Sunday, July 19, 1903, at her home in Elmshaven, St. Helena, California, Ellen White sat down to write a letter to “My dear son Edson.”* Edson was Ellen White’s oldest living son. She was responding to a letter she had received from Edson the day before, asking for counsel on a publishing decision. At this time Edson and his wife, Emma, were living in Nashville, Tennessee, where he operated a printing business. 

Ellen White was 75 years of age at the time of this letter. She would live 12 more years until her death at the age of 87. In this letter we catch glimpses of Ellen White’s active involvement and service mindset during her senior years. These few insights model positive principles of helpful service for all generational groups. 

Letter Excerpts

“I thank the Lord for the good health that I enjoy.... I know that this is a miracle wrought by His mercy. I am so thankful, so thankful! If I can live until I can get my writings in shape and before the people, I shall be very grateful.” Here she is referring to several books she had interest in writing, such as on the work in the South, the life of Paul, and the work in Europe. (principle 1) 

“The last two Sabbaths I have spoken at the Sanitarium. Sister Kerr from Honolulu, who is staying at the Sanitarium, says that the patients are delighted with my talks. . . . They can hardly believe, Sister Kerr says, that I am seventy-four years old. When Sister Kerr told me this, I said, On the twenty-sixth of November next, I shall be seventy-six years old.” (principle 2) 

“My health is good. My appetite is excellent. I find that the simpler my food, and the fewer the varieties I eat, the stronger I am. I take a bath every day—sometimes two. . . . I prefer a cold bath in the morning and a moderately warm one at night.” (principle 3) 

“We can accomplish much if we work carefully, and in such a way that the Lord can work with us. . . . I believe that the Lord hears my prayers, and then I go to work to answer my prayers, which I am sure are indited by the Lord. I am of good courage.” (principle 4) 

Practical Principles

1. Sustained Commitment: We see ongoing dedication to God’s work; multiple book and service projects supporting evangelism and outreach in the South in the United States, other regions of the U.S., and around the world. This active commitment continued until her death. 

2. Service Engagements: Often readers see the big engagements and projects that Ellen White was involved with, but here we see her having pleasure in doing simple witnessing and service projects close to home. 

3. Health Principles: Here is seen sensitivity to the importance and awareness of healthful practices and their integration into daily life and practice—diet, hygiene, and sensitivity to their efficacy and positive impact on life. 

4. Confident Faith: Here is radiant faith born by years of cooperating with God, reading His Word, and prayer. Ellen White’s life of faith and assurance shines forth, clear and convicting. 

In this personal letter from a mother to her son we see rich commitment, faith, and trust that continued throughout Ellen White’s life to the very end. Everyone has their own path to travel, and Ellen White’s private and public example can be an inspiration to all. 

* Ellen G. White letter 150, 1903, in Ellen G. White, Letters and Manuscripts (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate), vol. 18, p. 153.

The story is told of a Union soldier who needed a temporary military exemption to help his sick mother and little sister. He traveled to Washington, D.C., to personally make his request to President Lincoln. He wasn’t able to meet with Lincoln because of the levels of bureaucracy and security. In despair, he went to a nearby park and buried his head in his hands in bewilderment. A little boy approached him and asked, “Hey, soldier, you look sad. What’s the matter?” Spontaneously the soldier poured out his dilemma to the youngster. 

Abruptly the boy said, “Come with me!” Amazed, the soldier followed as the boy led him by the hand to the White House, past the guards, and through the back door. The boy walked right into the president’s office without even knocking. There stood the president and the secretary of state looking over battle plans. The president looked up. “What can I do for you, Tad?” He answered, “Daddy, this soldier needs to talk with you!” The soldier was able to plead his case to President Lincoln and got the exemption he desired. Now, that’s advocacy!* 

Advocacy is a powerful concept. What does advocacy look like for a Christian? It’s to deliberately support a position or cause according to one’s spiritual and moral standards. Christians intentionally advocate for something they discern as a genuine need that has spiritual depth, a basis in Bible principle, and coincides with the providential workings of God. Some modern-day advocacy examples include promoting education, missions, health, unity among races, violent-free communities, and fighting poverty and women abuse. 

With the “I will go!” theme this quinquennium, what is it that you can advocate for? Surely you believe and support the gospel and three angels’ messages of Revelation 14. In that context, what is God calling you to stand for? 

The Bible is full of bold advocates who passionately believed in something they were willing to give everything for, even their lives. The following three biblical advocates model core principles of advocacy. 

