because we need hope, peace, & comfort

I have been writing and thinking and praying a lot about hope this fall. There are many reasons I crave hope this season. Like the headlines flashing across our screens and calling to us from the morning paper, and the usual stress of trying to balance home, church, and family life. (And our family’s life now includes our twin daughters going to kindergarten full-day. Despite the great school they attend, it’s been an adjustment for all of us!)

We have also experienced waves of greater-than-usual overwhelming circumstances in our lives and in the lives of our family and friends. Like a hurricane that “breezed” through (pun intended) and left a ton of chaos in its wake;  friends who’ve had miscarriages; a friend battling leukemia; extended family health issues requiring more care from my husband and me; the death just last week of my great-aunt Julie; and a bit more travel than usual for me this fall.

As I’ve tried to take stolen moments along the way to pause, be still, and know that God is God (Psalm 46), I feel how much I need comfort for my own heart. Not only does chaos swirl without, it also rises up from within. I need a peace that’s bigger than the messages I feel bombarded with and *wish* worked, but just haven’t – like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “look for the rainbow after the storm.” While I’m all about the rainbow and the strength needed to keep moving, I need something that lasts as long as the storm.

And the only thing I’ve found that can outlast the storm is the hope of a God who is there. A Jesus who meets us in the storm, and then rides it out with us. As I spoke to a group of beautiful women, including many family and friends, at my aunt and uncle’s church in Columbia, South Carolina, last week, I was praying hope over their hearts, and I spoke the words I myself need to hear – a few of which I’ll share below. May your heart be encouraged as well … in all the places where you find yourself in need of hope, peace, and comfort today. 









Spring hope and restoration

Restoration. I often feel like spring is a picture of restoration as the world’s life seems to be restored after the (apparent) barrenness of winter. With someone who is definitely affected by the dark, cold days of winter, I often feel like my heart awakens with spring every year. I love warmth and sunshine. This year’s long-in-coming-spring felt trying for me. But it came. And in that there is a hint of the Future Restoration all of creation is waiting for (whether they realize it or not). 

A few weeks ago, I taught from 2 Kings 8:1-6 about a widow whose land is restored, and the way this seemingly obscure story is included in the Bible to speak to us of a much greater hope of restoration.

8 Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Arise, and depart with your household, and sojourn wherever you can, for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will come upon the land for seven years.” So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. And at the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she went to appeal to the king for her house and her land. Now the king was talking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, “Tell me all the great things that Elisha has done.” And while he was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her land. And Gehazi said, “My lord, O king, here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life.” And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, “Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.”

Parts of my talk are included below – praying you will be encouraged by the hope of restoration wherever you feel the longing for it most today.

Have you ever lost something very precious to you? Maybe not valuable in terms of price but irreplaceable because of what it was. While visiting my parents in South Carolina over Christmas, I lost the pearl ring my parents gave me for my 30th birthday. I didn’t realize I had lost it until we arrived back in Norfolk. I just assumed I had already packed it some place really “special” but couldn’t find it when unpacking. I searched through all of the usual places, multiple times. I called and asked my mom to look for it, which I assumed would be like looking for a needle in a haystack since it could have been anywhere. And it didn’t show up for weeks. I considered it gone forever. Imagine my relief and joy when I pulled on a pair of pants to find it comfortably lodged deep in the pocket. I felt like I had received it back again! Isn’t that what makes restoration almost better than the original gift? You had counted it as lost, and then it’s restored. Webster’s defines the verb “restore” as


