The Empathy of God

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the people who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. (John 11:33-35)

In John Chapter 11 we find Jesus traveling with the disciples, when he was notified that his friend Lazarus is extremely ill. Jesus, knowing God’s plan, purposefully delayed his plans to visit. He explicitly told the disciples his plan and even explained why he is waiting for Lazarus to die.

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”

As he gets closer to the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, Jesus explained his purpose to Martha. 

Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” . . . Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

As the reader, I am familiar with the incident and know the miracle that is about to take place. Jesus has explained it to his disciples, to Martha and to me. The narrative is interrupted, and I read how Jesus was overcome with emotion and crying, “he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed…Jesus wept.

I ask myself, “Why is Jesus crying? Why is he so upset? He knows the outcome. Jesus knows in a few short minutes, Lazarus will come walking out of the tomb, risen and alive again! How can Jesus, the son of God, omnipotent, omniscient be upset about a death he is going to rectify?”  I am confused by the incident until the Holy Spirit reveals the answer–empathy!

The Merriam-Webster definition of empathy includes… “vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” In other words, having the same “feelings, thoughts, and experience” of someone without having the same experience. 

Here in three short verses of John 11, I saw a facet of the heart of God. Our Lord and Savior reveals one of the most powerful emotions of humans—grief, sadness, and pain. Not because Jesus doesn’t know the outcome. And, not because He can’t fix it. Instead, He is overcome with the grief and pain of his friends’ who were inconsolable at the loss of their brother and friend. Jesus’ loving response is to share the experience with them. He cries as they cry.

As someone who has experienced loss and grief, I find comfort in knowing this is my God. He sat with me in my tears and pain. He cried when I was inconsolable. Not because He doesn’t know the outcome. And not because He couldn’t fix it. Instead, He cries, when I cry.

Jesus becomes spiritually distressed by the pain and suffering we experience. He laments with me, with you and with our patients and families.  This new insight into the love of God brings new meaning to Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;

NCFI Cares: Be the Blessing at Your Workplace

Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand… (Genesis 39:3)

After having lofty dreams of leadership and sold by his older brothers into slavery, Joseph becomes an overseer in Egypt. The Lord blesses Joseph and makes him successful.

 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field (Genesis 39:4-5)

Notice how the Lord’s blessing was not only to Joseph but to the entire household.  All did not go well for Joseph. He was falsely accused of sexual assault and attempted rape by the overseer’s wife and subsequently sent to prison. Once again, the hand of the Lord is upon Joseph and he is placed in a leadership position as overseer of the jail.

But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. (Genesis 39:21)

In prison Joseph used his spiritual gift of dream interpretation to assist the cupbearer and baker with their dreams. Two years later, with the help of God, Joseph is the only one who can interpret the dream by the Pharoah of Egypt. Joseph becomes 2nd in command of Egypt and follows God’s plan to save Egypt and surrounding countries from a severe famine.

Joseph understood, through God’s blessing and mighty hand, he had been an instrument in God’s plan.

God sent me ahead of you to preserve you on the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it is not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me an adviser to Pharaoh, lord over all his household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:7-8)

Like Joseph, we can be a blessing to our own workplace, whether it is a clinical facility, academic institution, or organization. Joseph demonstrates for us key reminders in living out our blessing to others:

  • be humble with how God will use your specific knowledge and talents;
  • be the voice of hope and peace instead of adding to the negativity;
  • persevere amidst the trials to stay faithful no matter your circumstances; and
  • wait for God to transform our workplace as part of His eternal plan.

Week #9: Strengthened by Angels

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up. lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

(Psalm 91:11-13)

We have explored the many dangers we can experience and the Lord’s promise of protection and strength. One way the Lord miraculously can choose to intervene with us is through angels. The foremost witness of the work of the angels is seen in the life and ministry of Jesus. From conception, through childhood, emerging during his temptation and then reappearing during his suffering and resurrection, we see angels appearing in Jesus’ life to assist in the unfolding plan of God. The Lord also sent angels to assist Peter in prison in Acts 12:7-10, protect Paul during his shipwreck in Acts 27:23 and to guide Cornelius to salvation in Acts 10:7.

As believers, the Lord can send angels to protect, strengthen and guide us (Hebrews 1:14). Our faith rests securely in the Lord God Almighty who governs all created beings in heaven and earth. And intimately sends heavenly beings to encourage our journey.

At times we may be tempted to inquire about “Did angels do this?” or “Was that a miracle?” Our response to the Lord’s hand in our lives is to praise and thank him while leaving the details up to him (Revelation 22:7-8).

Write out and memorize: Psalm 91:11-13

Reflect: Read Acts 12:7-10 and reflect on how you would think and feel if you were Peter? How does the prospect of God sending angels for guidance and protection encourage your faith?