First, Moses was an advocate for the deliverance of God’s people (Ex. 3; 4). From the time he lived in Egypt to when he stood up to Pharaoh, calling for the freedom of the Israelites, Moses was a servant-leader who advocated for God and His people. He represents the type of imperfect but dedicated leader and advocate. 

Second is Esther. She was an advocate for crisis intervention (Esther 4; 5). This is an account of a providential calling with the right person, time, and place. God used a young woman to save an entire nation through her courage, acumen, timing, and collaboration. She represents the type of advocate who discerns a crisis and with the guidance of God facilitates an effective solution. 

Third is the maid to Naaman’s wife in 2 Kings 5. She was an advocate for simple life solutions. Against societal expectations, God used an unlikely person in that she was a captive, a child, a female, and a foreigner. Nevertheless, she courageously advocated a path of truth that led to Naaman’s help and healing. 

God used these remarkable persons to be His advocates. He wants to use you as well. Ask God to open your eyes that you may see, embrace, and creatively act on your ministry of advocacy.


Our challenge is unavoidable. We’re living in a time when conditions are unstable and unpredictable. If we don’t manage our fears, they’ll manage us. Fear mismanagement can lead to stress, trauma, poor health, toxic relations, and regretful decisions. 

What is society feeling fearful about? The 2021 American Fear Index reveals the top 10 fears:1 

  1. Loved ones dying
  2. Loved ones becoming seriously ill
  3. Mass shootings
  4. Not having enough money for retirement
  5. Terrorism;
  6. Government corruption
  7. Becoming terminally ill
  8. Hate crimes
  9. High medical bills
  10. Widespread civil, political, and racial unrest 

Everyone can relate to one or more of these items, plus many more. 

Dimensions of Fear

The Bible references “fear not” in various iterations some 365 times.2 Admittedly, it’s easier to say “Fear not” than to actually not fear. Therefore, it’s essential that believers understand the sequela of fear and how to harness it. 

Fear indicates a threat of potential harm, whether real or perceived. It can be physical, psychological, or spiritual. 

While fear is often considered a negative emotion, it can, if managed properly, serve an important function in keeping us situationally aware, spiritually minded, and socially conscious. Practically speaking, in dangerous situations fear can cause us to be appropriately cautious or to take wise safeguards. 

Our response to fear is our choice. We can choose to resist our fears and resolutely select a mindset of faith, hope, and possibility. 

Fear-Management Tools

Paul gave Timothy, his protégé, a powerful fear-managing tool: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). From this we derive five practices that will strengthen your fear management. 

1. Christ Companionship: Enter a genuine relationship with Christ as Lord. Jesus gives us the gift of salvation and the promise of protection and guiding providence. 

2. Can-do Choice: Choose to exercise our God-given power to say no to fear. 

3. Composed Confession: Fear creates the opportunity to trust and speak about our dependence on God regardless of circumstances. 

4. Conquering Counsel: Fortification of the mind with spiritual wisdom and diligent follow-through increases as we pray, study, and receive seasoned counsel. 

5. Conquering Confidence: The sine qua non of divine power and authority is the conviction to be stalwart regardless of the outcome. This is both a gift from God and the result of experience (see Job 13:15). 

Undoubtedly, some fear challenges may require external spiritual or professional assistance. But don’t be thrown off by the apparent simplicity of these principles. Through the combination of the human with the divine, these fear-management practices will successfully equip us if we utilize them. 

1 american-fear-study 


Delbert W. Baker, Ph.D., is the director of research and development for the Office of Regional Conference Ministries/Retirement Plan based in Huntsville, Alabama. 

The Bible explicitly tells us that God blesses the righteous and surrounds them with “favor as with a shield” (Ps. 5:12).1 During this strange and surreal time in history, can you testify that you’re experiencing God’s grace or favor? If so, you’re in good scriptural company. If not, you can choose to realign and get in the flow of God’s favor.

Favor Recipients: It helps to keep in mind that the Bible speaks of God’s grace, often translated “favor,” His energizing approbation and approval, as something that’s within the realm of all diligent, seeking believers. Biblical examples of “favor recipients” are numerous: Noah (Gen. 6:8); Joseph (Gen. 39:2-4); David (Acts 7:45-47); Daniel (Dan. 1:9; 6:1-3); Esther (Esther 2:17; 5:2); Mary (Luke 1:28); Paul (2 Tim. 4:7, 8).

