat from the fruit of fellowship with God. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Since then, we’ve lived in the aftermath of being banished from the presence of God.

Yet, Christ came into the world to bring us back into the presence of God. Jesus called Himself the Truth, the One through whom we could know God and understand ourselves. As Caro considered Christ who entered her pain and conquered death, she began to look to Him as the ultimate reference point for her life.


Unlike Caro, we did not lose access to the Tree of Life by what would appear to be coincidence. We chose to pursue knowledge on our own apart from God by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Discontent with being created in the likeness of God, we lusted after the position of being equal with God, if not greater than Him.

To paraphrase John Bunyan, we committed the greatest act of treason. We challenged His justice. We violated His mercy. We mocked His patience. We insulted His power. And lastly, we betrayed His love.

Unlike Caro’s father, God would have not been guilty for abandoning mankind. Yet He chose the opposite reaction. Instead of distancing Himself within Heaven from all of humanity on earth, God took on flesh to draw near to us. Jesus stepped out of paradise. He descended into misery. Jesus gave up the praise of angelic worship for the mockery of His own people. This sacrifice of love freed Caro to believe.

Caro endured the absence of a father; yet she could enjoy the presence of a greater Father forever. The Gospel proved to Caro “that a happy ending makes up for not only a lot, but for everything. And then some” (Weber, 428).

Caro ended her first year at Oxford with the conclusion that her decision to serve God actually freed her to live in sincerity with others. This decision freed her to live a life of contentment, even if she had to momentarily suffice with mere crumbs from the table. Indeed as she began to pack up for her to travel back to Canada, she noted this in a letter:

I presumed that somehow having faith would alienate me from the world or doom me to a life of social hypocrisy. I never realized how, instead, it would require me to deal with the real. Or to love more deeply. Even when I wasn’t in the mood (Weber, 428).

As Caro finished her first year at Oxford, she confessed Christ as her Lord and Savior. And she did not stop there. Caro also confessed how her struggle with doubt led her to this profession:

For now I see that being a thoughtful Christian has never been easy, nor has it been in vogue. I mean “thoughtful” in terms of both owning a compassionate faith that acts in consideration of others, and a faith that has been “examined” – that is, it has been both studied and tested. Made strong by seeing its wants. Tried and not found wanting. (Weber, 428-429)

As Caro begins to land the plane for her memoir, I can’t keep myself from returning to the beginning of her journey where she quotes these lines from Alexander Pope:

I am his Highness’ Dog at Kew
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

To which Caro responded with great reflection:

Granted, the dog image is not as elegant or politically correct, as some might prefer, but it does effectively beg the question: just who is your master? For we all have one. No individual, by the very state of existence, can avoid life as a form of servitude; it only remains for us to decide, deny, or remain oblivious to, whom, or what we serve. (Weber, 5, emphasis mine)

Caro no longer served herself. She served God. This memoir serves as a beautiful invitation for us all to (re)enter into the same freedom of submission to Christ.

Praying Together During Inauguration Week

We all thought 2021 would hold promise for better days after a year marked by fear and aggression, but it has already failed to be the “hope” for which the world longs. After a couple of jaw-dropping weeks, Inauguration Day is upon us. Sadly, the 2020 election left even Christians, our families, and our churches more divided than ever before. Even for those whose preferred candidate won, many Christians can look back and acknowledge great distraction and misplaced loyalty. Going forward, let us turn away from our sin that causes us to place winning over loving our brothers and sisters. One thing I am noticing is that watching or reading news updates makes me long for Heaven even more, so I know that the current political climate opens an opportunity to share the real hope of Christ. In order to display our hope in Jesus, and not the false hope in this world, let us pray together and allow God to soften and reset our hardened hearts with reminders of His authority, love, and trustworthiness.

Scripture holds counsel for every situation! The instructions for believers in Ephesians 6:10-18 remind us 1) who our enemy is, 2) where our strength lies, and 3) why prayer is essential to church unity.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesian 6:10-18

Father, it seems your people can never see eye to eye on issues in the public sphere. Help us unite around what is most important and true– your name and your mighty power. My flesh desires to be right and to win, and even my best intentions to stand up for righteousness and condemn evil can be twisted, resulting in seeing my brothers and sisters as enemies or less-than-human. Condemnation, division, and violence is not what you want, but it fits perfectly into “the devil’s schemes.” I plead that we would keep our eyes on the real battle, which is not of this world.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:13-17

You, Lord Jesus, provide all I need to engage in the spiritual battle happening around me. You know the pain and evil that this world holds. You lived here and felt every emotion and challenge I feel, yet you responded without sin. Instill in me your Word and help me stay tethered to it. You have declared me righteous through your Son’s blood. Teach me to daily accept your gift of salvation and live in freedom rather than condemnation. Fit me for opportunities to serve, love, and tell of your goodness, moved by the urgency of your gospel. Secure my faith, may it become the shield in which I trust rather than the false refuge of a political party or social movement. Help me identify flaming arrows disguised as distractions. With the helmet of salvation mark me as uniquely yours because at the moment you saved me, I was born again into your family (2 Corinthians 5:17). Teach me how to use the sword of the Spirit by revealing to me specific pieces of Scripture that contradict what the world is telling me.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:18

Keep me close to you in prayer. Motivate me to establish rhythms of prayer that replace rhythms of turning to social media for answers. In you I find true peace, perspective, and purpose. Unify the Church around what matters most: our faith in you. Then move us to pray and work on behalf of brothers and sisters. Keep me alert not only to the needs of people within my country, but especially brothers and sisters around the world, who you know are suffering persecution. Thank you for softening my heart towards others through your love, even those with whom I disagree. May I have a selfless posture of prayer rather than a defensive stance of pride.

When the fallen world acts, well, fallen, we as Christians can step into the raging unseen battle through prayer. Only a relationship with Christ can transform us into people who are overflowing with hope and respect for others. The stark contrast between popular behavior and the example of Jesus, offers an opportunity for believers to stand out, so let us start with prayer and practice following Christ’s radical example during this inauguration week.

