You will find rest

But God always keeps his promises

Psalm 145:2, 4, 13-14 I will praise you every day. … Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles … I will share the story of your wonderful goodness. … The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does. The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.

It helps. It really does.

When Karis and I came to Pittsburgh in March 2004 for the terrifying prospect of intestinal transplant, not knowing anyone, feeling completely alone and vulnerable, leaving a fruitful and creative life behind, I made a decision. I would find something to thank God for every day. No matter what happened, I would look for what God was doing. “I will praise you every day.” It wasn’t easy, because terrifically painful things occurred, and sometimes the battle for Karis’s life seemed endless.

But I learned a way of seeing, in, through, and beyond the circumstances of a given day or hour. That practice continues to shape me. When troubling and difficult things happen, I know that’s not the whole story. God is keeping his promises today, even with the hard thing I face now. Whatever it is at a given time.

God is gracious in all he does. He helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.

What weight are you carrying today? Allow the Lord to bear it with you. Ask a friend to help you do this. Maybe you’ve picked up more than is meant for you. Maybe you’ve let others overload you. Perhaps saying “no” can be a good thing, for you and for others. I need this kind of help a lot.

Shutterstock: Sergey Nivens

What is tripping you up? Stretch out your hand to his strong and loving and faithful one. Let him help you get back on your feet. Perhaps the physical hand grasping yours belongs to one of his people. We are all called to be the Lord’s Body in the world, helping each other as Jesus would if he still lived physically among us.

Has someone you trusted betrayed you? Have you betrayed a promise to someone you love? Lean into God’s faithfulness. The promise-keeper can help you repair and heal your heart and give you strength to live faithfully.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” Matthew 11:28-30).

Remember and tell!

But God stands by his covenant 

Psalm 105:1-2, 7-8 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds. … He is the Lord our God. His justice is seen throughout the land. He always stands by his covenant—the commitment he made to a thousand generations.

Matthew 26:28 This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

I was only thinking of three generations when I wrote Karis: All I See Is Grace: my own generation, my children, and my grandchildren, yet unborn. I wanted my children’s spouses and my future grandchildren to know what God had done in our family through his faithfulness to Karis. Verses 1 and 2 of this psalm were part of what motivated me to persist through the three years it took me to write the book, along with Psalms 78:4-7, 102:18, 107:2, 118:17, and 145:4 and 12. All of them instruct us to remember and to tell what God does for us.

Imagine making a commitment to a thousand generations! I know that number means “all the generations to come,” but if we think about it literally and conservatively, choosing twenty years as the length of a generation, a thousand generations is 20,000 years. God keeps his covenant for at least that long. All recorded history is a small dent. Here we are, in our generation, still praising God for his faithfulness to us. If we notice what God does for us when it happens, remember it, and tell others, we’ll be part of Asaph’s vision in Psalm 78.

Last week in Idaho, my sister Marsha and I put together the “reunion puzzle” our daughter Valerie created from photos of the members of the extended Elliott family, in keeping with our reunion theme, “Pieces of a Whole.” The progeny of my parents, Ray and Helen Elliott, now numbers 81, with three to be born in the next three months.

Our reunion puzzle
Three more babies coming, in September, October, and November!

As the beloved faces emerged in the puzzle, I prayed for each of us to remember and celebrate God’s covenant of love for us, in the past, in the present, and stretching into the future to those not yet born and those yet to be brought into the family by marriage or by adoption.

Keeping covenant is costly. It’s not simple or easy. It cost God the life of his son. That’s the measure and standard he set for us. Today, my 68th birthday, I’m asking him to show me day by day in this next year how to live out his covenant; with more boldness remembering and telling, “so the next generation will set its hope anew on God” (Psalm 78:4-7).

Follow the pattern

But God designed a pattern for godly living

2 Peter 1:5-7, 3:14 Make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with moral excellence … knowledge … self-control … patient endurance … godliness … brotherly affection … love for everyone. … And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for the day of God, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

“Make every effort”?? What are you talking about, Peter? Isn’t the Christian life all about grace?

Yes, it is. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (v. 3).

But we have to decide to accept his gifts and promises and take action empowered by the Holy Spirit. God can’t and won’t force us to do what’s best for us and for our families and our communities and cities and the world. That’s on us.

Why can’t he? Because he respects us as choosers, as agents, as actors. He’s not interested in controlling us like marionettes or puppets. He made us in his own image. He wants a relationship of love, not of oppression. He woos and invites us into joy and peace by his pleasure in us and in the people we are becoming as we grow in imitating Jesus.

Shutterstock: NatBasil NO!!! This is NOT how God relates to us!!!

Here’s a bit of insight into three of the terms Peter uses. Curious? Look up the others!

Knowledge: gnosis, seeking to know and understand; curiosity that keeps us growing. As you probably know, the Greek language has many words for knowledge. Peter specifically chose this one.

Self-control: enkrateia, right use (rather than abuse) of our powers and knowledge.

Godliness: eusebeia, caring about and doing what pleases God. We don’t have to guess at what pleases God because the Scriptures are packed full of instruction and examples. I immediately think of Barnabas, who was “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith” (Acts 11:24). Since he was full of the Holy Spirit, we know the fruits of the Spirit were evident in his life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). He consistently chose to think and act in ways that honored God, rather than pleasing himself or even other people.

One thing I appreciate about Peter’s list is that it helps me know who I can trust and learn from. If this pattern isn’t evident in someone’s life—even someone who claims the name of Christ—I need to guard my heart. Peter warns us in chapter 2 about those who “cleverly teach destructive heresies” and evidence “shameful immorality.” Let’s be wise and discerning, not gullible, so the way of truth will not be slandered (2:2).