Prayer: Father God, know you can command an entire army of angels to guide and protect me, your child. Help me to always look to you for strength and security. Amen

Angels Watching Over Me by Amy Grant

Week #5 Night Time RX for Sleep

You need not fear the terrors of the night, the arrow that flies by day (Psalm 91:5)

In our previous devotions, we explored the security found in God of the Most High. How his refuge and shelter provide a strong secure dwelling place. Beginning in verse 5, the psalmist shares various scenarios, which builds our confidence in security of dwelling of the Almighty.

When I read the verse: You need not fear the terrors of the night, the arrow that flies by day, I thought of Satan and the different terrors he can inflict.

Imagine the following scenario:

Your day has been one of love and trust for God. No matter what concerns may have arisen; you have stayed faithful and strong. Let us take our current pandemic. Yes, you have worries—economic worries for your job as your hours have been cut; concern for your family’s health as your relative begins to cough and run a fever; emotional concerns as you notice an increase in anxiety and depression. Yet, through each one of the worries and throughout the day, your faith has not wavered. You have stayed connected with the Lord through prayer, worship and fellowship. The Lord’s shield protected you and you feel comforted under his wings. Until nighttime–You wake up in the middle-of-the night and your anxious mind has taken over. You begin thinking about all the worries you have and they are suddenly insurmountable. Your daytime calmness and resolve, has somehow changed to doubts and panic. Questions run through your mind: What if my wife has the virus, will I get the virus? My boss says my cut in hours in only temporary, but what if I lose my job? How will I feed my children? The security of the day is gone and your nighttime has become a terror. Satan has not only thrown arrows at your faith, he is also terrorizing your nighttime.

Thankfully, the psalmist reminds us that the Lord’s protection is 24/7. We can be reminded of this protection through prayer and scripture. Just like we combat the enemy during the day, we can combat him during the night (Ephesians 6:16). If you are disturbed by doubts, fears, insecurities, or your past haunts you during the night—pray against this. Your nighttime (RX) or prescription includes the following:

Every night at HS or ½ hour before bed do the following:

  • Read a passage of scripture
  • Listen to soothing worship song
  • Pray to the Lord to provide a protective covering over your mind while you sleep. 
  • Mediate on Psalm 91:1-2 or comforting verse as you doze off to sleep.

May the Lord’s peace and comfort bring you rest.

Write out and memorize: Psalm 91:5

Reflect: What worries/stresses can disturb your nighttime rest? Write them out and then use the RX for Sleep to invite the Lord’s peace into your night.

Prayer: O Lord, my protector at night, may I rest under your strong wings of protection secure against the terrors of night and the arrows of the evil one. Amen

Week #3 Our Rescuer

The two scenarios found in Psalm 91:3 are enough to cause fear and panic.  And, once again we are reminded where our security rests. We have the shock-and-awe of an animal snare. A snare is a trap hidden in the forest or jungle. Because it cannot be seen or detected it traps an animal unaware. Another fear is the unseen panic of a deadly pestilence, which we are currently living through the corona virus.

“For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from deadly pestilence.” (Psalm 91:3)

This week as I met with my women’s prayer/fellowship group, we were amazed at the how quickly the corona virus has invaded our lives. In a matter of weeks or months, many of us went from knowing about the virus in China, to a few cases popping up in our area, then to shelter-in-place to stop transmission. Suddenly we have a whole new existence with remote working or unemployment, homeschooling our children, and no face-to-face contact with our neighbors, friends, and church family. For some of you the virus has infected your family, friends and/or neighbors; or you have already lost loved ones to the respiratory illness. And since most of us our nurses or midwives, we are on the front lines caring for patients who are severely sick and dying, while trying to keep our own family from becoming infected.

Through the “shock-and-awe” scenarios of a snare and pestilence found in Psalm 91:3,   we are reminded where our security rests. In our Rescuer–Jesus Christ!  We are protected in his hand. Not immune to disasters or viruses, but secure in his ever present providence (Hebrews 13:5/Psalm 118:6; 1 Chronicles 29:11). God knew about the corona virus, including the who, what, where, when, and how. He even knows the why!

Even though we are vulnerable to the tragedies of this world, we have a secured eternal place with him.  

Reflect: Use an online Bible tool (BlueLetter Bible) to look up the topic “God’s Providence”. Write down the verses and explore how your beliefs about the “hand” of the Lord line up with scripture (Psalm 118:6/Exodus 15:6)

Write out and memorize: Psalm 91:3

Pray/Praise: Father God, You are my rescuer and nothing in my life is outside of Your knowledge. For just as You know when a sparrow falls from a tree, so you know every cell in my body and moment in my life (Matthew 10:29-31).  Thank You and praise You, for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! (Romans 11:36). Amen

Week #2 My God in Whom I Trust

I will say to the Lord, My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. (Psalm 91:2)

            A military wall or high strong fence is a means of protection. It prevents enemies or vicious animals from coming inside the protected area. Those inside the protected area are secure from whatever is on the other side of the wall or fence. If the wall or fence has holes or is weak, the people inside the protected area are vulnerable. We know in our minds that the Lord is a refuge and fortress.  Yet, at times we have doubts. Or, we allow fear to break into our fortress. These can be our own natural tendencies or fleshly worries, concerns or stresses.