Lessons in Clinging to Christ

Life has been anything but stagnant over the last year. Yes, maybe we have spent a decent chunk of it in quarantine, but the life we once knew has taken a quick turn and we have had to make decisions and adapt in ways that we could have never anticipated. In the midst of change and confusion, even concepts that once seemed easy to grasp have become lessons that have had to be re-learned. Sometimes, I think I’ve got something down and I am quickly reminded otherwise. One of the biggest questions we have had to address in the chaos has been this: What are we clinging to and why? I’m here to share just a few of the convictions I’ve had and conclusions I’ve come to, during my recent season of learning to trust the Lord and cling to His promises in the midst of a crazy, unpredictable, 2020 type of world.

Lesson #1: Circumstances Expose Unbelief

Here we have it, the simple idea that it’s always easier to trust God when we’re on the mountain top than it is when we’re in the valley. We’ve all heard this before but I don’t think we ever fully grasp it until we find ourselves in a low place. To go along with the theme of thinking I already know things, and the Lord showing me that I really, really don’t, Psalm 23 has supplied me with the truth that I needed to walk through this season. The psalmist writes,

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. – Psalm 23:1-6

I have known this verse practically my whole life and was simple-minded enough to think that there was nothing left for me in it. However, the truth is that the Holy Spirit continues to work in us and unpack more of God’s Word for us as we continue to dig deeper into it. “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” The Lord took the time to gently lead me to the understanding that sometimes the path of righteousness goes through the valley of the shadow of death. But we must take heart and be encouraged because surely goodness and mercy shall follow us. We endure because this is for His name’s sake, the One who will restore our soul, comfort us, and not just fill, but overflow our cup.

Circumstances expose unbelief and ask, “When you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, are you turning to practical atheism — failing to live in light of what you know to be true about the Lord, or are you turning to the God of Abraham, who has proven to be faithful in his promises time and time again?”

Lesson #2: The Enemy is Real but Never Victorious

As we are all vulnerable and feeling the effects of a global pandemic, the enemy has been given a plethora of new opportunities to cause chaos, and I have never experienced having to fight the devil in the ways that I have in the last few months. I’m talking about nights where I’m face-down on my carpet in tears over things that are too complicated to even get into right now. I experienced literal wrestling with the enemy, forcing me to learn how to recognize lies and fight them with truth. After having experiences like this, I can testify that no matter how fearful, vulnerable, and weak you come to be in the presence of the enemy, the darkness is never able to overcome the light (John 1:5).

There is something special about the morning light that I have come to love. I have never truly been the morning person that I’ve always wanted to be, but every time that I actually have the self-discipline to make myself get out of bed early, or more commonly have an early obligation that forces me to, I am so grateful to be awake as the morning light fills me with joy and warmth. The enemy fights with lies, but the morning sheds light on the truth that the darkness of the night tried to hide, bringing with it redemption for our souls. The morning reminds the enemy that he has already been defeated, once for all (Hebrews 10). Praise the Lord, for He is faithful in His promises, providing new mercies every morning and grace sufficient for the day, every day (2 Cor. 12:9, Lam. 3:22-23).

Lesson #3: Jesus is Better

COVID season convicted me deeply. It took a world-wide pandemic for me to come face-to-face with the fact that I have loved life more than I have longed to see the Kingdom of God come. I have not been living in a way that is expectant to see the Spirit of God work in my every day. As Christians, the way we walk and live and breathe should be different from the world around us because we have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Cool! But what? And how does this actually affect my everyday life?

The Holy Spirit (Remember! Within us! 1 Cor. 6:19-22) resurrects and renews and empowers us to live. He frees us from the bondage that sin holds us in. The sweet Holy Spirit gives us the ability to believe and to comprehend our union with Christ. We are co-heirs with him! He is our righteousness! The Father looks at us and sees his righteousness! (Rom. 8:14-17). With the Holy Spirit living inside of us we are changed — our spirits begin to be stirred and provoked by the treasures of Heaven rather than the knock-offs that earth tries to entice us with. As we become more like Christ due to his dwelling within us, we feel a gentle nudge to let go of the other things that we are clinging so tightly to.

When we begin to think of this practically, it seems a little scary. Naturally, we all want to protect the things that we love and believe that we need. I promise that you are not the only one who isn’t all that eager to open your clenched fists that hold so tightly to the things you love, or even the things that God has blessed you with, as it is not earthly to do so. Even Abraham had to decide what would take the throne in his heart: God, or the precious son that God had promised and was faithful to bless him with (Genesis 22).

It is all too human to love the gift more than the Giver, but it is my experience with God that communion with Him is so much sweeter. When we give him our treasures, we can trust that He will do beautiful things with them. If you are anything like the rest of us and everything that has promised to fulfill or comfort you has fallen short, I encourage you to surrender to the One who will fulfill the desires of your heart, and never falls short. Severing the ties that our hearts have put around the things of this world can be a painful process, but as I have begun to break free from them, I have tasted the goodness that comes from clinging only to Christ.

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

– Psalm 34:8

Jesus is better. As John Mark Pantana explains in his book Love Secrets, one can try their best to describe to you the wonder, satisfaction and superiority of eating a strawberry right off the vine versus eating one from the grocery store, but only you can taste and see the difference for yourself. So it is with Christ. I’ll almost guarantee that after one bite, you’ll never want to go back to the shadows that you once clinged so tightly to.

Advent: A Savior who Tastes our Sadness

This year has been really sad and heavy. I have found myself not realizing how soon Christmas is approaching because I just haven’t been in the Christmas spirit, and I’ve heard many others share similar sentiments this season. I think many of us are feeling weary. We are grieving the ways this year has not and will not look the same as the last, we are grieving loved ones, we are grieving the days we didn’t think about germs every few minutes. As I reflected on the paradox of sorrow in a season normally marked by joy, the song “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” came to mind, and the lyrics seemed to linger in the air:

Come to Earth to taste our sadness,
He whose glories knew no end;
By his life He brings us gladness
Our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend.

