“Don’t let go, Dad!”
“I won’t. I’ve got you. I promise.”
I was a little boy terrified of the water, but my dad wanted me to learn to swim. He would purposefully take me away from the side of the pool into a depth that was over my head, where he was my only support. Then he would teach me to relax and float.
It wasn’t just a swimming lesson; it was a lesson in trust. I knew my father loved me and would never let me be harmed intentionally, but I was also afraid. I would cling tightly to his neck until he reassured me all would be well. Eventually his patience and kindness won out, and I began to swim. But I had to trust him first.
When I feel “over my head” in a difficulty, I sometimes think back on those moments. They help me call to mind the Lord’s reassurance to His people: “Even to your old age . . . I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you (Isaiah 46:4).
We may not always be able to feel God’s arms beneath us, but the Lord has promised that He would “never leave us” (Hebrews 13:5). As we rest in His care and promises, He helps us learn to trust in His faithfulness. He lifts us above our worries to discover new peace in Him.
The weather outside was threatening, and the alert on my cell phone warned about the possibility of flash floods. An unusual number of cars were parked in my neighborhood as parents and others gathered to pick up children at the school bus drop-off point. By the time the bus arrived, it had started to rain. That’s when I observed a woman exit her car and retrieve an umbrella from the trunk. She walked towards a little girl and made sure the child was shielded from the rain until they returned to the vehicle. What a beautiful “real time” picture of parental, protective care that reminded me of the care of our heavenly Father.
The prophet Isaiah forecast punishment for disobedience followed by brighter days for God’s people (Isaiah 40:1–8). The heavenly dispatch from the mountain (v. 9) assured the Israelites of God’s mighty presence and tender care. The good news, then and now, is that because of God’s power and ruling authority, anxious hearts need not fear (vv. 9–10). Included in the announcement was news about the Lord’s protection, the kind of protection shepherds provide (v. 11): vulnerable young sheep would find safety in the Shepherd’s arms; nursing ewes would be led gently.
In a world where circumstances aren’t always easy, such images of safety and care compel us to look confidently to the Lord. Those who trust wholeheartedly in the Lord find security and renewed strength in Him (v. 31).
Yesterday I purchased a plane ticket to send my firstborn child to college. I’m surprised the keyboard on my computer still functions, given the waterworks my eyes unleashed on it during the flight selection process. I have so enjoyed my eighteen years of daily life with her that I am saddened by the prospect of her departure. Yet I wouldn’t rob her of the opportunity that lies ahead simply because I will miss her. At this juncture in her life, it is fitting for her to embark on a new journey to discover adulthood and explore another part of the country.
As this season of my parenting draws to a close, another one begins. It will undoubtedly bring both new challenges and new delights. Solomon, Israel’s third king, wrote that God appoints “a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We humans have little control over the events of our lives—whether we view those events as favorable or not. But God, in His mighty power, makes “everything beautiful in its time” (v. 11).
In seasons of heartache, we can trust God to bring something good from them in time. Our comforts and joys may come and go, but God’s works “will endure forever” (v. 14). We may not relish every season—some are quite painful—yet He can bring beauty to them all.
During a visit to the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, I quickly photographed one of the twin reflecting pools. Around these two pools, the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the World Trade Center attacks are etched into bronze panels. Later, while looking more closely at the photo, my eyes were drawn to the hand of a woman resting on a name. Many people come to this place to touch a name and remember someone they loved.
The prophet Isaiah reminded God’s people of His unfailing love and concern for them, even though they had often turned away from Him. The Lord said, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
In the familiar 23rd Psalm, David wrote, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley [the valley of the shadow of death], I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . . Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the L
God never forgets us. No matter where we are or whatever our situation, the Lord knows our names and holds us fast in His unfailing love.
My young grandsons enjoy dressing themselves. Sometimes they pull their shirts on backwards and often the younger one puts his shoes on the wrong feet. I usually don’t have the heart to tell them; besides, I find their innocence endearing.
I love seeing the world through their eyes. To them, everything is an adventure, whether walking the length of a fallen tree, spying a turtle sunning itself on a log, or excitedly watching a fire truck roar by. But I know that even my little grandsons are not truly innocent. They can make up a dozen excuses about why they can’t stay in their beds at night and are quick to yank a wanted toy from the other. Yet I love them dearly.
I picture Adam and Eve, God’s first people, as being in some ways like my grandchildren. Everything they saw in the garden must have been a marvel as they walked with God. But one day they willfully disobeyed. They ate of the one tree they were forbidden to eat (Genesis 2:15–17; 3:6). And that disobedience immediately led to lies and blame shifting (3:8–13).