In each case the favor recipient had a vital connection with God, a passion to be used, was responding to a need, and was courageous to take the initiative with God to do something that needed to be done. It wasn’t about glory, politics, or fame: it was about service. And they were willing to experience God’s favor even if it meant pain, suffering, ostracism, or even death.

Favor Opportunity: God’s grace has saved us, but He always has more blessing awaiting us as we choose to go deeper with Him. This happens when in love and intimacy we (1) pray and partner with God, (2) assess a situational need (minor or major) in light of Scriptural principles, (3) courageously step out in obedience to meet that need, and (4) unselfishly serve and do good. God’s favor may result in peace and contentment, or alternately it may involve sacrifice, pain, and possibly even death (Job 13:15). The beauty is that by this favor pathway we enter into the fellowship of His suffering and have the promise of eternal reward (Phil. 3:10-14).

Favor Illustration: There’s an ancient story of a king who placed a huge boulder to block a thoroughfare. He then hid himself to see which of his citizens would exercise initiative to remove the stone. Many merchants and public leaders simply walked around it; others loudly complained and blamed the king for not keeping the road clear, but they did nothing to move the stone out of the way. Then a peasant loaded with vegetables came along. He determined to try to solve the problem. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded in moving the stone. After picking up his vegetables to leave, the peasant noticed a purse filled with gold coins under where the stone previously had been. It had a note from the king stating his thanks and that it was for whoever invested the effort to remove this obstacle to progress.

Favor Lesson: This story illustrates favor. Receiving favor happens in a relationship and is a cooperative divine-human partnership. As Ellen White reminds us, God gives opportunity; success depends upon the use we make of it.2 While God extends His grace to all His children, He always has more blessings for those who initiate personal effort, faithful obedience, Scriptural fidelity, and unselfish service to place themselves in the center of His will. “Let love and faith- fulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Prov. 3:3, 4; also see verses 1, 2).

1All Bible texts are from the New International Version.

2See Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1917), pp. 486, 487.

Delbert W. Baker, Ph.D., is the director of research and development for the Office of Regional Conference Ministries/Retirement Plan based in Huntsville, Alabama.

Life may be messy, times hard, and conditions unfair. Got it. What’s new? More important, what now? What if you could develop a simple biblical formula for creating joy during chaos and confusion, joy under any conditions? That would be a good thing. The word is: you can. It’s called the Joy Challenge.

Consider this. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always”—literally, under any and all situations. Then he repeats for emphasis that we should remain in a joyful state— always (Phil. 4:4). Jesus talked about having full joy amid deep sorrow, a joy that no one can take away (John 15:11; 16:22). The Bible consistently maintains we can habituate joy.

When referring to joy, the Bible doesn’t mean a brief, emotional, ecstatic, fleeting feeling—that’s not true joy. Instead, the believer’s joy refers to a deliberate state of mind that has a robust confidence and lasting contentment. This joy results in a conscious sense of well-being , despite external circumstances. How does this happen? It’s triangular. It rests in a relationship with Jesus Christ and confidence in His Word, a conscious act of the will that implicitly trusts in divine Providence and cooperates with the empowering agency of the Holy Spirit. This combination results in a calm, peaceful joy that passes human comprehension (Phil. 4:7). Many who talk about it may not experience it. When this peaceful joy is present, you will know it.

In Ezra 3:9-13, at the triumphal laying of the foundation of the temple, part of the congregation was joyfully singing praises to God for this monumental moment of progress. Simultaneously, another part of the gathering was weeping and bemoaning how it was so inferior to the former Solomonic temple. The difference between the expression of joy and despair was dramatic. Why? It had to do with attitudes, personal choices, and where one put their focus and confidence.

A believer can meet the Joy Challenge by positively responding in the following five ways:

1. Considering the context or circumstances for what they are: difficult, painful, unpleasant, etc. (2 Tim. 3:12-17).

2. Contemplating the promises and inherent power of the Word of God that speak to the current situation (John 6:63).

3. Constructing or visioning the outcome from the onset and knowing that “all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28-39).