Advent is a season of the church calendar in which we look back on a Savior who came as a baby and cried newborn tears in order to rescue us; it is also a reminder that we are again awaiting His return. Advent is a profound way to see our sadness and our sorrow through Jesus’s own tear-stained eyes. This is precisely why he came– to clear the path toward a kingdom where there are no more tears (Revelation 21:4)! While on earth, Jesus was the Man of Sorrows, and therefore we know that we serve a God akin to our deep anguish.

A Savior Who Knows our Tears

God came to rescue us, but He also came to understand. What a unique treasure we have! We serve a savior who has tasted our sadness and pain and joy. He knows how those intermingle, how unwelcome despair lingers, and how hope often feels like a distant dream. Isaiah 53 says,

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. – Isaiah 53:3-4

This has major implications for us. When we are overcome with grief, we can bring that to Christ knowing that He has tasted it himself. He walked this world with all its distinct struggles and blessings for many years. We serve a savior who understands. What beautiful news!

A Savior Who Has Shed His Own Tears

Jesus came to Earth and cried many tears Himself. Our hope came through the loud, helpless cry of an infant piercing the night. What an instant taste of sadness, a loss of the comfort of the womb. It is an image of the sacrifice He made by leaving Heaven to come to us. Toddler Jesus scraped his knee and cried in His mother’s arms.

To further display His human emotion, we have the account of the story where He wept over the death of His dear friend, Lazarus. This verse has become a bit of a joke, but it is one of the most profound things that the Bible tells us: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). God did not send His son to live a life of total ease and happiness. He was well acquainted with grief and sorrow. He found it necessary to tell us in His Word that He wept on this Earth. Christ’s eyes have known what it is to well up with salty tears. He is that familiar with our sorrow and pain.

A Savior Who Helps Us Understand our Own Tears

However, Advent is not only the good news that we serve a God who has wept with us, Advent also shows us why our sadness feels so poignant and real. I wonder if this has ever been more true of us than this year. This pandemic has our souls often screaming, “This is not how it’s supposed to be!” How profound! That our hearts are already akin to our forever home. We were not made for this Earth, we were made for heaven, for the world to be made whole and new. Because of this, when we live in the ruins of our earthly home, we ache often. Imagine walking around the ruins of your childhood home. It would have moments that distinctly reminded you of home, and yet would be so different from what you know that it brought you deep pain.

This world has real pain and loss and loneliness and despair. And we understand that more deeply when we realize that we are waiting for all things to be made new. That is what we are waiting for always, and Advent reminds us of that. Just as we wait for Christmas Day, we wait with baited breath for the day of Christ’s return. Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

A Savior Who Wipes Our Tears

The beautiful thing about Advent on this side of Jesus’s life on Earth is that we know for certain that God is faithful to keep His promises. Christmas is the good news of promises kept. Knowing this truth, this life of Advent is awaiting something that we can be sure will come true. And what has He promised? That He will dwell with us forever, that death will die, that He will make everything new, and wipe every tear from our eyes. We know this from Revelation 21:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” – Revelation 21:1-6

Our tears are so real and so sad on this side of Heaven. But one day, God will be so close to us, so near to us, that He will wipe the tears from our eyes. What a rich, tender image of the intimacy we will have with God forever and ever. What if we viewed our sorrow holding these in tension: that our sorrow has been felt deeply by Christ, and that our tears will be wiped away with His very hands one day.

Advent is a reminder of the narratives of our tears. Jesus wept, we weep now, and He is coming back to wipe our tears with His hands that once were tiny infant hands clinging to His own mother. The sad things are coming untrue. All will be made new. He is coming soon.

A Self-Centered vs. God-Centered Perspective

When I was seventeen, I stood before a series of Monet paintings. Pastel-colored hues painted by my favorite artist on canvases overwhelmed me. I remember my dad asking me what is the big deal with these paintings. 

“Just look,” I replied. 

Sometimes, when we are faced with times of uncertainty and hardship, I feel like this is how God responds to us. “Just look”. 

Self-Centered vs. God-Centered

We often do not see how the trials and tribulations we endure can result in beauty and goodness. It can be difficult to trust God’s plan when, from our perspective, it does not make sense.

It is like standing in front of a painting. If you stand too close, all you see are the brushstrokes. It’s messy and not too beautiful. However, if you take a step back, you see how the brushstrokes form a masterpiece. Every brushstroke is intentional. There is a purpose for each and every one because together they form art. One brushstroke does not define the piece. It’s an accumulation of brushstrokes that create a painting. 

Too often we doubt how God’s plans are good, but too often we are standing too close to our trial to fully understand it. Our perspective is narrow, but God’s perspective has no limits. We only see the details, but if we take a step back and look outside of our own perspective, we can see how God used every brushstroke and every detail for a purpose. 

Perspective is everything. 

When you become less self-centered and more God-centered, your perspective shifts, and things like love and selflessness become a reflex. You can begin to look outside of your own plans and motives and start trusting in God’s plan and purpose. 

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

Perspective is the driving force behind every action we take and the attitude we embody when we react to a situation. People’s perspectives provide a definition of who they are, what they believe in, and what their motives are. 

What does it tell us about ourselves, as Christians, when we doubt or blame the God who is perfect goodness when something terrible happens? Christians should be the ones to know that God has everything in control, yet our self-centered perspectives can often cast a shadow upon our understanding of God’s plan, causing us to put our trust in ourselves instead of God. 

Seeing God in Today’s Mess

Sometimes, our lives can feel like an endless cycle of breaking and bending. This year has been one of those cycles. I do not understand why over 100,000 Americans’ lives have been lost due to COVID-19. When the world’s perspective is darkness, I know to look at the perspective of the God who is the essence of light. 

