A Different Plan

by Shadia Hrichi

There is perhaps no mom more famous than Mary, the mother of Jesus. Though Jesus’s conception was unlike any other, like all moms, Mary most certainly had hopes and dreams for her child. What he would be like; how he would make a difference in the world.

But God’s plans likely were very different that Jesus’ mother.

God also had plans for Mary’s child. A plan that was in place from eternity past. Her child would suffer and die for the sins of the world.

Just as Jesus had a purpose that only He could fulfill, so did Mary … and so do you. In fact, God has a plan for every child He creates, and many times those plans look different than what we expected.

The reality is that even before a child is conceived in her mother’s womb, she is first conceived in the very heart of God.

When the call of God came to the prophet Jeremiah, the first words God spoke to him were a reminder that God was His Creator. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5) What an amazing truth! God knows each of us before we are even conceived. Every heartbeat is a testimony to God’s love.

However, for some, the news of a pregnancy is not always welcome. Rather than experiencing joy and celebration, some may find themselves full of fear and questions.

When I discovered I was pregnant at the age of 15, fear led me to make a tragic choice. For years, I suffered the fallout: more poor choices, suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol abuse, and so much more. But then one day God opened my eyes to His great love and forgiveness.

God knows every soul suffering under the weight of tragic choices, yet His grace to forgive is greater still. “. . .though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

In fact, this is why Jesus came. Leaving His heavenly home to enter our world, Jesus didn’t take any shortcuts. He didn’t arrive as a grown man, but was conceived in a virgin’s womb, experiencing all the wonders of life as you and I know it. Roughly thirty years later, He fulfilled the mission planned before the beginning of time: to give His life as a ransom for our sins (Matthew 20:28).

And in doing so, He opened up the way for each of us to become all that God intended us to be! What a gift!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV)

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

If you or someone you know has lost a child to abortion, there is hope. My Bible study, Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion, has ministered to countless women (and tugged on the hearts of quite a few men as well). We all know someone who needs hope.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: How were God’s plans different than what you dreamed of for yourself?

Will Anyone Miss Me?

by Shadia Hrichi

If you have ever wondered that, then you can relate to Hagar’s heartbreak.

After Hagar was used by Abraham and Sarah to conceive a son, it didn’t take long before conflict arose. Hagar was disrespectful toward Sarah; Sarah bullied Hagar, and then one day, “Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away” (Genesis 16:6 NLT).

Poor Hagar. Taken into a man’s chamber, but never into his heart; released by her mistress, but never set free. When Hagar realized her attempt to gain the upper hand did not work, she ran away. I imagine that Hagar never felt so alone. Perhaps she ran away thinking, “No one will miss me.” Or, “If I run away, then they’ll miss me.”

When Hagar was treated as chattel, she reacted with contempt. When Sarah was treated with contempt, she responded by bullying. And when Hagar was bullied, she ran away. Just as in the Garden of Eden, all the enemy needs is one person to take the first bite to set a tragic chain reaction in motion.

For Hagar, running away likely offered her the temporary illusion of being in control. Even if she did not know where she was going, at least she could feel she was the one deciding which direction to take. It is not difficult to sympathize with Hagar’s identity crisis. She was likely acquired by Sarah at a young age. By then, her homeland was a distant memory, along with its pagan gods. She had no real relationship with the father of her child, and her mistress would probably love for Hagar to simply disappear. With no real home of her own, it is no surprise that Hagar did not know how to fully answer the Angel of the Lord’s question in Genesis 16:8, “…Where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8a ESV). 

While God does not always call us to an easy road, His ways can always be trusted. Despite how Hagar may have felt, Scripture assures us that she was never alone. God not only saw Hagar in her affliction, but He comforted her with an amazing promise. “The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude’”(Genesis 16:10 ESV).

Hagar was the only woman in the Bible to whom God personally promised a multitude of offspring. Whereas Sarah would certainly be blessed with similar and more far-reaching promises, God bestowed upon Hagar His personal blessing of “a multitude” that could not be counted.] Hagar was also the only person in the entire Bible to give God a name, “You are the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13 NIV). 

How precious! In the midst of the wilderness and her woundedness, Hagar discovered she was known and she was loved. Her encounter with God gave her the courage to surrender control, obey His command, and return to her mistress – but she did not return the same. She had a voice. And she had a place. While she would remain the servant of Sarah, Hagar would also be known as the mother Abraham’s son, whom God Himself gave the tender name Ishmael, meaning, “God hears” (Genesis 16:11).

One minute we see an oppressed runaway slave; the next minute, we see a bold and courageous servant of God. No one can encounter the living God and remain unchanged. 

