Our families may be damaged this side of heaven, but brokenness in this life is an opportunity for redemption and healing.
October 24, 2021
To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the Scripture referenced throughout.
The fact that humans are born into sin (Rom. 5:12) means families are plagued by sin as well. Sometimes this is evident in something as mundane as fighting between siblings, but for many people, brokenness manifests itself in abandonment, abuse, estrangement, death, divorce, and more.
Yet whatever the case may be, your family isn’t doomed. Instead, brokenness—in your life and in the lives of people you love—is a ripe field that’s ready for redemption and healing. When our family relationships fall short, we get to depend on the Lord’s power and see His love at work. (See 2 Cor. 12:9-10.)
It’s inevitable that we’ll be disappointed by family—we’re descendants of Adam and Eve, after all. When that happens, let’s remember trials are part of a believer’s life (John 16:33) and difficulty with family members can be expected on this side of heaven. Psalm 34:19-20 says, “The afflictions of the righteous are many, but the Lord rescues him from them all.”
Think about it
When have loved ones disappointed you? When has God strengthened your family? It’s important to acknowledge not only feelings of hurt but also moments when we’ve seen God’s faithfulness.
“Don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel was the law we lived by,” says Frederick Buechner in his powerful memoir Telling Secrets, “and woe to the one who broke it.” Buechner is describing his experience of what he calls the “unwritten law of families who for one reason or another have gone out of whack.” In his own family, that “law” meant Buechner was not allowed to talk about or grieve his father’s suicide, leaving him with no one he could trust with his pain.
Can you relate? Many of us in one way or another have learned to live with a warped version of love, one that demands dishonesty or silence about what’s harmed us. That kind of “love” relies on fear for control—and is a kind of slavery.
We can’t afford to forget just how different Jesus’ invitation to love is from the kind of conditional love we often experience—a kind of love we’re always afraid we could lose. As Paul explains, through Christ’s love we can finally understand what it means to not live in fear (Romans 8:15) and start to understand the kind of glorious freedom (v. 21) that’s possible when we know we’re deeply, truly, and unconditionally loved. We’re free to talk, to trust, and to feel once more—to learn what it means to live unafraid.
Are there any unspoken “rules” you’ve learned as conditions for acceptance and love? How might you live differently if you believed you didn’t have to follow those rules to be loved?
Loving God, at times I’m afraid to live honestly with myself and with others—thinking that by doing so I’ll no longer be loved. Heal my heart, and help me believe in and live for the glory, freedom, and joy Your love makes possible.
“For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death” (Romans 7:5).
Four key terms characterize those who are not in Christ.
In our fallen, cursed world, disasters are commonplace. Fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters happen somewhere every day. Added to those natural disasters are the man-made ones, such as war, acts of terrorism, plane crashes, train wrecks, etc.
But far greater than any of those disasters, and the one from which they all stem, was the entrance of sin into the human race. Sin renders fallen men spiritually dead, cuts them off from fellowship with God, and consigns them to eternal punishment in Hell.
In today’s verse Paul introduces four words that describe man’s unregenerate state: flesh, sin, law, and death. Those four words are interconnected: the flesh produces sin, which is stimulated by the law, resulting in death. Let’s consider each one individually.
The term flesh is used two ways in Scripture. It is sometimes used in a physical sense to speak of human existence. John used it to describe Christ’s incarnation in John 1:14 and 1 John 4:2. But in its moral sense, “flesh” represents the believer’s unredeemed body (Gal. 5:13; Eph. 2:3). While believers are no longer “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:9) as are unbelievers, the flesh is still in us. It is the seat of temptation, the beachhead from which Satan launches his attacks.
Sin (or “sinful passions”) energizes the flesh, which in turn produces further sin. Those “sinful passions,” Paul says, “were aroused by the Law”; they are exposed by the law because fallen man’s rebellious nature makes him desire to do what is forbidden. The end result of this downward spiral is “death”—both physical and spiritual.
What a merciful God we serve, who “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5).
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray for the unbelievers in your life, that God would open their hearts to respond to the gospel (Acts 16:14).
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
— 2 TIMOTHY 1:7 (AMPC)
It is easy to say, “Don’t worry.” But to actually do that requires experience with the faithfulness of God. When we trust God and then see and experience His faithfulness in our lives, it gives us great confidence to live without worry, fear, and anxiety.
That’s why it is so important to continue to have faith and trust in God in the very midst of trials and tribulations. With God’s help, we can steadfastly resist the temptation to give up and quit when the going gets rough. God uses those hard, trying times to build in us patience, endurance, and character that will eventually produce the habit of joyful and confident hope.
Always remember that when you are in a battle, you are gaining valuable experience that will benefit you in the future. You will more easily trust God when difficulty comes, and you will be able to testify to others regarding the goodness and faithfulness of God. If you are in a battle right now, you can let it defeat you or make you stronger! Make the right decision and let it help bring you into a deeper level of spiritual maturity.
We serve a God Who is so marvelous that He can work out things for our good that Satan intends for harm.
Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for working things out for my good that Satan intends for my harm. Thank You for the Hope that only comes through You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Without water the tree cannot flourish or even exist. Vitality is essential to a Christian. There must be life—a vital principle infused in us by God the Holy Spirit—or we cannot be trees of the Lord. Being a Christian merely in name is a dead thing; we must be filled with the spirit of divine life.
This life is mysterious. We do not understand the circulation of the water, by what force it rises, and by what power it descends again. So the life within us is a sacred mystery. Regeneration is performed by the Holy Spirit entering into man and becoming man’s life; and this divine life in a believer afterwards feeds upon Christ and is in this way sustained by divine food, but how it comes and where it goes who will explain to us?
What a secret thing the water is! The roots go searching through the soil, but we cannot see them suck out the various gases or transmute the mineral into the vegetable; this work is done down in the dark. Our root is Christ Jesus, and our life is hidden in Him; this is the secret of the Lord. The source of the Christian life is as secret as the life itself.
How permanently active is the water in the cedar! In the Christian the divine life is always full of energy—not always in fruit—bearing, but in inward operations. The believer’s graces are not always constant motion, but his life never ceases to palpitate within. He is not always working for God, but his heart is always living in Him. As the water reveals itself in producing the foliage and fruit of the tree, so with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally displayed in his walk and conversation. If you talk with him, he cannot help speaking about Jesus. If you notice his actions, you will see that he has been with Jesus. He is so full of Christ that He must fill his conduct and conversation.
Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.
“The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” (Exodus 15:2)
Angela pressed her face between the white boards of her grandma’s backyard fence. She waited there for a minute, listening, and then she ran across to the other side of the yard and pressed her face up against those white boards. After a little while, she ran back to the other side, and then back again.
Grandma had been watching her from the screen door and finally opened it. “Angela, honey, what in the world are you doing?”
Angela put her finger up to her lips and ran up to her grandma. “This is what,” she whispered, pointing with both hands to both sides of the back yard. “I am listening to your neighbors!”
Grandma’s face looked shocked. “Listening to my neighbors?” she whispered back. “Whatever for?”
“I’m seeing if they are Christians, Grandma.” Angela pointed to the neighbor’s yard on the right. “That’s Mr. Cherian over there – I think he is a Christian!”
Grandma nodded. “Sam Cherian and I have talked about the Lord many times. He is a wonderful brother in Christ.”
Then Angela pointed over to the lefthand neighbor’s yard. “But I’m just not so sure about Miss Wyler. She just never sings!”
Grandma looked over toward Miss Wyler’s yard and said in a very quiet voice, “Angela, why would you say that? There is nothing in the Bible that says we have to sing in order to be genuine believers in Jesus.”
“Oh, Grandma – I know that! But sometimes you can really tell the Christians from the non-Christians because they DO sing! Mr. Cherian only has one real leg, and he isn’t grouchy at all. When I watch him working in his garden, he is always humming a hymn or singing something! And he usually has a smile on his face, too. He doesn’t even sing that great and he has that funny high voice, but he is always singing. There is something different about him, and I think it’s something joyful in his heart that makes him sing.”
Grandma nodded. “And what have you been noticing as you’ve watched Miss Wyler working in her garden?”
“Well, she is nice enough to me when I say ‘hello’ to her. But she just does not seem like a very happy person, inside or out. She hangs around with her cats and mutters under her breath about all the things that keep going wrong in her yard or with the weather. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile or heard her sing a single note.”
“I see what you mean, honey,” said Grandma. She put her arm around Angela’s shoulder and led her inside the house. “Wilma Wyler does seem to have a hard time remembering that there’s more to life than her cats and good gardening weather. I don’t know if she’s a true Christian or not. One thing I do know is that all of us struggle sometimes to remember God – don’t we? We get caught up in our worries and our work, and we forget that His goodness and greatness are bigger and better and longer-lasting than any of our problems.”
“I guess that’s true for me, too,” said Angela. “And I am a Christian! But I guess sometimes I don’t act like somebody who knows Jesus. If I’m really believing God is as good and great as His Word says He is, I have a lot of reason to be happy, even when things don’t go like I want. Kind of like Mr. Cherian singing in his garden even though his garden gets the exact same weather Miss Wyler’s garden gets. And Mr. Cherian has no cats and only one leg!”
“That’s right, honey. As long as we are right with God, we have every reason to rejoice in all that He has done and all that He is. Singing is one way Christians can show that our happiness is in God instead of in our circumstances.” She poured Angela a glass of lemonade and leaned over the table to hand it to her, smiling widely. “Maybe the next time we’re out back, we should sing a little song, just in case Mr. Cherian or Miss Wyler decide to ‘listen’ to their neighbors?”
God’s goodness and greatness are reasons enough for a Christian to “rejoice evermore.”
My Response: » What do I think I need in order to be “happy”? » Do I think of salvation as something worth singing about? » Who is my Source for real and lasting joy?
Scriptures, Lessons, News and Links to help you survive.