4. Choosing to do the right thing , knowing character growth is the result (James 1:4-8).

5. Cooperating with and accepting the righteous peace, joy, and yes, sometimes even serenity that result (Phil. 4:6, 7).

The resulting outcome of passing the Joy Challenge will be as Ellen White describes it: “It is His [Christ’s] purpose that every Christian shall be surrounded with a spiritual atmosphere of light and peace. He desires that we shall reveal His own joy in our lives. The indwelling of the Spirit will be shown by the outflow- ing of heavenly love. The divine fullness will flow through the consecrated human agent, to be given forth to others. . . . There is peace in believing, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Believing brings peace, and trusting in God brings joy.”*

Let 2022 be the year you successfully face the Joy Challenge in the various dimensions of your life.

*Ellen G. White, Reflecting Christ (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1985), p. 134.

Delbert W. Baker, Ph.D., is the director of research and development for the Office of Regional Conference Ministries/Retirement Plan based in Huntsville, Alabama.

A meme recently read: “Can we uninstall 2020 and install it again? This version has a virus.”

If life were only that easy. Uninstall, redo, go back and correct, or just download a new version. But life is not that simple.

Mistakes, misstatements, crises, and yes, sin, are all tough taskmasters. They make violators pay. In fact, they seldom take captives. They make one pay, if possible, the full extent of the penalty of missing the mark. What would we do without grace and mercy?

But what about surviving and thriving in the midst of this indiscriminate and unusual coronavirus? How can we cope with it on a practical basis?

I write while serving at the Adventist University of Africa, a General Conference institution in Nairobi, Kenya. We are on lockdown, delivering all graduate instruction online. We, like you, are praying, trusting, avoiding large gatherings, and working from home. We are using good hygiene, social distancing, dispensing good where possible, seeking to be proactive (versus reactive), and daily practicing the natural remedies to build our immune systems.

Can we do more? Are there attitudes and actions we can implement to enable us to thrive in the midst of the crisis, rather than just survive?

The Bible depicts a series of crises that literally shook the foundation of people and nations during the times in which they lived. It portrays common men and women who rose to crisis occasions by assuming the attitudes and actions of conquerors rather than of those conquered.

What about surviving and thriving in the midst of this indiscriminate, strange, and unusual coronavirus?

Let’s look at five inspiring examples from the Old Testament.

Noah chose careful preparation over crisis chaos (Gen. 6:13-22; 7:4-12). Noah was a master crisis mover. People can choose to lose their calm, or they can calmly assess the situation, follow truth, and implement best practices.

Lesson: Spend your time methodically preparing to better the crisis.

Job maintained persistent commitment over understandable capitulation (Job 13:1-16). Job knew that he had done nothing to deserve the massive crisis that affected his family, fortune, and physical frame (the coronavirus of his day). But he didn’t cowardly capitulate.

Lesson: Even if you personally suffer, don’t cave-in and lose faith.

Joseph planned proactively over passive compliance (Gen. 41:25-36). The Joseph story has multiple lessons for maximizing crises. Joseph maximized crisis at every turn (pit, slavery, Potiphar’s house, prison, palace, power), resulting in the saving of his entire society.

Lesson: Don’t just endure a crisis; under God, maximize it.

Habakkuk practiced persistent praise over passive pessimism (Hab. 1:2; 2:2, 3; 3:17-19). Habakkuk argued with God in the midst of a crisis about what he perceived to be divine inconsistency. He lost the argument, but resolved to praise rather than protest.

Lesson: Exercise discipline to praise God in the midst of a seemingly unfair, unfathomable crisis.

Esther championed justice over personal security (Esther 4:10-13). Esther, the favored Jewish princess, had every motive to preserve her own life as opposed to risking her position for the preservation of her people. She heroically chose to aid others.

Lesson: In the midst of a crisis, risk all for the greater good of serving and saving others.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

In this 2020 calendar year, one is reminded of the value of 20/20 eyesight. Visually we get it. But spiritually, how can Christians have the right vision for the days ahead? One of the most effective ways is to seek out and model best practices.

To illustrate, let’s revert to the 1961 Bobo doll experiment by psychologist Albert Bandura. A pioneer in the field of social psychology and self-efficacy, Bandura conducted a famous controlled experiment in which he demonstrated the power of modeling. He used the Bobo doll, a toy clown with a rounded bottom and low center of mass that rocks back and forth but always bounces back to an upright position.

Bandura demonstrated that children who saw adults beating up the Bobo doll were more likely to beat on Bobo when given opportunity. Their behavior contrasted with children who didn’t witness the violence against the clown and seemed disinclined to act aggressively toward it.

Bandura’s findings demonstrated that people are influenced by observing and modeling the behavior of others, either for good or ill. It illustrated that effective modeling can affect behavior change and accelerate the learning process.

