(Note: This article is intensely personal. Unless otherwise indicated, Bible verses are given in the author’s own words.)
Here’s some old news; everyone struggles in life. What is real news though, is finding something inspirational in our more intense times. I feel either very lucky or very blessed because, often when dark shadows envelope my heart, there’s words of strength that I just bump into. Sometimes it’s a proverb. Other times it’s an anecdotal story written by someone who’s been in the same valley before. And nearly always there are Bible verses that, even though their volume is a whisper, have carried an inspirational equivalent of a floodlight.
Bible verses that are the most inspirational to me will seem odd to most Bible students. Generally, when I hear friends speak about their favorite Bible verses, they’ve chosen nuggets of cheerful wisdom from Proverbs, an encouraging poem from Psalms, or reassurances of God’s love from the book of Romans. On the other hand I find solace and inspiration from darker Bible verses.
I’ll explain a little before going into those Bible verses.
For starters, my Christian walk is marked with backslidings. At times I’ve led an active lifestyle of Bible study and church attendance, and other times returned to more “worldly” ways. I’m not talking once or twice, but repeatedly.
A result is my family has suffered from an inconsistent home culture and a lack of decisive leadership. On a more personal level, being wishy-washy with my faith has brought uncounted hardships; addiction to nicotine, mental health issues, insecurity regarding family and friends. In other words, if it were mandatory for men like me to wear neon “LOSER” signs one would be squarely affixed to my forehead.
On top of problems I created, there are external issues. I’ve been falsely accused by fellow Christians, ruining my reputation. Loved ones have passed on from illness. And there’s more, much too personal for openly recounting. All of these things translate to a need for inspiration.
Before anyone says to stop whining and get on with life, let me assure you I am. I’m not writing this for sympathy, Lord knows I don’t want that. It’s my hope that if someone has had similar struggles they will find inspiration in these same Bible verses as I have.
The story of Peter at Jesus’ trial preludes one of the strongest inspirational Bible verses I know. At the trial, Peter denied Jesus three times to onlookers. Peter’s was a vehement denial, complete with swearing and refusal to acknowledge even knowing Jesus. Worse, Jesus was within earshot and heard every word. The Bible describes Peter and Jesus looking at each other immediately after and Peter, overwhelmed with grief, ran away in tears. This is the same man who swore he’d never deny Jesus; he promised to die first!
My favorite inspirational verses, John 21:12-17, is where the story finishes. Peter and some others had spent a fruitless night fishing on the Sea of Galilee. In the early morning light they saw a man on the shore and quickly learned it was Jesus, who they thought was dead. He had breakfast already waiting for them.
After they ate, Jesus turned to Peter and asked, “Peter, do you love me?”
Peter quickly answered, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you!”
“Take care of my lambs.”
A second time Jesus asked the same question and Peter again answered, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
Jesus repeated the question a third time. Peter grieved because Jesus kept asking the same question. He responded, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you!”
“Take care of my sheep.”
Three denials by Peter and three questions from Jesus.
Why am I inspired by this odd conversation? It’s because, similar to Peter, my habitual turning away from God amounts to one denial of Jesus after another. And as described in these Bible verses, I may have left Jesus but he never left me. Jesus used Peter’s own insecurities to reach the deepest part of Peter’s heart. The message wasn’t in the words so much as in the highly personal context of their history.
It meant Peter never truly stopped belonging to Jesus. The same job Jesus had trained him for was still his to do. It meant that, even though Peter had rashly separated himself from God, God had not rejected him. Therefore just like Peter, I never stopped being God’s, either.
Other Bible verses that inspire me follow the same lines. Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 both recount Jesus lamenting that, if only we would let him, he’d gather us all into his protection like a mother hen does her chicks. God’s desire is completely for us, even when our longings aren’t for him.
John 10:14 quotes Jesus, “I am the good shepherd, and I know my own and my own know me.” (NASB)
God knows me! He knows my sins, yet still claims me. He’s intimately acquainted with what I’ve done wrong and what wrongs have been done me.
Not what most Christians choose to stick on their refrigerators to inspire them through their days; these inspirational Bible verses are meant for those like Peter and me.
Like Peter so long ago,
Jesus bids me forget my mistakes.
“You’ve fallen, my child. I can lift you up!
Never stay down.
Never give up!”