In the breaking and in the bending, God is mending the broken pieces back together into a creation that is stronger than before. You cannot know the significance of wholeness without once being at a point of brokenness. Christianity never promised to be the easier lifestyle. It promised to be better because we are bestowed the title, Child of God. God always remains the same. He does not flux nor does He decrease within the valleys or mountains, but remains a constant, straight-line throughout the highs and lows of our lives. He is ever-present, ever-caring, and ever-loving.

Even if from our perspective we cannot see goodness, we must trust that God already knows the goodness He has planned in the future. When our perspective only reveals a glimpse of God’s plan, we must put our trust in the God who is sovereign and loving.

We must acknowledge that our finite minds have a limited perspective, but God’s infinite mind has an unlimited perspective. God is sovereign and all-knowing. He already knows the outcome of our present situation. God has already beautifully placed together the pieces to form a masterpiece that reflects His grace and goodness.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21

Joseph and Seeing the Meaning in Our Affliction

The story of Joseph beautifully illustrates the power of a God-centered perspective and putting your trust in God, even when it is difficult. 

Joseph went from having everything to having nothing. Being his father’s favorite son created jealousy among his other brothers. Most of his brothers were so jealous that they wanted to murder Joseph, but instead, they decided to sell him into slavery. Joseph spent many difficult years enslaved and in prison after being falsely accused of a crime. However, his faith in God brought him out of enslavement and allowed him to be the right-hand man of the Pharaoh of Egypt. This position of power enabled Joseph to help prepare Egypt during a time of famine. 

When Joseph’s brothers asked for assistance during the famine, Joseph could have been bitter and denied giving them help, but he didn’t. He displays unimaginable mercy and love, but what astounds me, even more is his trust and perspective of God’s purpose in his life. Joseph understood that he could not have been at the place where he was without the moments of affliction. 

You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result: the survival of many people. – Genesis 50:20

God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God. – Genesis 45:7-8

If God used Joseph’s betrayal to make him the redeemer of a nation, then I will trust God when I am hurt by my present circumstances. If Jesus once hung on a cross with a broken body to pay the ultimate sacrifice, then I will pray for God to break me and to use those broken pieces for something bigger and more beautiful than what I had planned. 

God turns our oppression into opportunities. He turns our unfortunate circumstances into unimaginable blessings. There is meaning in our misery. There is purpose in our pain.

Healing and Dealing With Hurts From The Church

It is no surprise that the Church is not what it was designed to be. To keep from any confusion, the Church is not defined as just a mere building, but rather an assembly of the people of God, and each person is uniquely created to contribute to the whole Church (1 Corinthians 12:12). Despite common misconceptions, there is only one Church, one body in Christ, meant to be the reflection of God unto others. Regardless of culture, ethnicity, gender, political ideology, or any other common division seen in today’s world, there exists one Church, unified by love that is rooted and founded in the heart of God.

Sin Within the Church

Why have so many of us been hurt by this unique family established by God? The problem begins with the sin inside of all of us. The Church is made up sinful people. Where there is sin, there is hurt and pain. This explains why so many people have deep rooted pain, hurt, callousness, and unwarranted shame concerning their experiences with the Church. It’s the people within the church who have sin and therefore, often unintentionally but sometimes intentionally, hurt others through pride, misconstrued truth, or improperly communicated feelings. Often, there is judgement based upon appearance or background which all too quickly leads to exclusion and lies that spread quickly. It is hurtful to have to admit that our pristine buildings and well-intentioned Bible studies can, and often do, project an un-Christlike image.

I grew up in a rather conservative church, and like many southern religious cultures, emotional healing did not really have a proper place. Because of that, I had never truly been able to see the fullness of God in the sense that God is revealed to us as both Elohim (the all-powerful, all knowing God) and Yahweh (a God who desires a deep and sincere relationship with you).

I sustained a deeply rooted hurt from my past mentor, she told me that I, as a 15-year-old girl, was “overreacting” to my mother’s sudden death. She then proceeded to spread unwarranted lies concerning my character. She abused our relationship in order to place herself in a better light in the eyes of church leadership. The consequences that followed were my mistrust of church leadership, and specifically female leadership, which I must continually identify and overcome in order to heal. I also have trouble properly acknowledging the hurts of others, as I now overemphasize my pain and downplay others’ hurts as I compare my hurts to theirs. We see that there is a pattern of hurt that can follow. The hurts we endure while we are in a Church follows and continues to influence us. Here is another example of someone who suffered hurt from their church:

I grew up in what I call a “Country club church” with the idea that faith was how influence was spread and it was use to build a social hierarchy in the church. It was a very works-based church, where I made unfounded hurtful ideas of what the Church really is. If the Bible’s teachings looked like their lifestyle, where works and social perception and reputation identified how worthy you are, I wanted no part. My family stopped going, which extremely misconstrued my idea of what Christ is and what faith is. This caused performance-based acceptance hurts and questioning if God is real. I became very skeptical and judgmental of new people and questioned the intentions of why each person was there. – E. Rosson, 21 years-old, Dallas, TX

Where Healing Begins

So where do we go from here? There are obvious hurts that stem from church with long-lasting, harmful effects. We cannot ignore and avoid them, but we also cannot allow them to ruin our lives and permanently alter the way in which we see and interact with the Church. The first step is to acknowledge those hurts. Whether it was a comment from your second grade Sunday school teacher, your youth pastor, that one lady in the grocery store who had a cross broach, or anyone else claiming to be part of the Church, acknowledge that those words and actions hurt you. Don’t just try to move on because it is then that we begin to harbor bitterness. Second, validate those hurts. If you feel unworthy, or feel any kind of hurt, know that you are allowed to have those feelings, so feel them. Don’t believe the lie that you must ignore them.