When believers select worthy models and imitate their behavior in a spiritual context, we can observe this same principle working for good. Here are five biblical scenarios in which the modeling principle can work.

Leadership. Those who identify as Christian should be leaders of integrity, morality, and spirituality. By modeling best behavior in either personal or professional settings, believers can and do initiate positive behavior in others. And by avoiding negative behaviors, we can avoid being examples of what not to do (1 Cor. 8:9).

People are influenced by observing and modeling the behavior of others, either for good or ill.

Role Modeling. Whether we like it or not, our lives as Christians are both examples of what to embrace and what to avoid. From its beginning the Bible displays the characters, beliefs, and practices of those who demonstrated both good and evil traits. Discerning readers choose characteristics based on the most positive outcome (1 Cor. 11:1).

Trials. Trials and temptations are a fact of life—we will be affected by them. Believers can demonstrate strength and perseverance when struggling with life issues. They demonstrate how to successfully endure tribulation, trials, temptations, and tests as Christ and other heroes of faith did. While others may be tempted to give up, Spirit-led role models demonstrate exemplary growth.

Nature. The wise man wrote, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (Prov. 6:6). By observing nature and the creatures of creation, sensitive Christians can gather lessons about ethics, wisdom, learning strategies, industry, and stewardship. Transformative truths and exemplary habits can be learned from the natural world around us.

Purpose. What is our calling and purpose? What is our place and role in life? The Holy Spirt uses God’s Word, prayer, and chosen illustrious models to teach us best practices, so that we can grow in grace and purpose.

With 20/20 vision we can learn from Bobo and choose well in 2020.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of midnight, some party and drink as if there’s no tomorrow. Some weave intoxicatedly through traffic behind the wheel of a potential killing machine. Some seek the thrills of sensual pleasure. Some set off fireworks or exchange kisses. Others sit at home, envy the masses at New York’s Times Square, and wish they were there.

But another group of people scattered throughout the world won’t be drinking, driving, shooting off fireworks; they won’t be sitting at home wishing they were somewhere else with someone else. Instead, they will intuitively follow the counsel: “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Without condemning innocent rituals, this group will usher in New Year’s Day, as any other, by seeking God’s kingdom first.

Let’s declare New Year’s Day, and every day in 2020, to be a time of growth and advancement.

Let’s not get caught up in the attitude of “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Instead, let’s declare New Year’s Day, and every day in 2020, to be a time of growth and advancement, to declare our PRAISES to God.

Here are a few declarations for your consideration:

Peacemaking: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).

In a world of antagonism, grudges, and revenge, peacemakers are at a premium. Let’s take the high road of peace and spread love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Rejoicing: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Whatever the situation, let’s declare that God is our rock, joy, and inspiration. We will not give up, give in, or give way. In all things let’s rejoice and declare that the Lord is near and in charge.

Aspiring: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

Set a target and pursue it. Take one step at a time. Focusing on targets consistent with our life mission is the key to success.

Initiating and completing: “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me” (Acts 20:24).

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” But why stop there? Let’s go beyond, further, and higher. Initiative is the self-starter that keeps us advancing.

Sanctifcation: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Sanctification is never for its own sake. Seeking sanctification is our path to fulfillment and productivity.

Energized living: “I pray that you may enjoy good health” (3 John 2).

Good health is foundational to our energy and vitality. Since the body is the medium for the mind, and the mind is the facilitator of character, health is essential for a rich and fulfilling life.

Sharing faith: “It is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Rom. 10:10).

Genuine Christians live in two dimensions. They believe in Christ and the gospel, and they live their beliefs through consistent practice and honest witness.

Declare your convictions for 2020: Make peace. Celebrate in the Lord. Aspire toward your ideals. Stick with Jesus and never give up. Grow in grace. Live abundantly. Share your faith.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

M. Scott Peck wrote in his book The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.”

David knew that reality when he wrote Psalm 23. Evidence? These words: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (verse 4).

Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved passages in the Bible. Let’s focus on eight formulaic truths in its masterful verse 4 that may provide RAMPWAYS to a fresh way of connecting and cooperating with God’s providence.

Any problem—despondency, discouragement, darkness, even death—we can successfully survive.

Any problem—despondency, discouragement, darkness, even death—we can successfully navigate. These principles and affirmations provide RAMPWAYS to the better future God has for us.

