A young boy elbows his way to the front of the crowd and tugs on a man’s sleeve. Andrew looks down to see the boy holding out an open sack. Inside Andrew sees five small loaves of bread nestled beside two cooked fish. “I heard the rabbi ask for food,” the boy says with a shy shrug. “My mother packed this for me, and—she said I should share with someone who doesn’t have anything.”
Eyebrows raised, Andrew places a hand on the boy’s shoulder and walks him over to Jesus. Jesus turns and twinkles a smile down at the child; Andrew flashes Jesus a sheepish grin. “So…this boy has offered to share his lunch, but” —he casts a glance over his shoulder at the thousands of people milling around behind him, waiting to hear the rabbi’s next words— “how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus tousles the boy’s dark hair and gives him a smile and a wink. “Thank you, son. This is just what I need.” The boy looks down at his sandals, blushing with pride. Rubbing His palms together, Jesus turns to Andrew with an excited—almost mischievous—glint in his eye. Andrew has seen this look before; a tingle of anticipation floods his veins. With barely contained glee, Jesus says, “Have the people sit down.”
We all know the rest of the famous account in John 6—how Jesus goes on to turn a little boy’s lunch into a feast for thousands. He makes so much food that the disciples collect twelve basketfuls of leftovers!
We often look at our gifts—our talents, our possessions, our skills, our wisdom—and think, “They aren’t worth much. How far can they really go?” Let us never underestimate what God can do with our “small” offerings. We don’t have to give Him the biggest thing, the best thing, the shiniest thing—we just have to give Him whatever we have to offer. The smallest gift is still a treasure in His eyes. Our gifts may be small, but our God is big. And His powerful hands can take our small gifts and multiply them. Our mighty God can turn a little into a lot—more than we could ever imagine. What small gift can you offer to Jesus today?
Family devotion or small-group discussion application:
You could easily turn this into a family devotion or small-group discussion by reading this story alongside John 6:1–14 and Luke 21:1–3. Then ask simple application questions like:
Do we have to be rich (or grown-up or successful or…) to give to God? Does God care how big our gifts are?
Read 2 Corinthians 9:7. What does God care about in our giving? What does it mean to be a cheerful giver? What are some ways you can give more cheerfully and generously…at home? At school? At church? At work? In your friendships?
What are you good at? (Don’t just think about skills—think about character traits like encouraging or serving, too. See Romans 12:1–8 for a list of gifts.) How could you use those talents or traits to serve other people and honor God?
What talent or gift would you offer to God if you weren’t insecure or afraid?
A poem for preteen girls…and the mamas who love them
Too tall too soon,
a wonder-eyed kid caught in a growing-fast body.
“So wise and mature,” the watching world exclaims—
and sometimes it’s true—
but I know how you sleep snuggling armfuls of stuffed animals
and half-believe in Big Foot and magic.
Or at least you wish you could believe.
Too tall too soon,
and even I forget how your old soul is still so young—
one minute your brilliant insights could end world hunger,
the next you are so hungry your whole world is ending.
Our days start with weep-giggling and end with giggle-weeping,
till you give my heart whiplash,
and neither of us knows if we want to hug it out
or strangle each other,
so we try a little of both.
Too tall too soon,
and others your age are already all-knowing eye-roll masters:
too cool to smile; too cynical to pretend, let alone believe—
but you know, and I know,
that rainbows are squeal-worthy,
and any day now our Hogwarts letters are coming,
and birthday cake tastes better shaped like a unicorn.
(But we have to know it in secret.)
Too tall too soon,
but my girl, you will never be too tall
to fit in these arms,
to rest your almost-taller-than-me head on these shoulders—
and your problems will never be too big,
and you will never be too big,
because no matter how you grow,
*Read to the end for a chance to win a free audiobook!*
Confession: I struggle with the word surrender. At least I struggle with the way some people use it. The way many Christians talk, it seems like surrender means we are supposed to achieve a Zen-like place where we no longer want…and no longer feel. We should be completely, perfectly happy exactly as we are. No wants. No needs. No regrets. No desires for the future.
But honestly? I don’t see that definition—or that example—in the Bible. When I read the Psalms, I read heartfelt pleas from unhappy people begging God to change their circumstances. Wondering where He is in the wait. Thanking Him for what He has already given, yes; maintaining deep respect for His sovereignty, always (or maybe I should say usually!)—but not giving up on what they’re praying for. Not letting it go until God gives the final “No.”
I don’t see David, living on the run from the murderous King Saul, praying, “Never mind, God. I know You told Samuel to anoint me as Israel’s next king, but don’t worry about it…I’m good. I’ll just live in caves as an outlaw forever. I surrender to being trapped in this situation.”
