Recently, I visited the Holy Land, and now that I’ve seen where Jesus lived, died, and returned to life, I am confident that I will never be the same. When I read the Bible or listen to a message, it’s like I’ve been given the gift of seeing and hearing the Word of God on a 90-inch high-definition television with surround sound, where I’d only experienced it in black and white before. The Word of God has come to life within me in a fresh new way.

I experienced many places and revelations in Israel, but witnessing the masses of people longing for God impacted me the most. Each year, people from every tribe and nation descend upon the Holy Land to pray, worship, tour the land, and sit under biblical teachings.

Seeing so many people hunger and thirst for the Lord encouraged my heart. Today’s news portrays a world that has turned its back on God. But in Israel, I witnessed a remnant of people boldly desiring His presence.

A highlight of my trip included a moment of spontaneous worship with German believers. Our group had just entered a cathedral near Jerusalem when we heard other spiritual pilgrims singing the old hymn, “How Great Thou Art.” It echoed against the stone walls in four-part harmony.

Our group joined in for the last verse of the hymn—in English, of course. It was the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. I imagine God was smiling as He received the praises of His children. We couldn’t speak the same language, but we were saying the same thing—“God, You are awesome!”

When the song ended, you could have heard a pin drop. The Lord’s presence was so thick in that room. Suddenly, everyone erupted in applause and hallelujahs.

Our groups exited the church at the same time, and we hugged each other. I said to one lady, “Hello, sister.” She looked confused at first, but then she smiled and replied in broken English, “Yes, we sisters!”

We had 84 people in our group, ranging from 22 to 86 years old. We were of different races, denominations, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our life experiences varied widely. One lady shared how just two years earlier, she’d been living in a tent under a bridge after addiction had stripped her of everything dear.

Despite our various geographical and experiential makeups, we quickly bonded. We were in one accord, “agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose” (Philippians 2:2 NLT).

That’s because we recognized each other’s value in the eyes of God and treated each other with respect and love, as Jesus commands in John 13:34. God’s love in us was a powerful bonding agent. It prevented us from seeing physical, political, and socioeconomic differences and opened our eyes to the beauty of each other’s spirit.

It also resulted in generous acts of kindness, grace, and patience throughout the week. Due to age and physical limitations, some people walked much slower than others. But no one ever complained, and we didn’t leave anyone behind. If one of the group members stumbled or fell due to the rocky terrain, others helped them up.

Oh, if God’s children could always be so loving, kind, generous, and patient with one another, our world would be transformed.

One day, after a delicious and expensive meal by the Sea of Galilee, a young man from our group blessed our whole table by picking up the tab. I learned about Mark’s generosity while in line at the cash register. I had my shekels (Israeli money) in hand when he turned around and said, “It’s all been taken care of.” I was stunned. I hardly knew him—I just happened to sit at his table.

Mark’s action caused me to think about God’s generous gift of salvation (John 3:16) when He “purchased our freedom and forgave our sins” (Colossians 1:14 NLT).

I suddenly imagined myself at a heavenly cash register, waiting to pay the price for my sin, a price I could have never paid (Romans 6:23). Then Jesus turned around, looked at me with eyes of love, and said, “It’s all been taken care of. I paid the price for your sin and the world’s sins.” (See 1 Timothy 2:6.)

I hadn’t done anything to deserve this kind act of mercy. In fact, no one deserves it. But just think—Jesus paid that heavy price for you and me before we even knew Him and while we were still active sinners (Romans 5:8).

Sadly, that was the last interaction I had with Mark. At about midnight, Mark’s wife called with devastating news—his child had died.

Our Bible teacher shared the news with our group after our morning devotion, sitting under a tin shelter overlooking Bethlehem. Sadness hung in the air, but then, one by one, we began to pray. We boldly took our brother and his loved ones to the throne of God and interceded on his behalf (Hebrews 4:16; 1 Timothy 2:1).

My heart hurt, and like everyone else, I had questions. But I took comfort in knowing that while Mark was flying home to reunite with his distraught wife and children, more than 80 people were crying out to God on his behalf.

In His grace, I could see that God had given Mark a new family of burden carriers to intercede for him. Not only that, but my Lord had also positioned many mighty men of God to be with Mark when he received the news. They stayed with him the entire night, supporting him and making arrangements for his flight home. Despite how it looked, God wasn’t absent, and He had not abandoned Mark.

God never abandons His children. John 14:18 promises that He will never leave us as orphans. The word “orphan” always brings to mind a picture of my adopted son, Dalton, and adopted daughter, Ivy. I see them as they were in 2004 when I first met them in Russia. In particular, I envision Ivy, who was living in a run-down children’s hospital. She was in extremely poor condition.

Ivy’s mother had abandoned Ivy and her siblings. They had no provisions, protection, direction, purpose, voice, or hope. Even after being in the hospital, Ivy remained frail, pale, hungry, dirty, powerless, and voiceless. She knew no language. She didn’t even know her name because she had lived her formative years in isolation.

Through this image, I better understand God’s promise not to leave us as orphans. In Him, we are never alone, rejected, dirty, weak, powerless, voiceless, or without hope for our future. We are accepted, protected, loved, pure, whole, heard, seen, and powerful. We belong to God, and we carry His name, the name above all names (Philippians 2:9).

Sometimes, circumstances can make it feel like God has left us. But Numbers 23:19 reminds us: “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” (NLT). God will not leave His precious ones behind. Not me, not Mark, not Ivy, and certainly not you.

It might look like evil has prevailed in your life. You might feel completely alone. But you are not alone. God is close, and He is ready and willing to help you. Look at Psalm 121:2–8: “My help comes from the Lord… He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. … The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. … The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever” (NLT).

Does that mean you won’t experience pain? No. But it does mean that you are not alone in your pain. Does it mean that life won’t ever become dark? No. But darkness cannot overtake the light within you (John 1:5; 16:33).

If there is one thing this trip taught me, it is the importance and beauty of family—God’s family. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (NLT).

Like the Holy Land’s rocky terrain, life’s paths are often challenging and steep. Please, don’t try to take the journey alone. A person standing alone is open to attacks and defeat. But if you stand close to God and surround yourself with other believers, you will be victorious.

Friend, you have a family. Anyone who professes Jesus as their Lord and Savior becomes a part of His eternal family (Ephesians 2:19). No matter who you are or what you’ve done, you have a place in God’s family. And nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:31–39).

You also have a place in the Victorious Living family. See page 2s and 30s for information on how to connect with us. Like my Holy Land tour group, we are a diverse group of people seeking to carry out God’s greatest commandment: to love the Lord with all we are and to love others as ourselves. We’re not perfect, but the grace and love of God bind us together. We invite you to join us.


Kristi Overton Johnson encourages and equips people for victory through her writings, speaking engagements, and prison ministry. To learn more, go to