One way we can remind ourselves of the strength of the Lord, is to say it out loud. “I will say to the Lord, my refuge and my fortress…” (Ps 91:2)

            There is strength and guidance when we speak to the Lord and recognize his protection. It is not as if the Lord provides a sudden barrier, like in action movies. The writer of the psalm or song used 4 different titles for the Lord: Most High, Almighty, the Lord, and God–these names represent the power of our Creator God and the endearing Love of our Covenant God. God’s name and character is the fortress and our refuge.

            Through our spoken words, our heart grabs onto that which our mind already knows—The Almighty, the Most High is our sanctuary. Notice the confidence of the writer.., I will say to my My God in whom I trust” And as we say to our nursing students, you build confidence by saying it, doing it and believing in the confidence. We don’t wait to feel secure or “positive”. We say it out loud knowing the power rests in the God to bring it forth (Isaiah 55:11; March 11:22-24). Like the Psalmist, proclaim with confidence, “I will say to the Lord, My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

  • Write out and memorize: Psalm 91:1 & 2
  • Reflect: Spend time this week exploring ways you need the Lord’s refuge and fortress. They can be physically (from the coronavirus) and spiritually (fear, stress, etc.). Then, confidently proclaim “My refuge and My fortress, my God, in whom I trust” over every concern you listed.
  • Pray/Praise: Almighty, Most High God, we have found refuge in You as a strong encouragement to hold fast to and a hope set before us through your Son, Jesus. He is our hope, an anchor for our soul that is sure and steadfast. Amen. (Hebrews 6:18-19)
  • Song: A Mighty Fortress is our God

Week #1 The Shelter of the Most High

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

(Psalm 91:1)

I published a series exploring Psalm 91 after the death of my sister. The Lord led me to Psalm 91 as a lifeline to Him. His strength, comfort and hope held me up during my grief and despair. Even today, 7 years later with a seemingly life-time of challenges behind me, the Lord continues to follow through with his promise: When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble (Psalm 91:15).

Join me in exploring the promises found in Psalm 91. I have updated each devotion for today’s crisis, along with relevant reading and reflections.

Psalm 91 is a song of trust and hope that guides us in understanding our God and the protection He provides. It is not a guarantee that nothing bad will happen to you and me, nor to our families and friends. Instead, as one Bible scholar states it is promise of “no fear and no fall”. This spiritual covering is a protection from the elements outside or beyond the Lord’s hand. We do not have to be afraid of what comes our way in this life, nor the next. As the coronavirus pandemic causes illness and death to our family and friends, sends us into social isolation and stretches our personal reserves to the max, we can rest in confidence. God is still in control! The Lord was not surprised by the COVID-19, nor the impact to our society.

            Our God is the Almighty, the Supreme Being and Ruler of everything on earth and in heaven (1 Chronicles 29:11-13). And we have a choice to dwell with Him. This is not just a onetime choice at salvation, but a daily surrender to the Most High. This choice brings the assurance of abiding with the Lord (1 John 4:15). Yes, pain and suffering may befall us, but we rest in the confidence that our Lord is in control and we can rest in the shadow of His presence. We make that choice for right now–this moment and for tomorrow’s known and unknown moments.  We choose where we want to dwell and abide.

            Normally, in my devotions, I don’t ask personal questions about your relationship with Jesus. With the current global crisis, I think it is important to ask questions about faith. Do you know Jesus Christ?” “Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?”

In order to abide in the shadow of the Almighty and dwell under the protective shelter of the Most High we need Jesus (John 14:6). He provides the way to the Almighty. Only through the one and only Son of God, do we have assurances of the Almighty. Click on the link if you have questions and want to know more. https://peacewithgod.net/.

Included with the series is supplemental activities so you can eat, digest and live on the nutrients of our daily bread.

Go Deeper

Read: Psalm 91

Reflect: In your prayer journal write out the entire Psalm 91.

Pray/Praise:

So David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, “Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:10-13)

Memorize: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1)

Link to Psalm 91 Scripture Song “My God in Whom I will Trust” (Esther Mui)

NCFI Cares: Giving With Joy by Guest Contributor, Steve Fouch, UK

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

My youngest daughter has had an innate streak of generosity since she was tiny. Anything she got, she wanted to give away to a sibling or a friend. So much so that we sometimes had to suggest that she needed to hang on to some things that she needed for herself. More than once, she offered her food to someone else, and we had to remind her that she needed to eat as well!