Throughout our lives, you and I will face challenges that will tempt us to go our own way. It may seem like we are in control, but in reality, that control is an illusion. We are all dependent on God for everything; even our very breath comes from Him. The truth is that when you and I resist God’s sovereignty, we hinder our own ability to experience His peace – the very thing our hearts long for the most. But praise God that He does not leave us in the midst of the wilderness and our woundedness – but willingly pursues us there!

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7 ESV)

Adapted from Shadia Hrichi’s Bible study, HAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: How about you? Are there any areas in your life where you struggle for control?

Why Settle for a Regular Life?

by Shadi Hrichi

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 ESV

I love my handy little label maker. Truth be told, I use it more than necessary.

Not that long ago, a friend asked me if I would print some labels for her. Of course, I was delighted! Apparently, her family enjoyed having a variety of coffee. However, they kept confusing the different coffee containers. My friend liked her home clean and tidy. Ugly masking tape on the containers simply would not do.

So she asked me to make her the following labels:

  • Decaf
  • Half-Caf
  • Regular
  • Espresso

When I met her the next day, this is what I gave her:

  • Lie to Me
  • Half-Truths
  • He is Risen
  • Eternal Life 

She loved them! And no one ever mistook one coffee for another again.

We all have our personal tastes, even when it comes to Christianity. For some, lies are simply more attractive than the truth. Others might pick and choose parts they like and discard ones they find less appetizing. Even among those who receive the Savior, many quickly settle back into a regular life. But for a bold and courageous few, nothing less than exhilarating Eternal Life will do. Right here. Right now.

These are the ones who take Jesus at His Word, “I am the resurrection and the Life.” (John 11:25 ESV)

Why settle for a regular life when Jesus promises so much more? “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 ESV)

Eternal life does not begin when we enter Heaven; Eternal Life begins when Jesus enters us! He says so Himself: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV)

Jesus is talking about the here and now. From the beginning to when we enter glory, God takes holy pleasure in blessing His children who humbly walk with Him (Matthew 7:11). God does not call us to a mundane life without purpose or joy. To the contrary, once we belong to Him, our lives suddenly have a greater purpose than anything we could have previously conceived!

In Christ, we are invited to participate in God’s redemptive plan for mankind. Each of us has been uniquely gifted, called, and positioned by God to make a difference in this world. The moment we embrace these truths, He fills us with Himself so that we can be poured out into a dry and weary world.     

“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14 ESV)

How about you? Have you settled for a regular life? What would it look like to take hold of Jesus’s promise, “I am the resurrection and the Life”?

Do you need some fresh ideas to help kick-start your Quiet Time”? Get your FREE guide: 7 Simple Ideas to Refresh Your Quiet Times. May the Lord bless you as you seek to grow closer to Him!

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: What has changed for the good in your life since coming to know the Lord?

Created for a Purpose

by Shadia Hrichi

Happy Mother’s Day! There is perhaps no mom more famous than Mary, the mother of Jesus. Though Jesus’s conception was unlike any other, like all moms, Mary had hopes and dreams for her child. What he would be like; how he would make a difference in the world.

But what happens when God has a different plan?

God also had a dream for Mary’s child. A dream that was planned from eternity past. That her child would be the promised Savior who would take away the sins of the world. And just as Jesus had a purpose that only He could fulfill, so did Mary. In fact, God has a dream for every child He creates, and sometimes that dream looks different than what we expected.

The reality is that even before a child is conceived in her mother’s womb, she is first conceived in the very heart of God.

When the call of God came to the prophet Jeremiah, the first words God spoke to him were a reminder that God is His Creator. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5 ESV). What an amazing truth! God knows each of us, before we are even conceived. Every heartbeat is a testimony to God’s love.

However, for some, the news of a pregnancy is not always welcome. Rather than experiencing joy and celebration, some may find themselves full of fear and questions. When I discovered I was pregnant at the age of 15, fear led me to make a tragic choice. For years, I suffered the fallout: more poor choices, suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol abuse, and so much more. But then one day God opened my eyes to His great love and forgiveness.

God knows every soul suffering under the weight of tragic choices, yet His grace to forgive is greater still. “. . .though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV).

In fact, this is why Jesus came. Leaving His heavenly home to enter our world, Jesus didn’t take any shortcuts. He didn’t arrive as a grown man, but was conceived in a virgin’s womb, experiencing all the wonders of life as you and I know it. Roughly thirty years later, He fulfilled the mission planned before the beginning of time: to give His life as a ransom for our sins (Matthew 20:28).

And in doing so, He opened up the way for each of us to become all that God intended us to be! What a gift!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV)

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

If you or someone you know has lost a child to abortion, there is hope. My Bible study, Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion, has ministered to countless women (and tugged on the hearts of quite a few men as well). We all know someone who needs hope.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: Do you have a vision of God’s purpose for you?