In doing this, you are seeing and acknowledging your heart. So don’t deny yourself those emotions. However, don’t rest in that emotional state. Don’t allow those feelings to alter you, or damage your heart permanently. Know that your identity is not grounded in what others say of you. You are a chosen, beloved, sought after, precious child of the Heavenly Father. That is where your identity comes from, so cling to what is true. Once you are able to acknowledge your hurt, it is important that you begin to offer grace to those who have hurt you. It’s difficult, and it exposes a lot of the hard parts of our hearts when we don’t feel that extending forgiveness is something they’ve earned, but, we forgive as Christ forgave us, undeserved and fully covered.

Choosing Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not waiting for time to heal all wounds, nor is it letting the guilty off the hook, explaining away the hurt, stuffing your anger away, or denying your hurt. Forgiveness is not based on what’s fair, forgetting, a mere feeling, saying that what the other person did was okay, or conditional. Forgiveness is not a one time decision. After forgiving someone, you do not have to enter back into a trusting relationship with that person. Forgiveness is, however, dismissing your demand that others owe you something especially when they fail to meet your expectations, fail to keep a promise, or fail to treat you justly. Forgiveness is setting someone free from the consequence of falling short of God’s standard. It is a choice to obey God while resting in His character, knowing God is righteous in His judgement, even when we just want to get even. When we choose to pursue forgiveness of these hurts, after we acknowledge and validate them, we can then begin to heal these wounds.

Going to the Great Physician

Just like physical wounds, emotional pain can affect what we choose to do and how we think about certain things. When we let wounds fester and do not properly care for them, they grow and cause more damage. In order for them to be healed we must go to a physician. When we go to the Great Physician, who knows our hearts and hurts more than we do, we can trust that He will adequately care for us. Just as with a physical wound, an emotional wound hurts when it’s touched, and we flinch when medicine is applied. But when we acknowledge the wound, let the Healer care for the wound, and carefully keep an eye on it, slowly it begins to heal. The deeper the wound, the longer it takes to heal, and many wounds leave scars.

Showing Your Scars

Once we care for our wounds and experience the healing process, it’s up to us to utilize these wounds to care for others. We can simply allow them to remain, we can never fully allow healing, or we can use our hurts as testimony to grow and strengthen the Church for others. Deal with your hurts, heal from these hurts, and don’t allow them to permanently affect you or the way in which you interact with the Church body. You who have walked through so much, you who are valued more than gold and precious jewels by God, you who have been declared a co-heir with Christ, you are more than the harsh words used against you. Use that scar on your arm to graciously, as hard as it is, go to the Church and show them. Lovingly admonish them. Faithfully serve them.

As a Church, we must learn that what we say, how we say it, and how we live greatly influences those around us. We are ambassadors, and we therefore must approach each person with genuine, authentic love. Take responsibility and accountability for when you intentionally and unintentionally hurt someone. Regardless of why, you must be conscientious of their feelings, understand that their emotions are real. Though they are not always reliable, they still exist and should be cared about. God has called us to go sow seeds, and God will sort out the results in His time. Deal with the hurts, and deal with the impact they’ve had in your life, but allow healing to spark new growth in your life, rather than hinder your joy.

Why You Should Build Relationships with People Impacted by Disabilities

Children and families impacted by special needs are often isolated from their peers and community. In foreign countries, disabilities are highly stigmatized to such an extent that those affected by them are unable to leave their homes to attend school or participate in their communities. In the United States, families and people with disabilities statistically have a much harder time attending church, which furthers their isolation.

As Christians, there are a few key reasons why we should seek out relationships with those affected by a disability. First of all, every person is made in the image of God and deserving of respect and connection. Furthermore, building a relationship with someone with special needs can present an opportunity to share the gospel with them or their family, or to welcome them into your community or church. Finally, it is a sweet blessing to develop relationships with those impacted by special needs.

Made in the Image of God

The foundational truth that should spur us on to foster relationships with those who have special needs is that they are made in the image of God and are inherently valuable to God. Scripture is clear that each human being is an image-bearer of God and is therefore not less valuable than anyone else (Gen. 1:27). In the gospels, Jesus’ interactions with those who have disabilities are clear reminders of the value of each person and they exemplify the deep compassion of Christ. In John 9, Jesus’s disciples see a blind man and ask Jesus what sin caused the man to be born like that. In response to this question, Jesus replies,

It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. – John 9:3

This response can not be fully appreciated or understood without recognizing how countercultural it truly was. First off, it should be noted that even those closest to Jesus assumed that this man’s blindness was a result of sin. In the article, “Disability in the New Testament”, Candida R. Moss writes,

In the ancient world, people thought that when individuals were disabled—they were blind or they couldn’t walk or they had some kind of physical infirmity—that they got this infirmity because they had done something wrong, because they had angered a deity and they were being punished, and it was really their responsibility, either they had sinned or perhaps even their parents had sinned. So disability was divine punishment.

Clearly, Jesus’ response to this question was unexpected and did not fit into the cultural view of the time regarding those who have special needs. It is also noteworthy that Jesus did not merely answer the basic question that was asked of Him but instead went on to explain that this man was specifically born blind so that the works of God would be shown in him. Pity is often a common response to a disability, yet this passage reminds us that God can and will use disabilities to bring glory to Him.

In Exodus 3-4, God commands Moses to go speak to the Pharaoh, and Moses declines by saying, “I am slow of speech and tongue.” In response to this, God declares,

Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, The Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.
– Exodus 4:11

This verse clearly reminds us that God is sovereign in how He creates each person and that God is not unaware of or removed from disability. He is sovereign in the midst of it and is never limited by a disability. God continues by reminding Moses that He will be with him each step of the way and will work through Moses’s “weakness.” God did not work in spite of Moses’s speech problem but instead displayed His power by calling Moses to be a voice for the Israelites. In a message entitled “Disability is No Accident” John Piper says,

I am not going to walk up to any disabled children at any stage in their life and say, “He didn’t mean you.” You could shoot me dead before I’ll say that. He meant you. He loves you. He’s got a purpose for you.