  1. Bring back; reinstate.
  2. Return (someone or something) to a former condition, place, or position.

return – give back – renovate – renew – rehabilitate

This is a small, trivial example of something lost that’s been restored. What do you find yourself longing to be restored today? Maybe it’s the weight of relationships that are broken and feel lost forever – maybe with a parent, or a child, or a spouse, or a friend. Or maybe you are in the process of losing a home or a job due to financial stress, unemployment, or your new orders. Perhaps you are losing an entire way of life as you anticipate a major change on the horizon – whether it be a joyful change like marriage or having children, or bittersweet such as retirement or kids leaving for school or college. Maybe you find yourself in a much darker place than anything I’ve mentioned yet as you deal with the loss of someone close to you through death, or the loss of hope through miscarriage or infertility, or the lingering loss of childhood or innocence because of past abuse. And in all of these losses, what often accompanies them is a loss of faith or trust in God and his goodness. Is God going to come through for you when you feel like you’ve lost everything that matters to you – or if not everything, the one thing or person that mattered the most? Is restoration even possible?

Our story today says yes as it highlights God as the one who provides and the one who restores. As we think about it together, we’re going to look at God’s provision and restoration from three perspectives: 

(1) God’s restoration for the Shunammite woman

In 2 Kings 8:1-6, we see a woman who experiences God’s provision and abundant restoration in her life. First, we need to do a little background on her life to remember her remarkable history. In 2 Kings 4:1-37, we are introduced to this woman who is wealthy and hospitable, building a room for Elisha to stay in when he passes through their town. She’s the woman who was given a son by God in repayment for her kindness after years of apparent infertility. And she’s the woman who loses her son unexpectedly at a young age to death, and then seeks Elisha’s help when he dies. What happens next is one of the greatest miracles in the Bible. She receives her son back when Elisha restores his life to him in a resurrection miracle. All of this happens before this chapter of her story begins.

It opens with bleak circumstances and yet we see the first evidence of God’s care for her: God’s provision of a warning. Israel is going to be hit with a seven-year famine (no small thing for an agrarian society), presumably as part of God’s desire to wake them up from their idolatry. This woman will be spared because she is given a warning by Elisha of what’s coming. We see her faith in her response described in verse 2, “So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God.” What she left behind was no small thing. We know that she was wealthy and that she was comfortably settled, and she leaves all of this behind to go live in the land of the Philistines (enemies of Israel). This would not have been a comfortable place to live by any stretch of the imagination.

Perhaps it helped that she knew it would only be seven years, for we see her journeying back after seven years. Her land and her home are now gone, and she must appeal to the king for it. What we see now is a second aspect of God’s care for her in his provision of perfect timing. As she enters the king’s court, the king “just happened” to be asking Gehazi (Elisha’s servant) to tell him about Elisha’s miracles. And Gehazi “just happened” to be telling him about the resurrection miracle when the woman herself walks into the king’s presence and Gehazi announces her, “…here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life.” The king is intrigued and asked the woman herself to recount the story. He is duly impressed, and as a result, appoints an official with the instructions, “Restore all that was hers…” and not only that, but also “all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.” This is abundant provision, over and above what she requested or expected.

What we see through this short narrative is a God who provides and who restores, caring for the needs of one individual woman and her family. Do you wonder why this particular story of this particular woman is included in the Bible for us? I find great comfort in the reminder that our God is a God who is in the business of restoration. And that our God goes about restoration one individual at a time. He is not only the God of global restoration of all things, but He is also the God who is in the business of restoring individual lives.

(2) God’s message of restoration for Israel

The original audience, Israel, were also sojourners like this woman, sojourners not by choice but by captivity. They must have wondered whether they would have homes and land to return to one day. Imagine what great comfort they would find through this story! For them, the sermon would have been something like the following:

  1. You will be restored to your land after exile – there is an end in sight
  2. God notices, cares, and orchestrates details to make his will come to pass for his people
  3. Do according to God’s word like the Shunammite woman and God will provide and restore

(3) God’s promise of restoration to His people today

Those points are certainly not irrelevant for us today, who also live as spiritual exiles who are not home. If we think of the big picture of the story of what God is doing in history, we also are ones who have had a home that we left (the Garden of Eden). We are now in captivity to sin, to futility in our work and to pain in child bearing/raising. We are awaiting restoration of all creation and a perfect home with God who will make all things new. But we have even more hope as we wait than the Israelites did because we can now look back to Jesus Christ. Just as the woman’s restoration of her land hinged on the son restored to life, so does our restoration depend on the Son restored to life.

