ODJ: Where’s God?

August 22, 2018 

READ: Psalm 23:1-6 

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (v.4).

Since ancient times, faithful Christians have spoken about what John of the Cross called the “dark night of the soul”. This “dark night” descends upon even the most faithful believers, upon those who have walked with God for years. In this dark night, believers can feel spiritually dry for unusually long periods of time, as if they’re just going through the motions of discipleship. It can feel as if God has refused to show up, as if He’s missing in action.

In the dark night, we’re afflicted by doubt. We might think that we must have done something sinful to be experiencing such dryness and darkness, so we scrape our consciences and scour our lives for sin. Yet even after we confess everything we can think of to God and other trusted believers, we feel distant from Him.

We can take comfort in knowing we’re not the only ones who’ve gone through this. We can take comfort in knowing that our feelings and sight, or lack thereof, don’t always tell us the truth about reality. That’s why Paul says, “For we live by believing and not by seeing” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

And we can take comfort in the fact that God often works deeper faith through such dark nights. When we continue to seek Him despite the darkness that envelops us, we can come to a deeper, truer understanding of who God is.

For God is in the darkest nights and valleys, as King David described in Psalm 23:4, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” He will never leave or forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5). And as the psalmist confessed, when the Lord is our shepherd, we have all we need (Psalm 23:1). Let’s cling to that truth.

—Marlena Graves

365-day plan: Luke 18:1-14

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Read Titus 1:2 and meditate on the promise of life with God. 
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What have you learned during difficult times in your life? Why are prayer and talking to other trusted believers helpful when enduring a “dark night of the soul”? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: God’s Care for Us

August 22, 2018 

READ: Genesis 3:1–13 

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

 

My young grandsons enjoy dressing themselves. Sometimes they pull their shirts on backwards and often the younger one puts his shoes on the wrong feet. I usually don’t have the heart to tell them; besides, I find their innocence endearing.

I love seeing the world through their eyes. To them, everything is an adventure, whether walking the length of a fallen tree, spying a turtle sunning itself on a log, or excitedly watching a fire truck roar by. But I know that even my little grandsons are not truly innocent. They can make up a dozen excuses about why they can’t stay in their beds at night and are quick to yank a wanted toy from the other. Yet I love them dearly.

I picture Adam and Eve, God’s first people, as being in some ways like my grandchildren. Everything they saw in the garden must have been a marvel as they walked with God. But one day they willfully disobeyed. They ate of the one tree they were forbidden to eat (Genesis 2:15–17; 3:6). And that disobedience immediately led to lies and blame-shifting (3:8–13).

Still, God loved and cared for them. He sacrificed animals in order to clothe them (v. 21)—and later He provided a way of salvation for all sinners through the sacrifice of His Son (John 3:16). He loves us that much! 

— Alyson Kieda

Dear Lord, thank You for loving us, despite our sin, and for making a way for us to be with You forever!


Jesus loves us so much He sacrificed Himself for our sins.  

ODJ: Why Is This Happening?

August 21, 2018 

READ: 1 Peter 5:6-11 

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (v.7).

It was late at night when Paul, a pastor, received the news that his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He went outside, sat on the front steps and began to pour his heart out to God. “Why is this happening to my wife?” he asked. “She’s faithful and devoted.” After struggling for a while, Paul looked up to the clear sky and, with open hands, said, “Jesus, You know. You know, and that is enough for me.”

The apostle Peter probably wrote his first letter around AD 60 to Gentile and Jewish believers scattered because of opposition to their faith in Jesus. It’s possible that some of the believers were discouraged, not understanding why terrible things were happening to them. After all, they hadn’t done anything wrong.

Although it might have been a natural response for them to ask why, Peter didn’t attempt to explain why they were enduring persecution. Instead, he brought their attention to God’s character: He’s a good Father who cares (1 Peter 5:7). Because of who God is, the believers could give Him “all [their] worries and cares”.

But this action of trusting God wasn’t to be passive. Peter also told them, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil” (v.8). Because the evil one sought to destroy their faith, they would need to rely on God’s power to “stand firm against him, and be strong in [their] faith” (v.9).

Finally, Peter reminded them that they weren’t alone in their struggles. Other believers around the world were suffering just like them. But this wasn’t the end, he assured them, because after they had “suffered a little while”, God would “restore, support and strengthen” them (v.10). May we also rest in that promise when life has us asking why.

—Estera Pirosca Escobar

365-day plan: Luke 17:20-37

MORE
Read Psalm 37:1-7 and note David’s advice for times when things seem unfair. 
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What trial are you facing or have you recently faced? How can you direct your thoughts towards God and seek His peace? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: A Prayer to Point Us Home

August 21, 2018 

READ: Luke 23:44–48 

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

 

One of the first prayers I learned as a little boy was “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep . . .” It was a prayer I learned from my parents, and I taught it to my son and daughter when they were little. As a child, I found great comfort in placing myself in God’s hands with those words before I fell asleep.

There’s a similar prayer neatly tucked away in the “prayer book” of the Bible, the Psalms. Some biblical scholars suggest that the phrase “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Psalm 31:5) was a “bedtime” prayer taught to children in Jesus’s day.

You may recognize that prayer as Jesus’s final cry from the cross. But Jesus added one more word to it: Father (Luke 23:46). By praying that word in the moments before His death, Jesus demonstrated His intimate relationship with the Father and pointed believers toward their home with Him (John 14:3).

Jesus died on the cross so we could live in the wonder of a relationship with God as our heavenly Father. How comforting it is to know that because of Jesus’s sacrificial love for us, we can rest in God’s care as His children! We can close our eyes without fear because our Father watches over us and has promised to wake us up to life with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

— James Banks

Lord Jesus, I receive the gift of forgiveness You offer me through the cross. Help me to turn from my sins and follow You, all the way home.


A bright new morning awaits us in Jesus.