This statement perfectly sums up the undeniable fact that every person with a disability is made in the image of God and not a surprise to our sovereign and all-knowing Lord.

An Opportunity to Share the Gospel and Welcome People in the Church

A devastating, yet often unrealized fact is that many families impacted by disability find it very challenging to attend church. Ryan Faulk explains this in “The Largest Unreached People Group You’ve Never Heard Of.”

The strangest part of this sad reality is that most churches don’t intentionally exclude people with disabilities. But because the world is, by default, a poor fit for people with disabilities, the church is also a poor fit, unless we intentionally include people of all abilities.

A lack of accessibility to the Church results in families impacted by disability being left without gospel teaching and community. It is so essential to foster relationships with those affected by special needs so that you can share the gospel and welcome them into a church.

A crucial reminder in Ryan Faulk’s statement is that the world is “by default a poor fit for people with disabilities;” therefore, as Christians, we must intentionally make an effort to develop these relationships. These relationships do not “just happen,” but instead require a commitment and desire to reach people and families.

Neither the gospel nor the Church should be limited to a particular type of person or level of ability. Yet, the statistics show a gap between churchgoers who are impacted by disability versus those who are not. Ryan Faulk unpacks some of this data in this same article:

Multiple studies show that people with disabilities are less likely than their peers to attend church even once a month. Of the 61 million American adults living with some sort of disability, there are about 2.25 million who—statistically speaking—should be attending church, but don’t. A 2018 study from Clemson University shows that children with any kind of disability are less likely than their peers to attend church and children with autism are nearly twice as likely to never attend a religious service.

May we always remember that families and children impacted by disability need the chance to hear the gospel and to be welcomed into a church community. God is sovereign in disability and in how He works within those who have a disability. He is certainly not limited by a certain cognitive level, mental capacity, or physical malformation. In the book Beyond Our Church Walls, it says,

Every single person on this earth needs the gospel. Just because a person is unable to respond verbally or fully articulate the gospel, we cannot doubt that the Holy Spirit is working in their heart. We do not have the privilege of understanding how the Spirit is at work in an individual’s life, we must simply share the gospel.

We are called to share the gospel even when we do not see any visible response. We are called to share the gospel even when we are told that someone won’t understand it. The Holy Spirit moves in hearts in unseen, mysterious ways and works in minds that the world may label as broken.


So, where do you start? Maybe you have never been around people with special needs and do not even know where to begin. Perhaps it terrifies you to think about trying to build a friendship with someone with special needs. An easy and practical starting place for this is look at the volunteer options at your college or ask your church about their special needs ministry.

From there, I know you will discover what a joy and privilege it is to create these new friendships. Always remember that this is not some sort of special favor or incredible deed you are doing but instead a blessing and an honor.

Fulfilling the Christian Mission Despite Bumps in the Road

2020 has been an interesting year for all of us. From a global pandemic, to the realities of injustice in our country, we have all faced quite a few bumps in the road. However, one day in May, I came across a literal bump in my path: when my family and I were visiting properties on a local island community close to where we lived, I face-planted. The first part of our day went along smoothly and as planned. Then, we arrived at the final property of the tour. We had a great time on the tour — until it was time to leave. I used the elevator to get down to the exit. I opened the elevator door, but instead of watching where I was going, I thought about the delicious lunch that I was about to enjoy. I continued on in this state of euphoria until my walker hit a lip in the path and BOOM! I ended up face-down in the gravel.

I told that story not so that hundreds of readers could laugh at one of my most embarrassing moments, but so that they could know what it feels like to have a mission, experience a bump in the road, and fall down. That day, I had a mission–to get off the island and to eat lunch. Unfortunately, because I tripped on a tiny bump in the road, that mission was delayed.

Many modern-day Christians have experienced the same thing, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. We see this as a bump in the road, and because of it, we trip and fall, thus delaying our mission. However, the reality is that some seasons may be filled with more bumps than others, but the Christian mission remains the same: to make disciples of all nations. We can either choose to be faithful to our mission and stand tall despite the bumps, or we can become consumed with the bumps in our paths, tripping over them, and bruising our faces because of them.

Peter’s Example

It may seem incredibly daunting to stand tall in the midst of this global pandemic. After all, our world has never faced anything like this before. This bump in the road seems hopeless. Yet, more often than not, the Lord chooses to work in the midst of hopeless situations. He appoints the most unlikely of people in the most unlikely of places to carry out His work: the work of making disciples. Remember Simon Peter.

One moment, he was just an ordinary fisherman, and the next, Jesus called him to be a fisher of men. One moment, he was a sinful man, but he had the courage to stand tall despite the roadblock of his sinfulness, leave his nets, and advance the mission of the Kingdom. At that moment, Simon Peter knew his purpose, and it was much bigger than catching some fish. It was to make disciples of the one and only Messiah.

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. – Matthew 4:18-20

However, this was not the only bump in the road that Simon Peter faced on his journey to fulfilling the Lord’s mission. Over the course of Jesus’ three-year earthly ministry, Simon Peter stumbled over the fact that he was not perfect multiple times. Yet, his biggest bump in the road came when he least expected it.

Grace to Get Back Up

On the night of Jesus’ death, he did something that he once swore he would never do: he denied his Savior not once, but three times. Overcome with guilt and shame, Simon Peter could’ve chosen to become consumed with this bump in his path. He could’ve chosen to faceplant and not get back up, but instead, he stood tall and remained faithful in his mission to make disciples.

He stood so tall that he preached to a crowd of devout, scholarly men who seemed to know a whole lot more about religion than he did. In this sermon, Simon Peter boldly proclaimed:

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. – Acts 2:36

At the end of this sermon, about 3,000 people were baptized. About 3,000 nonbelievers became disciples of the risen Savior–all because one man had the courage to stand tall despite his bumps in the road. What does Simon Peter’s story teach us?