REALITY: “Even though I . . .” The world has been horribly blighted by sin and evil. Unfortunately, this evil resides in us as well. Sin is with us at birth, and often, because of our lusts, it is inside us by invitation. We all have our valleys (see 2 Tim. 3:12). We will experience sin’s impact!

ABILITY: “. . . walk . . .” We all can keep walking, persevering physically or spiritually (see Phil. 4:13). We are not admonished to skip, run, or jog; no heroics, just walk. When darkness falls and we can barely walk, we will. We will keep walking!

MIND-SET: “. . . through . . .” By God’s grace and His staying power, we will survive our trials, whatever they are. “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). We will endure this!

PROBLEM: “. . . the darkest valley . . .” Again, there will be valleys, shadows, and death in this vale of tears. No one is exempt. Our character and stamina are shown by how we handle our valleys (see 2 Tim. 2:3). We accept this valley!

WEATHERED: “. . . I will fear no evil, . . .”Since God is with us, we can choose not to fear. Why? Because we’re His children, and “the one who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). In fact, we already know, as we enter the valley, that though there will be pain and suffering, “God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28). We will be encouraged!

ASSURANCE: “. . . for you are with me . . .” This is our anchor. God is with us always, everywhere (see Matt. 28:20). Through water and fire He is by our side (see Isa. 43:2). Lord, we embrace Your partnership!

YIELDEDNESS: “. . . your rod and your staff, . . .” We need much character work. God’s discipline may often be difficult, but it is for our good (see Heb. 12:6). Lord, we accept your providence!

SPIRIT: “. . . they comfort me.” God’s rod and staff are controlled by the Holy Spirit. He is our friend and comforter (John 14:26). What to some may be bruising, we accept as a blessing. We accept what God allows!

By God’s grace we will emerge from this valley.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

"Were not our hearts burning within us?” are the seven memorable words of the two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:32). The narrative begins with their hearts aching with grief and gloom. It ends with their hearts burning with gladness and glory. A complete change in a few hours. What happened?

We have to be conscious of whatever causes us to have burning hearts. We have to note what causes us to churn with intense feelings and emotions. Pay attention to whatever causes us to react, be it a person, place, thought, event, or circumstance. Don’t let it slip by, because it is a valuable learning moment. Trace the where, what, and why of that burning sensation.

A constant danger to our spiritual progress is to be unaware of our emotions and what triggers them.

A constant danger to our spiritual progress is to be unaware of our emotions and what triggers them. This is further complicated by being ignorant of our unawareness—being unaware of our unawareness. The antidote? Be self-aware, pay attention, manage our emotions. But it takes humility and hard work.

Consider, in four steps, how the Emmaus-bound disciples teach us this practical truth.

1. Emotions Examination (Luke 24:13-18). First, the disciples were morose and melancholic. This was the time for them, and for us, to do an emotion check. Why are we so emotional (Ps. 42:5; 43:5)? Discover the origins and motivations by asking yourself questions about these emergent emotions.

2. Alacrity Acceleration (Luke 24:18-24). The disciples’ emotions were creating havoc, taking them to dangerous destinations. They forgot the previous words of Jesus because of their overpowering emotions. When emotions intensify, use emotional alacrity and bring them under control. We need to quickly ask ourselves three questions: (a) Where do these emotions come from (fear, anger, defense, lust, etc.)? (b) What attitudes and actions are they causing right now (faith, nobility, fight, flight, etc.)? (c) If we give in to these emotions, where will they lead (a better place, a worse place, a place where God would want me, etc.)?

3. Spiritual Submission (verses 25-29). A transformation of the disciples’ emotional state took place between verses 25 and 29, when Christ, through the Holy Spirit, reasoned with them through Scriptures. That caused them to do an emotion check. They calmed down, collected themselves, and tamed their emotions. By the time they reached Emmaus they were in control. Instead of hopelessness they exhibited hope, hospitality, and a hunger for more truth.

4. Valuation of Engagement (verses 30-34). With emotions under control, the disciples were able to evaluate and replace their irrationality with reason. A new emotional burning took over; they cast off their blindness, and with joy they recognized Christ right in their midst. In that state of spiritual rationality they redirected their burning hearts from doom to delight and were able to rightly evaluate their situation in God’s presence.

Next time our hearts burn, let’s be intelligent about our emotions. Let’s recognize, understand, and manage them. Let’s resolve to do it for God’s glory, for our own good, and for the good of all with whom we interact.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.