I see David saying,
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart? (Psalm 13:1–2)
We don’t see the man whose son was tormented by demons saying to Jesus, “Lord, I’m content for my son to continue throwing himself into fire and water. I’m surrendered to his illness.” No, we see him kneeling desperate before Jesus and pleading, “Lord, have mercy on my son” (Matthew 17:14–20).
Jesus urges his followers to be persistent in prayer when He says, “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7 HCSB). Jesus even tells the story of the feisty widow who basically annoys her local judge until he gives in and gives her what she needs! Jesus concludes the story by saying,
“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” (Luke 18:7–8)
What can we take from this?
It’s okay to ask.
It’s okay—and hang with me, because we’re going to talk more about this—to be unhappy.
Our goal is not to shut off our feelings and hopes so we can robotically surrender to whatever happens…our goal is surrenderedfaith. And what is surrendered faith? Surrendered faith is about learning to hold onto conflicting emotions at the same time: hope in one hand, submission in the other. Hope that God can change our situation…but submission if He doesn’t change it now (or ever).
What do I mean when I say “submission”? I mean that even though we’re sad, we still thank God for our other blessings, and we do not resent Him for saying, “No for now”—or even “No forever.” We submit to God’s almighty, mysterious timing and ways, acknowledging that He knows things we do not (Isaiah 55:8–11)—even as we continue to plead our case. We fight to be content in the sense that we are okay—we choose to get up every day and live a Christ-focused, selfless life—even as we still pray for and long for The Thing we desire. We don’t shut off our feelings and hopes and mindlessly surrender to whatever happens…we seek surrendered faith.
Hope in one hand, submission in the other: it’s a picture we see many times in the Bible. And what does that picture look like? What does it feel like?
It looks like people tearing their robes and mourning and grieving for things that are lost…but then getting back up again. Learning to live a different life than the one they had planned. Choosing to still live and love and serve God in spite of heartache and loss. (See 2 Samuel 12:12–25. It’s a complicated story, but in it we see both persistence in prayer and surrender to God’s sovereignty…and, eventually, the grace of a second chance.)
It looks like Paul clinging to contentment and gratitude even through persecution, financial hardship, and loneliness: “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12–13 HCSB).
It looks like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing boldly before King Nebuchadnezzar, knowing they could be thrown into a furnace if they refused to bow down to an idol, but saying, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17–18, emphasis mine).
It looks like Jesus in the Garden, asking God to take away the sacrifice and pain to come…but wrestling in prayer until He could say, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).
It means still honoring God’s wisdom and ways (and timeline) even when they don’t match up to ours. Still obeying Him even when we don’t like the way our life is going.
It means being grateful for what we do have now, even as we pray for what we don’t have yet.
It doesn’t mean pretending to have a full heart when our heart has a hole.
It doesn’t mean flogging ourselves with unnecessary guilt by saying, “I must be sinful—and God must be angry with me—because I still feel sad about a loss or an unfulfilled prayer request.”
More specifically, it doesn’t mean saying, “I shouldn’t still want to be married after all these years being single. I should banish that desire completely and be completely content with God.” (Should we all, single and married alike, be content with God as our greatest love? Of course. But I suggest we can feel both things at the same time: we can be content with God as our Husband even as we still desire a godly husband on earth!)
It doesn’t mean saying, “I shouldn’t still want my wandering child to turn back to God. I should let them go.”
Maybe surrendered faith means we can say, “I may never stop wanting…to get married…to be a mother…to see my child come back to the Lord… but even if God never grants those desires, I will still love Him, serve Him, and trust Him, and I will still live a life filled with love and purpose.”
Maybe faith is taking our prayers from,
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart? (Psalm 13:1–2)
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:5–6)
When David starts praising God, his problems haven’t gone away yet. (Notice these verses come from the same psalm!) David is likely still hiding in caves, fleeing his enemies, waiting for God’s promise to come true, but his faith is intact. Even as he waits and questions and prays, he finds gratitude and praise. He knows he is safe in God’s hands. He thanks God from the cave. He trusts God in the wait.
Now that’s a definition of surrender we can all fight to embrace. That’s surrendered faith.
I am deeply honored to share my friend Tiffany’s story here on Lizzy Life. It’s a scary and vulnerable thing to share your life, your pain, and your faith journey with others…I’m so thankful that Tiffany was willing to share hers with all of us. Her words brought tears to my eyes. Whether you struggle with chronic pain, physical challenges, or any kind of suffering that is beyond your control, I know your faith will be strengthened by these words.
Hey there, Lizzy Life followers! My name is Tiffany Chacon and I’m honored to share about my journey with pain and waiting for healing.