Her generosity may have come with the idea that she could get people on her side more easily by being generous to them. However, I think that might be a bit cynical. I believe that she simply enjoys making other people happy and being generous is the easiest way she could think of to achieve this.

For myself, I am so often aware that being generous can entail real sacrifice – of time as well as of money. In that respect, I have often not been a cheerful giver, parting with my gift out of dutiful reluctance rather than joy.

Yet, when I have been spontaneously generous, it has not ended up feeling like a sacrifice. I remember well the old man begging outside of London Bridge station one cold and dreary December morning. I walked past him because I had no change to give, but I did have the means to cross the road, go into a coffee shop and come back with a hot tea and a hot mince pie to warm him. It was a sacrifice of ten minutes on a busy morning and a small sum of money, but it made a difference to him, and it made me happy.

Giving is part of worship, bringing joy to our heavenly Father – Paul makes this clear in 2 Corinthians 9. It is also an act that gives joy and blessing both to the receiver and the giver of the gift. It is not how much we give but why and how we give that matters – does it come from our heart wanting to bless others and rejoice in their joy, or is it out of a sense of duty?

As NCFI Treasurer, one of my duties is to oversee the giving of sponsorships to those coming to the World Congress every four years. While these are only part of the expenses that delegates face, the joy of seeing people able to come and participate in Congress is such a huge blessing to me. It is also a huge blessing to give thanks back to individuals and fellowships who give to the work of NCFI each year.

Generosity in giving is such a source of joy, and one we so easily miss if we see it just as a duty.

NCFI Cares: Year of the Christian Nurse & Midwife by Guest Contributor Martha Fernández Moyano, Argentina

This year 2020 has been declared by WHO, the World Health Organization as the year of Nurse and Midwife.  This year coincides with the two hundred years of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the nurse par excellence who is considered as the precursor of modern nursing.

This year opens in front of us with many possibilities, not only to recognize us, as a fundamental pillar in the health service, but also, so that our voice becomes audible in the places where important decisions are made in health policy. The entire nursing profession is celebrating. Finally, our efforts are recognized as a knowledgeable vocation and above all that we are part of an important profession in which we still have much to say and do.

This holistic profession that takes care of the human being from birth to death not only does its physical part but includes the spiritual, as well. As Christian Nurses and Midwives we have much to contribute to the new paradigms that arises as the 21st Century runs full of advances in both new discoveries and new technologies in the field of health.

God tells us that “ye are chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and holy nation, a peculiar people that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2: 9). Today more than ever we have to bear witness to the Lord in our workplace.

You who chose this profession as your vocation, begin the year giving you the first place. Leave aside the negativity, do not hide, train yourself, and do not walk alone. Become known as a Christian nurse. Take care physically and spiritually. Search the Lord in prayer, look in his Word for what He has for you this year. Where can you collaborate to enhance and give relevance to your profession?

Healthy leaders are needed, free with powerful conviction in the values ​​of Christ. “then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4: 1)

NCFI Cares: Christmas Angels

This is a republish of an NCFI Cares for Christmas from December, 2015. Enjoy!

One of the amazements of the Nativity story is the angels’ announcement to the shepherds in Luke 2:9-15. I have taken creative license in imagining how the scene unfolded:

Heaven is buzzing with excitement. It is about to occur. Jesus will become human. Even though the angels are informed of this great mystery and the significance of salvation, they are filled with wonder and anticipation.

“How long does it take for a little human to be born?” one angel asks. “Why can’t God just make one, like Adam and Eve?”

“I can’t wait” says another. “There hasn’t been this much heavenly excitement since the creation of the Heavens and Earth and the miracles in Egypt.”

“Wait!” says a third angel. “What if the humans miss it? The wise men are on their way, but what if they are the only ones who come to see this miraculous event?”

“I am sure there will be other people who will come and worship the Son,” responds another angel.  “After all, God has given them many signs of what to look for”

A shout arises from the angels, “It is time! Mary is giving birth!”  An overzealous angel, unable to contain his excitement, bolts to earth. The angel finds himself hovering over shepherds in the field and at a loss of what to say or do. Uh, oh! The angel thinks, I have messed up!

Looking for a clue of what to do next, the angel notices the fear on the shepherds face.

“Don’t be afraid!” the angel nervously says. Trying his best to reassure the terrified shepherds. “Listen carefully” says the angel. His confidence is building and the words are flowing. Thank you God, I know what to say! So with renewed confidence, the angel continues.  “For I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord.”

“This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” The angel notices the sky is suddenly filled with other angels and together they rejoice:  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”

The angel returns to heaven feeling assured knowing that all of earth, throughout eternity will know the significance of the Son’s birth!

Merry Christmas!

The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, by Thomas Cole, c. 1833-34. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, United States