Several years ago, in the midst of some very difficult situations facing our family at the time, I read a particularly encouraging book that reset my heart and mind on the truth that is unshakable.
In light of heartache and loss in our family once again, the tragedies so rampant in the news, and pain within many dear friends’ families, I am reminded that this world is not our home and this generation is, as generations before, in need of truth and actual hope.
That one hope that has stood and will stand is Jesus Christ and the power of His death and resurrection to free us from the penalty of our sin but also from its power, our guilt, our fear, our pain, and our limitations. It is not always a physical freedom, but it is life giving on earth and in eternity.
What has caused me to face sorrow without despair is the knowledge of and my relationship with the One who holds all circumstances in His hands both now and forever and allows nothing that will not ultimately be for His greatest glory and my good; not always “good” as we define it but as it is sifted through His strong hands that hold us and His wise fingers that sift as only He can. For He is the only one who well knows our frame (Psalm 103:14) and the number of our days (Psalm 90:12) and He is the Lover of our souls!
His Word upholds me because it is not just “nice little sayings” that can be framed and hung on a wall to make me feel good for the moment; it is not a crutch that allows me to hobble along. It is rock solid truth on which I can “hang” my very life and which causes me to walk steadfast, to stand and, when I have done all else, to continue standing firm, hidden in Christ.
We take in and hide the Word of God in our hearts because it is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and, when our steps are trembling, our God Who is mighty makes us secure, our footsteps steady as He reminds us of His very good and precious promises. (2 Peter 1:4)
Even when we are “in the presence of our enemies,” “in the shadow of death,” or any situation where “weeping that lasts for a night,” we can trust and hold steady as Gracia Burnham remembers and relates below:
How do we manage when life spins out of control in a single day? What do we do when all our plans and goals are put on hold, when everything we had intended to do and see and accomplish gets swept aside, and we don’t know if we’ll ever get back to familiar ground? How do we keep our sanity? How do we avoid slipping into a personal canyon of despair?
‘I remember a particularly frightening Thursday morning in the jungle, the day of Gun Battle Number 13. We endured seventeen of these altogether, where our little group would be spotted by the Philippine military, who were trying to rescue us hostages but were ill-trained to do so. While their intentions were good, their technique was altogether dangerous, not only for the terrorists but for us as well. “On this day Martin and I had just built a small fire to heat water for a cup of tea. Our recently washed clothes were strewn out on bushes to dry in the sun. Suddenly, gunfire erupted. We had to get out of that place immediately.“Normally, we tried to keep our belongings fairly well consolidated for such emergencies. But in this moment, our stuff was everywhere. We were totally unprepared. “We instantly hit the ground, of course. As bullets continued to whiz past our heads, Martin gingerly reached up to pull the cord that tied one end of our hammock to a tree. He then scooted along the ground to do the same to the opposite cord. We squashed the hammock into our backpack and then dashed for cover, abandoning nearly everything else—extra clothes, cooking utensils, my hairbrush, and other necessities.
Soon we found ourselves wading through a swamp that came up to our waists. We emerged on the other side and flopped down to rest. I looked at my husband with total exhaustion. In that desperate hour, my wonderful husband said, ‘Gracia, let’s remind ourselves of what we know is true.’
We had no Bible to consult; we could lean only on what we had stored in our memories. From that reserve, we began to recite: ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31).“One of us said, ‘Where does it say in Scripture, “I have loved you with an everlasting love”?’ (It’s in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 31:3.)“ ‘And then what about that part at the beginning of Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”?’ (Ephesians 1:3)
We went on sharing Scriptures such as these, trying to anchor ourselves in the truth we could trust, the truth that God is with us through the tunnel, through the valley, through the gun battle. He stands with us through the medical prognosis that terrorizes us, through every horrible thing that life throws our way. We don’t go through these things alone. We walk with our hands in the hand of the One who turns night into day.’
(***From “To Fly Again,” by Gracia Burnham who is also the author of “In the Presence of My Enemies,” the true story of Martin and Gracia Burnham who were kidnapped in the Philippians and held hostage in the jungle for over a year. I would highly recommend both starting with the latter.)
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2