Much like Simon Peter, we are currently facing a huge bump in the road: a global pandemic. We are facing a roadblock so astronomical that we don’t know how we’re ever going to make it without getting at least one bruise on our cheeks. We just know that this bump in our path is going to make us faceplant. Much like Simon Peter, we have two choices. We can become consumed with lies from the devil (that this obstacle is too big to overcome, that this roadblock will inevitably hurt us), or we can stand with two feet rooted on solid ground and march over that bump in the road.

Eyes on the Mission

I can’t tell you that this will be our last bump in the road and that we will never experience hardship again, but I can tell you this: Jesus’ mission of discipleship remains constant whether everything is going well or everything is falling apart. A mentor once told me that our walk with the Lord isn’t supposed to be a culmination of mountaintop and valley moments, as the world tries to tell us. Rather, our obedience to God should be a flat line and a consistent journey. We should keep choosing God, no matter what season of life we are in. We should stand tall, no matter how big a bump in the road may seem.

Bumps in the road have a tendency to make us faceplant and lose sight of our mission, but I would like to challenge us all to combat distractions and stay focused. Let’s all stand tall, pick up our feet, and know our mission, the mission of discipleship.

What is Contentment?

“I just wish I had contentment in this season.” The amount of times I have heard people say these words (and have said these words myself) is too many to count. Why is this such a struggle? Why do we continue to feel discontented in every season?

A few years ago, my family was moving cities in the middle of my time in high school, and I was having a rough time with it. I was standing with my family at a church going away party for us and I could not stop crying. I remember leaning over to my mom and saying through tears, “I’m worried that people will see me crying and think that I do not trust God in this.” That is a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Sophomore-in-high-school Emily did not understand that trusting in God and feeling grief are not mutually exclusive. I am still learning this.

What Contentment is Not

The hard part about contentment is that its definition is elusive. What is contentment? What does it really feel like? I think a lot of us feel like we are not content, when in reality our definition of contentment is an impossible standard on this side of eternity. We must choose to sift through our preconceived definitions and expectations in order to understand what contentment is not. Then and only then will we understand what contentment actually is and how it looks in our daily lives.

Contentment is Not Complete Satisfaction in Christ

It seems like I have heard a lot of people saying recently things like, “Well I am just completely satisfied in Christ,” or “this person is not completely resting in Christ.” I think we need to remove this line from our vocabularies. This is an impossible standard. As John Calvin says, “our hearts are idol-factories” and if this is true, then on this side of Heaven, our hearts are unable to be fully satisfied in Him. This is because while we are still sinful beings, we will naturally run to things other than God to try to be satisfied.

This is not to say that we should not ask God to continue to show us the satisfaction He brings, and part of the Holy Spirit’s work in us is causing us to rest in Him. Let’s stop beating ourselves up for not “fully resting in Christ” because that will not happen before Christ’s return.

Socrates profoundly says, “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” This has two implications. First, it does tell us that contentment is something that is determined by our circumstances, and something that must endure and can be found in every season. But it seems that what Socrates’ statement also teaches us is that on this side of heaven, everything we try to fill our emptiness with other than Christ, will leave us hungry for more. And the truth is that we will still try to do this until we are made new, so complete satisfaction in Christ is unattainable until he comes and makes all things new.

Contentment is Not Being Happy About Every Circumstance

Another mistake we make about contentment is that contentment must mean that we are happy about every season of our lives. This is not the case. The Psalms show us over and over again what it looks like to lament our circumstances before God. Another example that has become really vivid to me is in Job 13:15 where, after losing so much that he loved, says,

Though he slay me, I will hope in Him, yet I will argue my ways to his face. – Job 13:15

Job is saying here that even though he is unhappy in his circumstances, he will still trust God in the midst of it all. However, what we learn from Job is that we are not called to silently and happily endure trials. We are allowed and should be encouraged to plead our cause to God. We can bring him our frustrations and grief and longing for seasons to end. Trust in God and understand that honesty about current pain and longings are not mutually exclusive. Contentment is not enjoying every season, but it is trusting that God is working out of love in every season whether we see it or not.

So What Is Contentment?

I think contentment is remembering, through different emotions and circumstances, that God loves us and He will never change, and being thankful for the blessing of knowing that even when life looks bleak. Malachi 3:6 says, “I the Lord do not change…” and that is our hope in suffering, longing, and discontentment. But God’s immutability means nothing if we don’t know what He is like. What we know is that even amidst suffering and heartache and longing, God is at work out of love. In John 11, we learn of Lazarus’s death and Mary and Martha’s grief. Yet it says,

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, Let us go back to Judea. – John 11:5-7

This passage is disconcerting yet comforting. Because Jesus loved his friends so dearly, he let their pain linger. God allows seasons of hardship and discontentment because He loves us. This can be frustrating, but I think it gives us great hope in the midst of deep discontentment. It is the hope that God sees the bigger picture even when we do not. He loves us. He is sovereign. We can rest in that.

Because of this, we can sing the beloved hymn:

What e’er my God ordain is right.
Here shall my stand be taken.
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine, yet I am not forsaken.
My father’s care is round me there.
He holds me that I shall not fall, and so to Him, I leave it all

In our deepest discontentment, God is with us, and He sees the bigger picture in our sorrows and longings. He never will forsake us. As this becomes truer and truer to us, contentment begins to blossom.

Daily Dependence on God

Christians sometimes have knowledge of who Jesus is but lack intimacy with him in their everyday lives. This results in Jesus seeming distant and not present in our struggles. The opposite is true, as we “who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). We have access through the sacrificial blood of Jesus to the Lord, and to walk with him in everyday life. I believe that the Lord wants that for each of us. One of the most critical ways to grow in your relationship with the Lord is through cultivating a daily dependence on him. 