God Chose the Thorns

by Shadia Hrichi

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t expect?

My best friend loves to cook, and her kitchen is filled with every gadget known to man. While I like to bake, my kitchen tools are basic. I have silverware, a few large metal spatulas and spoons, a set of knives, etc. It wasn’t about finances; I simply didn’t know I was missing anything.

One year, my friend bought me a rubber spatula and an egg separator. I looked at the rubber spatula and quickly pictured it as the perfect tool for spreading frosting! As for the egg separator, I had no clue what it was or why she bought it for me. The pitiful look on my face prompted my dear friend to explain its purpose. As it turns out, this tool was exactly what I didn’t know I needed most.

Valentine’s Day is that sweet time of year we expect our special someone to show his or her love with chocolate, flowers, or perhaps even diamonds. Why? Because at one time, someone decided these symbolize love, and the association has stuck ever since.

But what if you discovered there is Someone who chose to express His great love for you, not with flowers but with thorns?

Why thorns? The answer goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Something happened when mankind rebelled against God: “Cursed is the ground because of you…It will produce thorns and thistles for you” (Genesis 3:17-18 NIV).

Even worse, the relationship between God and man was severed, and mankind was banished from the garden altogether. But because of God’s boundless love for us, God had a plan to restore that relationship even before time began. His gift did not reflect our preconceived ideas of what love should look like. God’s gift to the world did not come in a brightly-wrapped package tied with a pretty red bow. We expected flowers, and when we didn’t get them, we reciprocated with betrayal, blood, and thorns.

“And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head” (Matthew 27:28-29 ESV).

Praise God that His gift of love does not conform to what our sinful nature seeks, but rather to what He knows our hearts needed the most: His grace and forgiveness. God sent His Son Jesus, who “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13 ESV).

We expected flowers, but God showed His great love for us with thorns, and I, for one, am eternally grateful.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: What do God’s forgiveness and grace mean to you?

Why was Mary’s Gift so precious to Jesus?

by Shadia Hrichi

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

Have you ever lingered over a Scripture, trying to imagine what it would have been like to be there? One of the darkest hours in all of human history was the night of Jesus’ arrest. Picture the scene with me:

On a moonlit night at the garden of Gethsemane many years ago, blood, sweat, and tears poured forth from Jesus’ body as He prayed – but something else penetrated the veil of darkness that night: the sweet aroma of Mary’s perfume. . .

In Old Testament times, only two objects were placed behind the heavy curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Temple: the ark of the covenant and the golden altar of incense (Exodus 40:5, Hebrews 9:4). The incense was burned only once a year on the Day of Atonement. This is when the nation would present a fragrant offering with their sacrifice, seeking God’s forgiveness for their sins.

In Mark 14, we read about Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Mary entered the room where Jesus was having dinner with his disciples. Breaking her alabaster jar of very expensive perfume and all cultural norms, Mary lovingly emptied the contents. She anointed Jesus’s head with the fragrant oil.

Mary’s act was far more than a kind gesture of respect and adoration. The gift was equivalent to a whole year’s salary and possibly tied to her hope for marriage—her hope for a future. It was often saved for a young woman’s wedding day when she would pour it on her husband as an act of devotion.

Mary gave Jesus the most precious thing she owned—with no hope of any return in this life. Yet only One noticed the value of her extravagant gift: Jesus. Where the disciples saw a fool, Jesus saw a worshiper. What the disciples called waste, Jesus received as a gift. Jesus saw Mary’s heart. He saw Behind the Seen. Jesus was so taken by her selfless act that He declared her actions would be proclaimed for all eternity (Mark 14:1-9).

The story doesn’t end there. Days later, Jesus fell to his knees as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. We cannot even imagine the torment of His soul knowing what awaited Him. Perhaps the fragrance of Mary’s sweet perfume lingered in the air around Him as He awaited His accusers. Hours later, Jesus is crucified … His blood, sweat, and tears intermingled with the faint aroma of Mary’s perfume.

The King, the Christ of God, who is the Sacrificial Lamb, had been anointed and then crowned with thorns as He presented His own life as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. At the moment of His death, the Temple curtain that veiled the Most Holy Place was torn from top to bottom; the barrier separating us from a holy God was removed forever. The One Who loves us so deeply was willing to pay for us with His Own Blood.

“ . . .Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 ESV).

One sacrifice paid it all. Have you received God’s extravagant gift? He is Jesus, Christ the King, the Son of God.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: Are there scents that bring something from your past to mind?