During Easter we particularly contemplate Jesus’ death more than any other time in the calendar year, and we also celebrate Jesus’ resurrection life as the high point of the church calendar. It is the highlight of Redemption – of God’s global Restoration story. For in Jesus restored to life, we all have hope that we ourselves will also be restored to life after death and that even now our hearts are restored from sin’s captivity. Jesus came to begin the process of returning all things to their former/rightful condition, place, and position. With his death and resurrection life, He promises to bring back and reinstate all those who believe in him to a place of unbroken relationship with their Creator. The ripple effects of such a restoration are to be seen and experienced most vividly in our restored relationships with one another and in our joint restoration efforts to restore cities, communities, all of creation to its intended glorious state.

What could this really look like for you and for me as we face the death of friends, financial difficulties, life stress, overbooked schedules, health problems, broken relationships?

God agrees that your life and this world is broken, it is far from his original intent and the glory it was created to display. Don’t let the brokenness keep you from seeing the perfection of the God who created it all to be good, and who is on a global renovation/restoration plan to make it so again.

Don’t let the weight of your sin keep you from experiencing the restoration of grace and forgiveness guaranteed by Jesus Christ.

Remember who we were created to be and what the world was created to display, and mourn how far we have all fallen. But dare to hope and pray and work with the God who is in the business of restoration. 

2 Kings 6:1-23 – Finding God in the small and big troubles of life, part 2

Part 2 of the talk I gave for our weekly women’s Bible study this week. (Read part 1 here.)


Yet to be honest it often does take a glimpse of God’s greater power to sustain you when life’s major storms hit. Enter part 2 – the enemies of God’s people are thwarted by one man.

Throughout this entire passage, I found it interesting that no other names are mentioned besides Elisha and the Lord. The kings are nameless as are the armies. That very fact highlights where the focus is for this passage. There are also many ironic reversals in this story:

  • The Syrian king has to send his men to find out where Elisha is, but Elisha always knows where the Syrian army will be next. (Dillard’s commentary)
  • When the Syrian king sends his army to surround and capture Elisha, Elisha ends up leading this very army to a place where they are surrounded and captured.
  • And yet when the Syrian army realizes that they are in Israel’s capital and they expect certain death, they are given a banquet feast instead and sent back home.
  • Elisha prays for his servant to see the Lord’s army that surrounds them, yet he prays for the Syrian army to be blinded (and they are).

The central part of this story surrounds the moment when Elisha seems to be on the brink of being captured by the enemy whose raids he has thwarted by God’s power. He is in Dothan, which builds up great suspense as the original audience of the Israelites would have associated this city as the very place where Joseph was captured and sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers. The Syrian king sends “horses and chariots and a great army,” and there were so many that they surrounded the city. On top of this, they came at night. All for one man who was a threat to the king! Surely this would be the end of God’s prophet, and the enemies of Israel would no longer be held in check. It could mean disaster for the entire kingdom.

But the one person who should be most afraid seems impossibly calm. It’s his servant who tells him about the army surrounding them the next morning. And his reply is, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” His servant must have been baffled, which is why Elisha then prays that his eyes would be opened for him to see the otherwise-invisible heavenly army surrounding them and protecting them. At this point, some of the tension must be relieved. This heavenly army will surely put to flight in a powerful way the Syrian army. But, no. God had a different plan. He doesn’t use the heavenly army that seems to be at Elisha’s disposal. Instead, he answers Elisha’s prayer that they be struck with blindness and then uses Elisha to lead this army into the heart of the capital of their enemy (Israel). The very one they came to capture leads them away to be captured. Elisha prays that their eyes would be opened, and what they see is as frightening to them as the heavenly armies were courage-inspiring to Elisha’s servant.