Manna From Heaven

One of the clearest examples of daily dependence on the Lord comes from Exodus 16. Israel had just been led out of Egypt, and the Lord had used Moses to part the Red Sea, defeating the army that was chasing them from behind as they marched freely into the wilderness. The people of Israel became hungry and then angry with Moses and the Lord for bringing them out of Egypt to seemingly let them starve in the wilderness. After bringing their complaints to the Lord, he provided a solution. 

Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion everyday. – Exodus 16:4 

In mercy, the Lord provided them with what they desperately needed. Every morning, the people were able to go out and get as much bread as they needed for that day. God told them, however, that they could not get extra bread for the days ahead, but only enough for that day. Bread that was stored grew worms inside of it and began to stink (Exodus 16:20). This made the Israelites rely on the fresh manna of the Lord every single morning in order for them to survive in the wilderness. They were full from the Lord’s provision, but they hungered for more each day. The Lord faithfully provided this way for 40 years.

Jesus Steps Onto The Scene

The manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness is discussed thousands of years later when Jesus is talking to the crowds that were following him after he performed the miracle of feeding the 5,000 with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. After Jesus was finished telling them that they should believe in him as the one the Lord had sent, they challenged him for a sign, referencing Exodus 16, 

So they said to him, Then what sign do you do, that we may see you and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, He gave them bread from Heaven to eat. John 6:30-31 

Jesus then responds with a statement that no one listening to him can fathom, shocking the whole audience,

I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. – John 6:35 

With this, he connects himself to the bread that was provided for all the Israelites and offers himself again to his believers. 

What does Jesus being the bread of life mean? If relying on the bread from the Lord was crucial for the Israelites in order to survive in the wilderness, how important is it for us now as believers to rely on the bread of life (Jesus) on a daily basis? 

Jesus puts it quite simply, we are not satisfied unless we know and rely on him; we are satisfied once we truly have Jesus in our lives. One key difference of Jesus being our bread is that unlike the experience in Exodus 16, the bread Jesus gives is not physical, it is spiritual. Even though prior to this discourse he did in fact multiply bread to make sure all of the people were fed, the offer that Jesus is giving those who wish to depend on him is the ability to have Jesus satisfy all of their spiritual hungers and desires. We become full and complete in knowing him. 

All healthy relationships require growth, and in order to have growth, you need to put intentional time into that relationship. You can’t expect to have a healthy relationship with another if you only see and spend time with them once a week or every other week for a little over an hour. Why do we think that this is a suitable method of growth for our relationship with Jesus? Especially seeing the satisfaction that comes from truly knowing and loving him, we should have a hunger and burning to be with him 24/7, everyday of our lives.

Wanting and achieving are two completely different things. With that in mind we should discuss the question that hinders most believers from moving forward on the path to intimacy with the Lord; “How do I interact with the Lord on a daily basis?” 

The Word

Start by interacting with the Bible. This is the living and breathing word of God (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible shows all the incredible characteristics of our Lord as well as gives instructions on how to pursue a life that is pleasing to God. When you are able to dive into the word of God and let it begin to transform your heart and your mind, that is when the refining process begins to start (2 Timothy 3:16). 

Refining is the process of removing impurities or unwanted elements in order to get to the purest form of an object. The more that we walk in line with the word of God, the more the impure things of our flesh begin to break off of us. 

Practically, there are multiple ways of dissecting and spending time in the Bible. One of the more common approaches is to begin reading in the four Gospels of Jesus Christ’s life and then branch out from there. Find a strategy that suits you best.


Prayer is another key aspect of growing in dependency on the Lord. Besides Jesus himself, one of the best examples of someone who was dedicated to prayer was Daniel. When Darius began his rule over the land that Daniel lived in, a decree was passed that “whoever makes a petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king shall be tossed into the Den of Lions” (Daniel 6:7). 

Daniel understood that prayer and communion with the Lord was something that was far too valuable to give up. He was known for praying 3 times a day in his house with all the windows open making him visible, and he did not change that when the decree went out (Daniel 6:10). It is no secret that the Lord delivered him from the punishment that was inflicted on him, prayer is that important. 

Contrary to what most people believe, prayer is not simply a time to ask of things from our heavenly Father. It is a time that can be spent by offering praise and thanksgiving to the Lord (Psalm 50:14), interceding or praying on behalf of others, as well as repenting for sins that you have committed. Prayer should be something that every believer strives to spend time in as much as possible. 

Every Moment of Every Day

Lastly, daily dependence on the Lord reaches new heights when we as believers get to the point where we remember the Lord in everything that we do throughout the day. It could be remembering how good the Lord has been to you while you are at work or listening to worship music or a podcast while on the way to the grocery store. It sometimes can be in the everyday tasks of life where the Lord feels the most present. His Spirit is not limited to a building or a time slot in the day, he is always available and loves to dwell with his people.

Is Daily Dependence on Jesus Works-Based?

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. – Galatians 2:16

Motives are everything when discussing this topic. It is easy for us to develop a “checking the box” mentality when it comes to spending time with the Lord. If we do not have the right posture before the Lord, we will not grow and reap the abundance of fellowship that is available to us. We should seek the Lord with a loving heart that is not coming to him for anything but his presence alone. 

This was one of the first challenges I had to tackle when I truly began to seek after Jesus during my junior year in high school. I was eager to pursue the Lord, but I struggled to build the courage to approach him and to know what that would look like on a day to day basis. The practice that started my daily dependence on God was spending time with him on a daily basis. In the beginning, this looked like possibly 5 to 15 minutes a day in the word and praying. As time went on, I began to develop a deeper understanding and love for the Lord, which led me to spend more and more time with him. I believe that this journey of daily dependence was crucial to the growing of my faith. 

I hope that this article motivates everyone (including me) to aim to make the Lord a central part of their everyday lives. God is not someone that should only be given attention on Sundays during church and not another thought throughout our weeks. He deserves our praise and devotion all day, every day. We as believers will not always be perfect in doing this, but our efforts to seek after the Lord will always move his heart.