At the beginning of 2013, I started to have debilitating pain in my joints. At the time, I was a riding instructor at a local horse farm. I would get home from teaching lessons at the end of the day and literally crawl up the stairs to our apartment because I was in so much pain. I started to see an orthopedic doctor and then a sports medicine doctor, and when neither helped, I went to a rheumatologist, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a physical therapist… the list goes on. I got a knee brace, shoe insoles, a plethora of medications and side effects, and a myriad of injections in my joints. Instead of getting better, the pain only got worse.
With every new doctor, I would hope that this would be THE ONE. This would be the doctor who would know what was wrong with me. This would be the therapy to finally “fix” me. This medication would make it all go away. But it didn’t. I found the truth in this verse: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).
Three years into my journey with pain, I was consistently walking with a cane and taking several medications daily just to function. The pain kept me up at night—I spent a lot of nights crying on the bathroom floor, praying to God, feeling so alone and defeated. I was unable to work, barely able to go to church. There were days when I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom without help from my husband.
The pain brought up so many questions in my life. First, the practical: What is happening to me? How can we fix this? How long will this last? Then, the relational and spiritual: My husband didn’t sign up for this. What will my friends think of me when I can’t keep up with them? Why would God allow me to be in pain—I can’t DO anything for Him like this.
I was 25 years old at the time. All of my friends were advancing in their careers, going on fun vacations, moving on with their lives. All things that I was not able to do. I kept thinking, I have one life…and this is it?
My first instinct was to run from God, curl up in a little ball and watch America’s Next Top Model until the pain went away. When that didn’t work, I turned to the Scriptures and to prayer. I wrote this verse on my mirror and would pray over it on an almost daily basis:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
As I focused on God’s Word and his eternal promises—the hope of real healing, of true comfort in heaven, of eternal glory—I began to see how God was working through my pain.
When my husband, Tyler, and I were first married, I would always ask him, “Do you love me?” Most of the time I would say it playfully, but the question came from an intense longing to feel secure in his love for me. Whenever he responded to my inquiry, I would pay attention to his tone of voice, his body language, his eyes, to gauge just how much he actually loved me.
Now, nine years later, I can’t think of the last time I asked Tyler that question, and I’ll tell you why: as I suffered these past few years, he suffered, too.
In Tyler’s wedding vows, he said, “If you don’t sleep, I won’t sleep.” And as we close in on our ten-year anniversary, he has proven true to his word. When I couldn’t sleep because of the pain, Tyler would stay awake with me and pray over me. He didn’t need to tell me he loved me anymore, because he showed he loved me.
And the same has been true of my relationship with God: throughout my life, it seems that my prayers to Him have always been similar to my questions to Tyler. Do you love me? Are you sure? And, as I became more “useless” to God during my flare-ups, the question became: Do you love me while I’m like this? And God’s resounding answer to me has been yes.
One moment stands out in particular. In December 2015, I had to have surgery, and I was terrified. For some reason the thing I was most scared of was going into surgery alone—I was petrified thinking about being alone in the brief time when they take you away from your friends and family and wheel you from the hospital room to the operating room. In the hours leading up to the surgery, I prayed a specific prayer: God, hold my hand. Be with me as I go into surgery. And when the moment came for me to say goodbye to my family and go to the operating room, as the nurses were wheeling me away, the surgeon ran up to my bed and took my hand. She held my hand all the way to the operating room, and kept holding it until I was asleep. Of course, she didn’t know about my prayer—she didn’t even know I was afraid. But God did — and I really believe that through her, God Himself was holding my hand all the way to the operating room and into surgery. In that moment I saw that God was a present help in my trouble (Psalm 46) and He would hold my hand as long as I needed.
Last year, I read Elizabeth’s book, When God Says, “Wait,“ and the questions that struck me the most were: How will I wait? and Who will I become along this journey?
As I read the book and wrestled with the ambiguity of my waiting game, I realized that I couldn’t actually control anything about my situation except for my attitude and actions during this period of indefinite waiting. In that moment, I decided:
I am going to be willing to tell my story, to talk about my pain.
Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I will be grateful for what I can do.
I won’t give in to the “what ifs,” but will find hope in the “yet” (WGSW, p. 141).
I will use my waiting journey to allow God to shape me, to make me into the person He created me to be (WGSW, p. 28).
Since making these decisions, I have to admit that I have not waited perfectly. I have let my mind go crazy with the what ifs, I have had pity parties, I have retreated back into my turtle shell of pain and pushed out the people who love me. But I have also had victories: I have had days when I’ve been in pain and I’ve been joyful anyway. I have shared my story with others and found that it gave them strength. I have relished the little victories and have praised God along the way.
Almost five years into my journey with pain, I still don’t have answers about what is causing the pain, if and when it will ever go away, or what my life will look like tomorrow. But I do have the answers to some of life’s most important questions:
Even in the pain, I know that God loves me.