Do You Need to Kickstart Your Quiet Time?

by Shadia Hrichi

Has this ever happened to you?

You wake up with your mind racing through a to-do list. You promised yourself you’d set aside more quiet time with the Lord, but things crowd into your day so that, no matter how hard you try, you barely spend a few minutes with the Lord. I get it because I’ve been there.

I’ll never forget the day. I was a new Christian and sat down for what I knew would be scarcely a 5-minute Quiet Time. Convicted, I confessed to God, “I know something has been standing in the way. I wake up and rush to work and hardly spend 5 minutes with You. I’m sorry, Lord.”

Can you relate?

Later that night, someone on TV talked about fasting. I decided I should fast but knew nothing about fasting. From what should I fast? And for how long? The next morning, after fixing my coffee, I asked God, “From what should I fast?” The answer was as unexpected as it was unappetizing.

“Your coffee.”

“Oh no, Lord! Not that! I don’t think I heard you right.”

“You look forward to your morning coffee more than you look forward to Me.”

Ouch.

But I knew He was right. I poured my coffee down the drain and spent the day with a fierce headache. Yet instead of reaching for coffee or taking an aspirin, I prayed for whatever came to mind – anything to get my mind off my headache. At about 4:30 pm, I called my best friend and whined about my headache and the 30-day fast I had started. She asked me,

“Did God actually ask you to fast for 30 days, or was that your idea?”

“Uhhh…I just assumed a fast was supposed to be 30 or 40 days.”

“Well, then why are you wasting time talking to me? Ask God what He really wants.”

Whether as new Christians or after many years of walking with God, it’s easy for us to jump to conclusions or set expectations that God didn’t ask of us. Thankfully, He’s always willing to help steer us back onto the right path.

Flipping through my bible, my eyes fell on Psalm 94:3, “How long, Oh Lord?” Taking the verse out of context (by the way, I do not recommend this), I cried out, “How long, Lord?” Amazingly, He answered:

“As long as it takes.”

“To do what?”

“To put me first. You see, my child, the headache you have is just a picture. This is how you suffer spiritually when you deprive yourself of time with Me in the morning.”

It was a quite an “ah-ha” moment. It is not that God wants to see us suffer, or to deprive us of something we enjoy, such as our morning cup of coffee or tea. He simply wants it moved out of first place. First place is reserved for God. That’s why the length of the fast was never clear: it’s not about time, it’s about position.

When we choose to give God first place, we invite Him to pour His Spirit into our soul. And as we drink in His reviving goodness each morning, we will be filled with the strength, confidence, and spiritual vigor to face whatever may come our way.

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3 NIV

Do you need fresh ideas to help kick-start your Quiet Time”? Get your FREE guide: 7 Simple Ideas to Refresh Your Quiet Times.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: How do you ensure that you give time with the Lord top priority?

God’s Love Never Fails

by Shadia Hrichi

“Happy Singles Awareness Day!” the newscaster blurted out through the car radio. It was the first time I had heard the expression, which made me nearly spit out my coffee. I couldn’t help but chuckle. It seemed a clever way to try and ease the tension that some experience this time of year.

As a single person, I actually like Valentine’s Day (and being single). I enjoy watching my friends relish in the fragrant flowers and roses delivered to them at the office. If our hearts are willing, whether married or single, when gifts are received with a heart of gratitude, the day can be festive for everyone. For some of us, that gift might simply be the gift of laughter

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 ESV).

All of us can be thankful for the side effects of Valentine’s Day. The office smells a lot better, and there is usually enough chocolate to go around for everyone. Still, the pleasures quickly fade. Within days, the flowers begin to wilt until only thorns and a puddle of red petals remain. Though the gifts were temporary, they were meant to serve as a reminder of the lasting love of the one who sent it.

Each Valentine’s Day, I survey the naked thorns and fallen petals. They remind me of another day and another gift. Jesus, the Son of God, compelled by His great love for us, came to earth to give us the gift of Himself. Two thousand years ago, He hung naked and dying on a cross. A cruel crown of thorns caused crimson drops of Jesus’ blood to fall onto a thirsty, sin-cursed ground.

“…Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 ESV).

Just as the sweet fragrance of roses reminds us of someone’s love for us, the sacrifice of Christ reminds us of the Father’s boundless love for the whole world. Yet, unlike roses, which quickly fade and fall, never to return, Jesus’s gift lasts for eternity. The glorious proof is demonstrated in His resurrection from the grave!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade— kept in heaven for you…you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:3-4, 23-25 ESV).

This Valentine’s Day, as you see the flowers and candy and plastic hearts, remember to take some time to ponder the imperishable gift offered by the eternal Lover of your soul.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me, and Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: What reminds you of God’s love?