And the plot twists again. Because now we expect for them to be massacred by Israel, since they are one of their arch-enemies at the time. But there is mercy shown. Even grace in abundance. Before they are released and allowed to go home, they are given “a great feast.” A feast instead of certain death! And everyone wins – for the story ends with “the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.” God restores peace to his people through his power and his mercy (at least temporarily).

Now in our place in history, we read this story and can see the way it points to one greater than Elisha, who did face certain death and expected defeat. He did not immediately lead out his enemies to be captured, but seemed to be captured by them. He died at their hands. But yet God’s surprising twist was that after all hope was lost, after three days of death, this man came back to life – resurrection power! And in his resurrection life, Jesus showed that our most powerful enemies of sin, death, and Satan will not disturb our peace again. They are forever vanquished. No power is left. But do I have eyes to see?

We have seen the way that these two stories in 2 Kings 6:1-23 offer to you and me a powerful reminder of what and who is for us, even when everything else feels like it is against us. But let’s be honest. What is it that you see in the midst of the hard things facing you – whether it be seemingly trivial everyday struggles like sick children, a busy schedule, financial hardship, sleepless nights or the bigger trials like whether you’ll lose your job, a break-up, a hopeless marriage, kids with disabilities, a husband who’s deployed, aging parents, a cancer diagnosis?

Too often, what I see is all skewed in the following four areas:

(1)  my troubles feel encompassing and eclipse anything else – any hope of relief or rescue or an end in sight. What I do with this is either succumb to despair, hopelessness, anger & resentment or I try to minimize them in my own power. Thinking “someone else has it worse.” Neither offers real relief.

(2)  I see my idols as too powerful, thinking that they are really going to come through for me this time. This time, getting angry at my kids will magically make them stop getting in the way of what I want. This time, Target will offer me some happiness. This relationship won’t disappoint. This friendship will be truly fulfilling and she’ll understand me perfectly. Working out, eating healthy, buying organic will save me from my distress.

(3)  What underlies this belief about my idols of choice and their power to save me is that ultimately, I have a skewed view of myself. I think that me being in control will make it better and I’d rather trust my own efforts, resources, and self-sufficiency than have to ask for help. Or worse yet, admit that I need outside rescue because I’m too blind to ask for what I really need.

(4)  And so this all stems from a view of God and his victory as small, pie in the sky, nonexistent, confined to the pages of a book full of stories that are irrelevant to my life.

What will make the difference? How can you begin to see clearly? The answer is simple but not easy, like so many things in our life of faith in the unseen Kingdom.

Ask to see.

Admit your fear.

Anticipate unexpected courage and grace.

For we in this story are like Elisha’s servant quaking with fear as he sees the army surrounding him. And we have one greater than Elisha leading the way and interceding (praying) for us to see. Jesus opens our eyes to the battle waging around us (Ephesians 6) but instead of inspiring fear we are given courage for the victory has already been won. He has gone before us. And in those moments when we feel enslaved by our own sin – captured by the enemy, as it were – we are promised a feast and a forever Home. Unexpected grace because of Jesus who claims all who believe in his life, death, and resurrection as his very own children. We are hidden with Christ in God, and so in seeing through the eyes of Christ – as he opens our eyes to the true state of things, our perspective changes:

(1)  my troubles are now “light and momentary, achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

(2)  my idols are weak and powerless – “eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear” (Isaiah)

(3)  I am strong when I am weak (2 Cor. 12:9-10) – needy and yet given grace that’s all sufficient for every need, big or little; sinful yet forgiven – not beaten down by sin. Romans 8 – “In all these things, we are more than conquerors.”

(4)  God and his victory looms larger than the trials, is more sure than my idols, and is where I can find true refuge. Romans 8 – “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

In summary, 1 John 4:4 is true for you and I: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Pray to have eyes to see God as bigger than your troubles, your idols, and yourself; and spend time looking. Help others to see – enter their troubles with them and point them to Jesus.