Even in the pain, I know that Tyler will be beside me through it.
Even in the pain, I know who I want to be.
Tiffany, your example is an inspiration and your faith is a comfort and guide. Thank you for sharing your story—and your heart.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read:
Anybody else struggling with anxious thoughts lately?
When I’m anxious, my mind starts swirling—fast and wild, a tornado of thoughts. If I want to stop the madness, I have to turn to godly friends and godly words. I can’t share my friends with you (sorry), but I can share some of my favorite anxiety-fighting Bible verses. These scriptures speak peace to my paranoia and bring logic to my emotions. They bring God into whatever situation I’m worried about. They remind me that He is aware and I’m not alone. They remind me that however big my problems may feel, my God is much bigger. My God is big enough, wise enough, kind enough. They remind me that God stands outside time and outside what is humanly possible—and with Him, all difficulties are manageable.
Whether you have chronic anxiety or you’re just going through a stressful season of life, if you’re feeling anxious, these scriptures will help. They are also helpful scriptures to read with your kids and teens when they are anxious. No, these passages won’t make your problems go away, but they will help you find a more godly viewpoint for whatever you are worrying about.
8 Scriptures to Read When You’re Anxious
1. Psalm 131
My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.
3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.
I stumbled upon this psalm when I was a stressed-out teenager, and I’ve been reading it ever since! “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me”…how I love that. Sometimes I find myself worrying over things that are God’s concern, not mine. That person who needs to change? Not my job—God’s job. That scary situation in the world that needs fixing? Not my job—God’s job. I can bring the problem before God, then leave it where it belongs—in His capable hands.
“I am like a weaned child with its mother…I am content.” My five-year-old still believes I can do anything and I know everything. (Please, no one tell her differently for a few years!) When I step on the scene, all her problems are about to be fixed. Her little world is safe and secure. That’s how we should feel with God—and the best thing is, He can do anything, and He does know everything!
2. Psalm 37:1–11
Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; 2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.
Please oh please meditate on the whole psalm, but for the sake of space I’m just including the first 11 verses. I read this psalm whenever I’m angry or obsessing over something that’s out of my control—conflict with a coworker or friend? Your reputation at risk from gossip or unfairness? Something bad happening in your kid’s life and you can’t fully protect them from it? This is your psalm. It’s a sanity- and righteousness-saver, reminding us that God loves justice even more than we do, and in His time, in His way, He will find a way to set things right…but in the meantime, our anger and anxiety accomplish nothing.
2 I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. 3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.
4 Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. 5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. 6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good….
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. 15 My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. 17 Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.
Again, please look up the whole Psalm. But how comforting is this? Our hope must be in God—in God, not in circumstances. Not in people. Not in our own abilities. And when should it be in Him? All. Day. Long. And aren’t these the very words you long to say to God? “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.” And we all say, “Amen.”
4. Matthew 10:28–31
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
We fear the wrong things (and people), don’t we? We worry over temporary, earth-bound problems, but Jesus always encourages us to remember what really matters: pleasing God and making it to heaven. And then He encourages us: We are valuable to God, noticed by God, known by God.
5. 1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
It doesn’t get any simpler—or more encouraging—than this, does it? He cares for you. He wants to carry your worries. Repeat those words 1,000 times—or as many times as it takes until you believe them!
6. Psalm 27:1–5, 13–14 (emphasis added)
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
4 One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. 5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock….
13I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of theLord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Be strong. Take heart. The Lord is our stronghold—who then shall we fear? We can have every confidence that we will see the goodness of God—and not just in heaven—now. Here. On earth. We need only wait for Him.
7. Luke 10:38–42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
“You are worried and upset about many things.” Um, yep. Guilty. Jesus’ kind words to Martha—can’t you hear the friendly affection in the way He says, “Martha, Martha”?—are a powerful reminder that sometimes, like Martha, we are stressed out because we are focused on the wrong things. The here and now, the mundane details of daily life, the way our behavior and performance might be perceived by others…but our walk with God deserves our first and best attention.
8. Philippians 4:6–7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? How often have I prayed these words, claiming them as a promise: “Lord, I give my worries to You. Please give me your powerful peace. Please guard my heart and protect my mind from worry and fear.”
I pray these verses help to give you the peace you need and the faith you seek as you battle anxiety!
Hi! I'm Elizabeth, and Lizzy Life is all about clinging to Christ in the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist (The Thirteenth Summer), I love finding humor in holiness and hope in heartache. I live in North Carolina with my preacher husband and four miracle children. I believe the recipe for a happy life is simple: laugh-cry daily, pray continually, caffeinate constantly. My new books, When God Says, "Go" and When God Says, "Wait," are now available. READ MORE.
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