Yet still, God loved and cared for them. He sacrificed animals in order to clothe them (v. 21)—and later He provided a way of salvation for all sinners through the sacrifice of His Son (John 3:16). He loves us that much!
Sometimes life gets busy—classes are hard, work is exhausting, the bathroom needs to be cleaned, and a coffee date is on the day’s schedule. It gets to the point where I force myself to read the Bible for a few minutes a day and tell myself I’ll spend more time with God next week. But it doesn’t take long before I’m distracted, drowning in the day’s tasks, and forget to ask God for help of any kind.
When Peter was walking on water toward Jesus, he quickly became distracted by the wind and waves. Like me, he began to sink (Matthew 14:29–30). But as soon as Peter cried out, Jesus “immediately reached out his hand and caught him” (vv. 30–31).
I often feel as if I have to make it up to God after being so busy and distracted that I lose sight of Him. But that’s not how God works. As soon as we turn to Him for help, Jesus reaches out without hesitation (vv. 30–31).
When we’re distracted by the chaos of life, it’s easy to forget that God is standing in the middle of the storm with us. Jesus asked Peter, “Why did you doubt?” (v. 31). No matter what we’re going through, He is there. He is here. Next to us at that moment, in this moment, ready to reach out and rescue us.
Before he raced out the door to school, I asked my son if he had brushed his teeth. Asking again, I reminded him of the importance of telling the truth. Unmoved by my gentle admonishment, he half-jokingly informed me that what I really needed was a security camera in the bathroom. Then I could check for myself if he had brushed his teeth and he wouldn’t be tempted to lie.
While the presence of a security camera may help remind us to follow the rules, there are still places we can go unnoticed or ways we can avoid being seen. Although we may evade or trick a security camera, we fool ourselves if we think we are ever outside the gaze of God.
God asks, “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” (Jeremiah 23:24). There is both an encouragement and a warning in His question.
The warning is that we cannot hide from God. We can’t outrun or fool Him. Everything we do is visible to Him.
The encouragement is that there is no place on earth or in the heavens where we are outside the watchful care of our heavenly Father. Even when we feel alone, God is with us. No matter where we go today, may the awareness of that truth encourage us to choose obedience to His Word and offer comfort—He watches over us.
Did God know about me as I drove at night on a 100-mile journey to my village? Given the condition I was in, the answer was not simple. My temperature ran high and my head ached. I prayed, “Lord, I know you are with me, but I’m in pain!”
Tired and weak, I parked by the road near a small village. Ten minutes later, I heard a voice. “Hello! Do you need any help?” It was a man with his companions from the community. Their presence felt good. When they told me the name of their village: Naa mi n’yala (meaning, “The King knows about me!”), I was amazed. I had passed this community dozens of times without stopping. This time, the Lord used its name to remind me that, indeed, He, the King, was with me while I was alone on that road in my ailing condition. Encouraged, I pressed on toward the nearest clinic.
God knows us thoroughly as we go about our everyday chores, at different locations and situations, no matter our conditions (Ps. 139:1-4, 7-9). He does not abandon us or forget us; neither is He too busy that He neglects us. Even when we are in trouble or in difficult circumstances—“darkness” and “night” (vv. 11–12)—we are not hidden from His presence. This truth so gives us hope and assurance that we can praise the Lord who has carefully created us and leads us through life (v. 14).
Picture a parent poised lovingly over a child, finger gently placed in front of nose and lips softly speaking the words—“hush,” “shhhh.” The demeanor and simple words are meant to comfort and quiet anxious little ones in the midst of disappointment, discomfort, or pain. Scenes like this are universal and timeless and most of us have been on the giving or receiving end of such loving expressions. When I ponder Psalm 131:2, this is the picture that comes to mind.
The language and flow of this psalm suggest that the writer, David, had experienced something that provoked serious reflection. Have you experienced a disappointment, defeat, or failure that prompted thoughtful, reflective prayer? What do you do when you are humbled by life’s circumstances? When you fail a test or lose a job or experience the end of a relationship? David poured out his heart to the Lord and in the process did a bit of honest soul-searching and inventory (Psalm 131:1). In making peace with his circumstances, he found contentment like that of a young child who was satisfied with simply being with its mother (v. 2).
Life’s circumstances change and sometimes we are humbled. Yet we can be hopeful and content knowing that there is One who has promised to never leave or forsake us. We can trust Him fully.