On my very bad, horrible, no good evening when all seemed against me, God showed up. He showed up through a friend who offered to come home with me and help put the twins to bed. I could barely utter a prayer, but I did speak to her of my distress and she answered – reminding me of the God who is for me, in the little and the big things. And this began to change the way I was seeing life. Let us be ones who help one another to see God’s involvement in big and little troubles as we together open our eyes to God’s sure victory and real presence with us. 

2 Kings 6:1-23 – Finding God in the big and small troubles of life, part 1

This is the manuscript for a talk I gave at my church’s weekly women’s Bible study this morning in our study of Elijah and Elisha in 1 and 2 Kings. It’s been such a rich semester. It’s a privilege to teach alongside so many other gifted teachers as well. I always learn so much, both in listening and in preparing my own talks.


It was the perfect storm, and everything felt like it was against me. I was outnumbered by my two-year-old twin daughters by 2:1. It was another evening meeting that my husband the associate pastor was helping with, meaning that we had not seen him all day AND that I would have to get the girls ready and bring them to this church event solo. Which started about 30 minutes before their bedtime, and so I was already dreading having to do the bedtime task solo with two cranky, overtired toddlers after the event was over. It was during a busy week with a lot on our calendars and on my mind.  Then, like the proverbial “icing on the cake,” while I was getting Alethia ready upstairs, Lucia was unusually quiet. I came down to discover that she had gotten a magic marker out of a plastic bag on top of a bookshelf (that I didn’t know she could reach), and was applying the bright green marker to her mouth as if it were lipstick. Yes, BRIGHT GREEN. And sweet girl doesn’t have much experience with lipstick application (of course), which meant that it was also inside her mouth all over her teeth and tongue. I wish I had laughed. But instead I yelled at her and her sister while I attempted to scrub out the green marker from her mouth. Then we rushed out the door. And I felt utterly defeated, both by the circumstances and then my sinful response to them.  A feeling that meant I was less than warm to the visitor sitting next to me who kindly asked me where my husband was. I gruffly replied I didn’t know. (You see, it was naturally Seth’s fault that my day/evening had been hard and so I felt resentful towards him and implicated him as one of the many forces working against me, too.)

Is this scene familiar to you? The details are different, but have you had a day or week, or year, or decade, when everything felt like it was against you? Maybe you feel like that today. Where do you turn? What did you do to survive? Where did you feel like God was in your picture? Truth be told, God felt pretty absent that evening. In fact, although the irony is that I was going to a meeting at church, I didn’t really think about him at all other than to mutter some angry complaints in God’s direction.

These two stories in 2 Kings 6:1-23 offer to you and me a powerful reminder of what and who is for us, even when everything else feels like it is against us. But do you have eyes to see God as bigger than what faces you? What kind of picture of God do these stories give us and how can that give you trust in either small or big matters that feel overwhelming? God addresses both the trivial, seemingly insignificant problems of one individual in distress and the larger matters of entire kingdoms warring against one another. What do you find it harder to trust God with – your everyday trials or the big life crises? No matter where you find yourself struggling today, God has a message for you in these stories as he shows his strong, powerful presence in both little and big things.

Part 1: An axe head floats, rescuing a prophet from impossible debt

To fully understand the significance of this seemingly insignificant story, we have to do a little background work into the culture of the day. Most importantly, we need to know the value of the lost iron axe head. One commentator (“Faith in the Face of Apostasy” by Ray Dillard) said that because of the high value of iron during this time, it would be the modern equivalent of wrecking a borrowed car. We get a hint of this prophet’s distress as he cries out to Elisha, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” The Israelite hearer would have known immediately that this was no small loss, and that the only way a prophet could hope to repay such a debt would be to become an indentured servant. (Dillard) With the loss of the axe head, the prophet also saw his life drowning away with unlimited debt as well. Enter Elisha’s miracle, and the immense restoration it was for this prophet when he was able to make the iron float. As the prophet takes up the lost axe head now found, we can breathe a sigh of relief along with him as we see disaster and debt averted. God is immensely personal, intimately involved in what seems the smallest details of our lives. Do you pray about “the small stuff”? Or where do you turn when frustrated with life’s daily struggles?

