Isaiah 43:2 is one of several verses stuck on my bathroom mirror: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” I take comfort in that promise many days when the breezes of life stir and the waves ripple. But let the winds whip up and the waves begin to churn and I am Peter sinking beneath the billows. Oh me of little faith. It doesn’t take much, as the past several weeks have shown me, to knock my faith askew. Hebrews 11:1 comes to convict me: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Not seen, silly. If I could see the way things will work out, it wouldn’t take any faith to believe in them.
I remember all of my Ebenezers: the peanut allergy that my eldest outgrew; the move away from family and friends which grew to have a sweetness of its own and then turned out to be only temporary; this current trial which, although it is far from over, has gifted me with dear friends who are walking this rough and rocky road with me. I have seen the grace and love of God through the hands of many I would never have known had I not been in need. I think of the sage advice of a friend who told me that times of need are really a blessing, because it is when we know our own helplessness that we can see the hand of God moving on our behalf.
One of our pastors recently preached on one of my favorite passages from 2 Corinthians 4: “ For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (verse 17). This here-and-now that is so all-consuming and such a heavy burden at times is a feather-weight—the blink of an eye—compared to the glory we will know for eternity! Paul admonishes his readers in the following verse to look to the things that are unseen. I don’t know about you, but I sure have a hard time keeping my eyes on invisible things. Yet the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 gives us many examples of folks who did just that.
One day as I was driving home I was feeling particularly discouraged, and the Lord brought to mind Zeph. 3:17 which ends with “He will rejoice over you with singing.” I asked him in that moment if I could hear just a measure of that song that he was singing over me. I don’t claim to frequently hear God’s voice, but I am certain I heard him speak to my heart then. He told me I wasn’t strong enough to hear the beauty of the song he is singing—that it would kill me to hear it. I need to mature before I can endure the beauty of it. He offered to let me hear echoes of it in the sunset, in the birds singing, in flowers blooming.
Most of you don’t know my story. It is a story of the far-reaching, devastating effects of the vileness of sin. To hear my Lord tell me that the song he is singing over me, the story he is weaving of my life, is one of such beauty that I could not even bear to hear it was overwhelming to me. I carry that promise like a talisman next to my heart, and in moments of grief I take it out and finger it and grasp it in my hand and remember, He promised.
Verse 7 of 2 Corinthians 4 also speaks to me, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” The power that achieves my rescue belongs to God, not to me. When I hardly have the strength or the heart to put one foot in front of the other, He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). When I feel most helpless and anxious it is because I am trying to figure out how I am going to solve my problems on my own. But God isn’t asking me to solve my problems on my own; He is asking me to seek Him and to follow His leading, wherever that may be. Does His path always make sense to me at the time? Definitely not. Do I always trust it? Sadly, no. But thankfully, my Shepherd gently pulls me in and sets me back on the path, which He promises will lead to green pastures and still waters, though we may travel through the valley of the shadow of death to get there. My part is to trust in His steadfast love and faithfulness to me and to keep my hand in His along the way.