Many years ago when I was a young mom with an intense and challenging preschooler, I was getting coffee at Bible study next to an older, well-respected woman in the church. She had heard through the church grapevine that I was having trouble with my son, and she casually said to me, out of nowhere, “Isn’t it great, Rebekah, that we can get all the parenting help we need right there in the Bible?”
That out-of-the-blue comment really threw me. Even though I was a fairly new Christian, I was pretty sure there was not a lot of direct parenting advice in the Bible that dealt with my specific issues with my young son. I honestly didn’t have a clue what she was even talking about. Feeling awkward, I smiled and nodded, and she went on her way, never mentioning it again.
To be honest, I didn’t take her comment very well. Her well-meaning advice had no follow-through, so it felt a little like I’d been the victim of a hit-and-run. But as the years went by, and I grew in spiritual maturity and Bible knowledge, I found that God did indeed offer parenting hope and help to me in his Word. I just needed to learn how to recognize it.
“We all desire to know and be known.”
“I just want to be heard.”
“I feel seen.”
The desire to be seen, heard, and known is universal. We all want to feel significant, worthy of attention, and validated by others. It’s painful to feel ignored, anonymous, or irrelevant.
Yet we often find ourselves in situations where we feel exactly that:
“No one understands how hard this is.”
“Why am I even doing this?”
“Does anyone even care?”
The need to “be seen” is so great that the multi-billion-dollar industry of social media has built itself around posts, clicks, and likes that provide people with solid, measurable evidence that they have indeed been seen and approved of by others.
We all have this desire to one degree or another—which isn’t surprising, because we were created to know and be known by God. He has made seeing, hearing, and knowing him easier for us in so many ways:
- through the person of Jesus Christ
- through his Word
- through evidence of his saving grace in our lives
- through the beauty, majesty, and intricacy of his creation
Wanting to be seen, heard, and known isn’t sinful in itself (it’s part of our human nature, given to us by God), but as with everything in life, sin has tainted it in a big way. It turns out that Jesus had some things to say about being seen, and it’s what’s going on in our heart that’s actually important.
My first grandchild was born last year. What a wonderful day it was when she finally arrived! She is delightful in the way that only babies can be. But even though she’s already here and I love her sweet baby self, I have great anticipation for the future, because truly knowing her, seeing her grow into all she is meant to be, is still yet to come.
She’s already here, and is so precious … but she is not yet who she will become.
Give us this day our daily bread.
It’s been a long time since I’ve wondered where my next meal was coming from—about 40 years, actually, since living in an apartment or trailer with a mostly empty refrigerator or no heat. I don’t specifically remember reciting the Lord’s Prayer back then, but if I did, I’m sure I understood the phrase “give us this day our daily bread.” Even as a child, I would have seen the direct correlation between a prayer for daily sustenance and the fact that God somehow provided for my needs each day.
Of all the elements in the Lord’s Prayer, “give us this day our daily bread” seems very straightforward: Please provide for my daily needs, such as food, to survive. It often gets overshadowed by other, seemingly more pertinent or lofty phrases such as “lead us not into temptation” or “forgive us our trespasses” or “Thy will be done.”
But God has a remarkable knack for continuing to teach us new truths even when we think we thoroughly understand something as familiar as the Lord’s Prayer.
Many years ago, not long after I became a Christian, I attended an evening church service by myself, and slid into a pew beside a woman who had spoken with me a couple of times previously. After a few moments of small talk, I said somewhat nervously, “I think I’m going to ask my mom to come to church with me soon.”
“That’s nice!” she replied, genuinely interested.
“Yes, I’m hoping she’ll like it. I’m just not sure,” I admitted.
“Oh, is she a believer?”
The question rolled off her tongue so naturally, and she asked it with such matter-of-factness, that I could tell she had a fairly straightforward understanding of what being a believer was all about. But it wasn’t a straightforward question to me, a new Christian, especially regarding my mom. (Religion was rarely spoken of in my family as I was growing up.)
So when she asked it, I froze.
Everyone has a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. No matter what page you’re on, God is right there with you, even if you’re not aware of it. In the times of darkness and despair, at the height of great wonder and joy, in the wasteland of stifling boredom or crippling indecision, he’s never left you.
Everyone has a story. Here’s mine.
I cry easily. I cry over movies, books, and commercials … I cry on behalf of total strangers I read about online … I cry when animals are rescued from a cruel fate … I cry when I laugh really hard … you get the picture.
I also cry when I feel overwhelmed. Including feeling overwhelmed with joy.
What’s the best daily Bible reading plan? The one that works for you.
Over the past 25 years, I’ve attempted multiple times to read my Bible every day. Many women I knew were in the same boat: having a goal of daily Bible reading, trying repeatedly to make that happen, falling short, and feeling guilt. We were often eager to try new ideas, always looking for the “one thing” that would help us maintain the Bible reading habit past a few days or so. But in all those years of adding this or that, trying this or that plan, I ultimately found success only one way.
Not by adding, but by taking away.
When each of my children was around 5 years old, we did a “Names of Jesus” unit together during our Advent homeschool time. Each day we would focus on a different name that Jesus is called in the Bible, such as shepherd, king, Alpha and Omega, or light of the world. Each lesson had an activity, craft, or lesson associated with it, most of which I’ve forgotten now … except for the object lesson I used for “Light of the World.”
To begin this lesson, we would look at Bible verses together such as John 9:5, where Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” It was very clear to even a young child that Jesus understood his role in the world as a light to shine in the darkness. I then proposed that we go into the darkest room in the house, a small bathroom with no windows. Always eager to get up and move, and intrigued by continuing the lesson in the bathroom (of all places!), each child would eagerly comply.
The life of the apostle Paul—unmarried man living 2,000 years ago, Jewish convert to Christianity, known-world traveler who survived beatings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment—can seem distant and foreign to our 21st-century existence. But there is one aspect of Paul’s life that resonates down through the centuries to every believer: his famous “thorn in the flesh.” A thorn in the flesh is a near-constant irritant causing discomfort or pain in life, something you may be able to ignore briefly but is frequently on your mind, and is presumably not there by your own doing.
This thorn is such an unrelenting and problematic part of Paul’s life that he pleads repeatedly with God for relief, as he relates in his second letter to the Corinthians: “… a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7b-8)
Name That Thorn
Almost without fail, the first thing a modern reader wants to know upon reading these verses is, what is Paul’s thorn? We begin to speculate, digging up clues from his other writings and revealing our particular fascination with another person’s secret problem. What could it be? Of course, we aren’t the first to have grappled with this question. Many theories have been proposed, among them: depression, malaria, epilepsy, vision problems, and Jewish persecution. We can speculate and debate all we’d like, but the fact is, we’ll never know. And there’s a reason for that.