Peter really, really cares about this. It matters. Do you love people more, rather than less, as a result of following this person? If not, that person is not following Christ, even if he or she claims to do so.

As I write this, I am thinking of the amazing pattern of godliness we see in the Polish churches who have sacrificially welcomed and cared for Ukrainian refugees after reading this article in Christianity Today. Will you take a moment to pray for them with me?

It’s not fair!

But God promises justice and fairness

2 Peter 1:1, 4-5; 3:9-10 I [Peter] am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have. This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior. … He has given us great and precious promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. … The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. … But the day of the Lord will come.

“It’s not fair!”

Six-year-old Karis banged the front door and stomped into the kitchen. “It’s not fair that the English language is so hard to spell! It’s okay for me because I already know how to read. But it’s ridiculously hard for the kids who are just learning. Who decided the f sound should be written with a gh?!”

Sent to me by Karis when she was in college.

Ten-year-old Karis wept into her pillow. “It’s not fair that so much money is being spent on me, just to keep me alive! What about the children who starve not because they can’t eat, like me, but because they don’t have food? Can’t we ask the insurance company to buy food for them instead of paying my hospital bill?”

Twelve-year-old Karis, once she was stabilized from her immediate crisis, greeted me from her hospital bed with tears running down her cheeks. “It’s not fair that you canceled our family vacation! Take the other kids and go! I’ll be fine here. I can’t bear causing them disappointment AGAIN!”

Sixteen-year-old Karis, after passing out at school from dehydration, glared at me defiantly. “I refuse to return to Hospital Einstein. It’s not fair to pay for a five-star hospital when my Brazilian friends have to go to Hospital Grajaú! Take me to Hospital Grajaú!” (This story is in Karis: All I See Is Grace.)

It’s not fair … true. The world is not fair. We have a zillion blessings others don’t have. But our Lord Jesus will return and set everything right. It’s a promise as dependable as God’s immutable integrity. It’s the solid hope we have as we mourn the corruption around us. (Whoa, Peter—are you sure you didn’t visit 2022 when you wrote chapter two?)

As I read Peter’s brief second letter, I keep remembering that these are his last recorded words. I sense his urgency, after years and years of walking with Jesus, to communicate with us, warn us, encourage us, remind us what really matters. Jesus could come back any moment! How do you want to be found when he does?

We are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. So, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight (2 Peter 3:13-14).

Hold tightly!

But God keeps his promises

Hebrews 10:23, 34 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. … There are better things waiting for you that will last forever.

Matthew 28:20 “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

One thing I enjoyed about having breakfast with our friends Mary and Bill was the “promise of the day” they read from a small card extracted from their “promise box.” I imagine Bill continues this practice even though Mary is not there to enjoy it with him.

The promise I most depend on is this one, the last words recorded by Matthew: “I am with you always.” Since Jesus is with me, I’m not ever alone. Everything I care about is under his care and sovereignty. And he himself is the fulfillment of all the other promises.

I want to tell you a “But God” story from last week that relates to this promise. The Karis book in Portuguese will finally be launched by Editora Betânia in Brazil on May 2, 11:00 Eastern time, through an Instagram “Live” @editorabetania. The book has been delayed by Covid, by scheduling issues, and by lack of paper for printing. Finally, though, it’s all coming together. You’re welcome to join us, though it will be in Portuguese!

With its own Brazilian-style cover and color photos inside!

Along with this exciting news, Betânia’s marketing director, Egleson, gave me a long list of tasks to complete. Since I’m not in Brazil, my part of the promotion of the book must be done virtually. It’s not intuitive for me! I had to learn to use Instagram and invite my Brazilian Facebook friends to follow me and Betânia on that site so they can attend the launch. I had to make videos and other posts that fit within Instagram’s parameters. (I know, it’s probably simple for you.)

I struggled one whole morning without much success with understanding a series of procedures new to me. In frustration I cried out to the Lord, “I need help! I need someone who can show me what I’m doing wrong!

Within seconds of my prayer, a message flashed onto my Instagram screen from a Brazilian friend I haven’t seen or talked to for at least twenty years. “Debra, do you need any help with online advertising for the Karis book? I’m trained in that.”

Yeah. I was (am!) stunned. But wait—there’s more!

When I told Vanessa her offer was a direct answer from God, she said, “Well, your need is a direct answer to my prayer. Last week I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. I asked God to give me something to do to divert my focus from myself, my fear and worry about this health struggle. Then I saw your announcement on Facebook. I want to do all I can to help you let people know about this book. I’ve been reading other things I’ve found written about Karis, and her faith is helping to stabilize mine as I face a huge battle with cancer.”

My need is small. Vanessa’s is huge, literally life-threatening. That God could use us (and the internet!) to help each other is so creative and generous of our Lord. Could there be any greater confirmation that God is with me, even though this work is hard for me? That it is worth what it cost me and my family to write the book? At this moment, for me, I can’t imagine anything that would more effectively shout God’s promise, I am with you. And with Vanessa, facing the assault of cancer.

Many times, I have not felt God’s presence with me. I have cried out to him and have not seen such an immediate response. You too?

Yet our feelings don’t change the trustworthiness of God’s promise, for God cannot lie. He is with us, in our need, whether enormous like Vanessa’s or small like mine. Hold tightly, the author of Hebrews encourages us!

As if to put this word from God to me in bold and italics, yesterday in church we sang a song new to me. I hope it will encourage you as it does me.