This story shows God as the one more powerful than the popular gods of that day who could not stand up to “Judge River and Prince Sea,” but threatened to destroy Baal (the most popular god of that day). In this story, God is not threatened by the waters but proves once again his power over the waters, which do his bidding. And in this story we see the hope of future restoration pictured, when the forces of creation will join in our labor rather than resist it in futility. Even more, just as God rescued the prophet from certain debt, you and I can know that God has rescued us from our eternal debt of sin through Jesus Christ – he is the guarantee that all of our debts will be paid.

Can your idols or false refuges do this for you? Do they rescue you when you’re overwhelmed? Or do they add to the stress you feel? When I feel overwhelmed and turn to my favorite “popular idols of the day” for rescue (like retail therapy, Instagram, Facebook, gossip, complaint, chocolate, anger), these only give me more reason to feel overwhelmed. When was the last time that looking at Facebook, scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram actually made you feel more connected to others? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I am suggesting it’s unlikely to do anything besides leave you feeling more hopeless and lonely and overwhelmed. Because those aren’t meant to save you. Only God can. And often I forget that God’s with me in the everyday stresses and frustrations of life which make me turn to these “little gods” to deal with my “little problems,” as I think and assume that my big God is too busy with bigger things to worry with what I’m facing in my little world. But this story confronts my unbelief and invites me to trust my big God with not only the big life crises but also my everyday trials. As a mostly stay-at-home mom of preschoolers, this is where I live my life right now. So if God can’t meet me here, or I don’t turn to him even in the small distresses, this will erode my trust of God for the bigger life events, too. Which means that the opposite is also true – I can bolster my trust of God for the big crises by turning to him in these small moments of life. If God is sovereign at all, he is sovereign over all … big and little.

“Chasing Life, Longing for Rest” retreat update

Thanks to so many of you who were praying for me as I prepared and especially to the helpful feedback from my last post. It went really well this weekend – much better than I expected actually. I’ve enjoyed having today as a true Sabbath – day of rest – after what’s been such an exhausting schedule. And I feel energized from being part of God’s work in a new way this past weekend.

I started on Friday night with being a bit nervous, and when I took the last few minutes to pray/journal it was the following: “God – it’s minutes away from my first big talk to women at Trinity’s retreat. I’m nervous – as you know – and excited at how you will be strong in my weakness – my “fear and trembling.” Lord – come – settle my heart. Speak to these women your words to their hearts.”

And God certainly did just that. He calmed me so that I wasn’t nervous when being introduced and when I stepped up to take the mike – and looked out at the faces of 80+ women. Once I started speaking, I really sensed that God took over. Thoughts and illustrations came to me that I had not been able to think of during the preparation time. He gave me grace to connect with these women and speak the sweet invitation of the gospel (to come to Jesus for true life and rest) to their hearts.

I was both more exhausted and exhilarated than I thought I would be. It was a very worshipful experience for me, more than I could have imagined. The words to the worship songs really fit perfectly with the talks – songs like “Jesus I come” which was a perfect intro for my talk on Friday night.

I’m going to post part of my talks in increments. After all the time that went into the preparation, I want others to be able to benefit as well … and it’s a good reminder to me of how much I continue to need the rest only Jesus offers.

women’s poll on busyness/rest

I’m preparing to speak at a women’s retreat this weekend. The theme: “Chasing Life – Longing for Rest.” My questions for the women who read this blog (please post if you have a minute): (1) would you say you’re “too busy”? (2) if so, why do you think you’re so busy? (3) what do you do to find rest?

Answer any or all … if you have time (ha, ha).