Several years ago, Robert Schuller, founding minister of the Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles, received a phone call. “Bob,” said the strained voice at the other end, “your mother is very sick.” Schuller was on the first available flight and flew to northwest Iowa where his mother lived. His mother died while he was in the air.
After arriving, he spoke to the pastor who was with his mother shortly before she passed away. Her final request, the pastor said, was that he read Isaiah 43:1–4. These verses brought comfort to his mother in her dying moments: “ ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; . . . / When you pass through the waters, / I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, / they will not sweep over you. / When you walk through the fire, / you will not be burned; . . . / For I am the Lord, your God.’ ”
In living, in dying, and through all circumstances in between, women and men have turned to the Bible for support, strength, and insight. The Bible is filled with spiritual wisdom that can soften life’s blows, soothe hurting hearts, bolster sagging spirits, and provide guidance for daily life.
Although the people who wrote the Bible lived long ago, they lived our lives, felt our pains, suffered our hurts, and experienced our fears. The Bible is the story of people who turned to God when life was a struggle, and they emerged from those struggles declaring that God is faithful. In the rest of this article, I will share with you five other power passages from the Bible that can help with various needs.
1 When in Need of Comfort
“ ‘As a mother comforts her child, / so will I comfort you’ ” (Isaiah 66:13). God is presented as an attentive mother, Someone who is always available, always nearby. The assurance that this loving maternal Presence is on call 24 hours a day can bring you comfort even in the most desperate of circumstances.
Physician and author Larry Dossey tells about one of his patients who was dying of lung cancer. The day before this man’s death, Dossey sat at his bedside together with his wife and children. Weakened by his condition, and knowing he had littletime left, the man chose his words carefully. In a hoarse whisper, he acknowledged that he had not been particularly religious, but he told Dossey and his family that he had started praying frequently.
“What do you pray for?” Dossey asked.
“I don’t pray for anything,” he responded. “How would I know what to ask for?”
Dossey was surprised by the answer. Surely a dying man would have some request, so he asked, “If prayer is not for asking, what is it for?”
The dying man’s answer was very insightful. “Prayer isn’t for anything,” he said thoughtfully. “It mainly reminds me that I am not alone.”
What a marvelous thought!
2 When in Need of Guidance
“As iron sharpens iron, / so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). This wisdom passage is a reminder that, when we feel uncertain and confused about a course of action, we can gain mental and spiritual clarity by consulting with a trusted friend.
Sharing our thoughts and feelings with another can refine them, shape them, and lead to fresh insights. A good friend is a source of affection and love, one who can provide inspiration and hope when we are in despair.
When the stock market crashed in 1929, a despondent investor approached the well-known New York City rabbi, Stephen Wise. The man confided to Wise that his sole remaining asset was a life-insurance policy. “Would it be morally justifiable if I committed suicide?” he asked.
Wise suggested that the man tell his wife and children what he was planning to do. If they told him they would prefer that he not end his life, he had a clear answer: they wanted him alive, whether he was wealthy or not.
On the other hand, suppose they preferred the life-insurance policy. The rabbi asked, “Are you going to kill yourself for the sake of selfish people like that?”
3 When in Need of Inner Peace
“ ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ ” (Psalm 46:10). Blaise Pascal observed, “All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.”
We live in a very noisy world and seldom take the time to reflect. We are constantly bombarded with sound: TV, sirens, traffic, music, and the endless chatter on car radios. Combined with that noise, our daily lives are filled with activity. Consequently, we experience high levels of stress and anxiety. That may be why the Bible encourages us to “be still” and to “know.” This is a call to do silent meditation.
Because our lives are so full of noise and commotion, it is imperative that we carve out space to turn our thoughts inward, toward quiet, toward listening for God’s voice.
When we are overwhelmed by outside stimuli, we can lose sight of who we really are, what our true needs are, and how we can live most authentically. This kind of meditation takes the focus away from ourselves and the hazards of daily life.
Author Wayne Dyer points out that there is great value in practicing silence. “Silence,” he says, is where “you’ll find the peace that you crave in your daily life. . . . Your sense of inner peace depends on spending some of your life energy in silence to recharge your batteries, remove tension and anxiety, thus reacquainting you with the joy of knowing God and feeling closer to all of humanity.”
4 When in Need of a New Mind
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Paul, who wrote these words, understood that what we put into our minds determines what comes out in our words and actions. It’s so easy to slip into a negative, critical, even angry, state of mind. There are times when we need an attitude adjustment.
If we entertain angry thoughts, the sentences we speak may be filled with hostility. If our minds and thoughts are filled with criticism and judgment, we can come across as bitter and hostile. So the apostle says, “Fix your thoughts on” truth, beauty, honor, rightness. This is an invitation to practice cultivating a positive mental state.
Rather than focus on negativity and hostility, we are to systematically practice generosity, loving-kindness, sympathy, joy, and compassion. The next time you are in heavy traffic and becoming frustrated and angry with other drivers, shift your focus on the truth that everyone else on the road is in the same situation; that, like you, all drivers are just trying to get home to the people they love.
The apostle challenges us to think kind, noble, admirable thoughts. As we systematically do this, the harsh, negative ones will recede.
5 When in Need of a Boost
“ ‘Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin’ ” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).* This passage directly addresses times when we feel as though our efforts are completely insignificant. They speak to moments when we think to ourselves, What’s the use?
The prophet reminds us that God is working through us, even if we can’t see the results. Robert Schuller relates another story about his mother that offers a fascinating illustration of this truth.
One day he received a plain looking envelope postmarked from Iowa. Inside was a check for $68,400.00. It was the second-largest unsolicited check his ministry had ever received!
“I called the lady to make sure that we should accept this donation,” Schuller said, “because the shaky handwriting was obviously that of an older woman. We didn’t want to leave someone destitute.”
He phoned, and it quickly became apparent that the woman was enthusiastic about making the gift. She had been born in Alton, Iowa, then left to be a schoolteacher.
When she began teaching, she opened a savings account and, out of each week’s salary, deposited a small amount. “Now, I’m getting on in years and I’m alone; I never married,” she explained, and because her expenses were minimal, her pension was more than enough.
While watching his television ministry, she thought about her savings account. “I hadn’t looked at it for years. When I checked up on it, I discovered it had grown these many years to $68,400.00—just out of a schoolteacher’s salary. Isn’t that incredible?” Without any heirs, she began making plans to dispose of her estate.
Because Schuller was raised in Alton, Iowa, he asked the woman if she knew his mother.
“I sure do!” she exclaimed. “I’ll never forget her. In fact, I’m so grateful to her.” Then she explained that on one occasion, when her sister was sick, Mrs. Schuller called on her, bringing with her a homemade apple pie.
The story reveals the meaning of Zechariah’s words, “Do not despise these small beginnings.” So begin where you are; do what you can; leave the results to God. God can turn something small into something large.
The five texts I’ve reflected on in this article are a small sample of the wealth of wisdom you’ll find in the Bible. So spend some time searching for it. You’ll be well rewarded!
YOUR BIBLE: FACING DIFFICULTIES
Whenever you find yourself in a difficult situation, turn to the Bible for some extra help. Here are five steps for allowing the Bible to speak specifically to your situation:
- Using a concordance, search for and select a passage that seems relevant to your situation.
- Read the passage you have chosen two or three times.
- Ask God to help you to understand the message it contains.
- Then pray about your problem. Ask God to show you how this passage responds to your present need.
- Share your insights with a friend, who may provide additional clarification and support.