This past Saturday my wife, Jackie, spoke at the Traverse City First Church 'Mother/Daughter' banquet. Though I was not there, I was privileged to be able to read her notes. However, she wouldn't let me read them until after the event. Though this is a long post, I, as a proud husband, thought I'd share with our district family this excellent devotional:
Jackie Gilmore, Saturday, May 12 - Traverse City First:
• Hebrews 13:5 - ...God has said, never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.
God’s word contains many precious promises. I have highlighted and underlined many of them in my Bible. They have become my anchor in life. If I had to pick my all time, favorite, go to, cling to promise, I think I would choose this one. It just seems to say it all. God will never leave me!!! I will never be alone!!!
In the original language there are no less than five negatives put together, to confirm this promise. So, we could read it this way, “God has said, never, no, never will I leave you, no, never will I forsake you.” The God of the universe is saying this to you and me. What an awesome thought!!!
I’m sure though, we can all remember a time in our life when we have felt alone or abandoned. Perhaps some of us feel like that right now. Life happens and things are difficult. We all have trials, struggles, losses, pain. Some situations seem insurmountable, but of one thing we may be sure - He who allows the suffering is with us throughout the suffering. God never leaves us in our trial. He has given us His promise.
Years ago, when our children were young, we were at a large shopping mall in Phoenix, Arizona. It was time for lunch so we decided to visit the food court. It was the typical mall food court set up in a “L” shape with the various restaurants on the perimeter of the large eating area. So our little family of five began to walk past each eatery as we were making up our minds where to have lunch. As it happened we decided to eat at the very last place farthest away from the mall entrance to the eating area. Probably because we decided that we were not going to walk back to reconsider the options.
When we had finished eating we made our way out of the food court again along the outer perimeter, choosing not to walk through the congested maze of tables and chairs. We arrived at the entrance to the food court where the path split into a few steps up on the right and a ramp that would accommodate wheelchairs and strollers on the left. Our youngest, Rachel, was in a stroller so we all decided to use the ramp to exit the food court. All of us except Nathanael, that is. He was about 3 years old at the time and apparently the stairs seemed like a more adventurous route to him and he led the way up the stairs.
When we got to the top of the ramp, Nathanael did not look over at the rest of the family standing right beside him, but back down the stairs. He immediately panicked and bolted back down the stairs back into the food court area. It happened so fast we didn’t have time to stop him. I looked at my husband, he looked at me, and it was one of those moments in life where words do not need to be spoken. I knew that my job was to stay with the other two children and I knew that he would take care of retrieving Nathanael.
As I was keeping my eyes on my little black haired boy running through a very large crowd of people I was wondering what was running through his mind and what had made him think we were not with him and triggered his flight back. He was definitely on a mission and I noticed that he was running once again on the same route that we had just taken around the perimeter of the food court. His father was swiftly moving diagonally through the seating area. Though I wasn’t sure of what was happening, I imagined he was calling his name, trying to get his attention, but the mall was so busy and full of people, Nathanael did not hear the familiar voice.
Finally they both ended back at the place where we had, minutes before, eaten our lunch. Nathanael stopped running. His father stopped running. And Nathanael was immediately scooped up into his father’s arms.
When we were all once again reunited I asked my husband what, if anything, Nathanael communicated throughout this incident. He said, “Nathanael had no idea that I was near him, calling him, but I could hear him saying, ‘Daddy, where are you, Daddy where are you?’”
We never did figure out what clicked in our son’s head that made him think he’d been abandoned. It probably wasn’t a thought but an emotion that made him think he was all alone. In a huge mall filled with people he could not see his father standing right next to him.
How often do you and I feel like that? In our world full of people and business sometimes we still feel ALL ALONE and wonder where our Heavenly Father has gone? If Nathanael would have looked up and to his side, he would have seen his father running near to him. He would have seen the familiar face of his loving father and he would have seen his father’s eyes fixed on him, watching each step he made. He would have heard the voice he knew so well calling out his name, “Nathanael, I’m here! Son, I’m right here with you!”
We will have those panic moments. One day or one moment we feel “ok” and life seems to be “fine” and the next day, or in the next moment, something will happen. Suddenly we don’t feel “ok” anymore, life doesn’t seem fine. Something has changed, something has gone wrong and we feel alone. The burdens of life bear down like weights that are too heavy for us to hold by ourselves.
When I think of this story of my son it always makes me smile to think about how he reacted in his panic moment. He didn’t stop and stand there and begin screaming and crying, as some might have done. He immediately took action. The part that I find fascinating is that his action took him back to the place where he remembered being with his family, and most particularly he was searching for his father as he ran calling out “Daddy, where are you? Daddy, where are you?”
When things in your life begin to overwhelm you (and I use the word “when” not “if,” because I know that things in life will overwhelm us;) when you don’t understand why you are in the situation you are in; when you don’t want to be in the situation you are in; when you feel alone or even abandoned, I want to encourage you to do two things.
First, remember this promise from our almighty God and Savior, Jesus Christ - “never, no never, will I leave you; no, never will I forsake you.” and remember that God keeps His promises. He is the perfect parent. He is always faithful. Your circumstances may not change right away, they may not change at all, but God is aware of what’s happening to you. In Psalm 31:7-8 David writes “You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul and You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy.” God is running right next to you and will not take His eyes off of you. He will not desert you. He will not leave you alone.
Second, take whatever action is necessary to return to the embrace of your Heavenly Father’s arms. Your first reaction may be to stand there and scream and cry, and that’s ok, but determine to run and find that place where you will sense the Holy Spirit’s presence. Again, in Psalm 31 David talks about taking refuge in the Lord: “In You, O Lord I have taken refuge, let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me, rescue me quickly.” Open the scriptures and look for His precious promises to you. There are so many that speak to finding refuge and safety in the arms of God.
• Psalm 46:1 - God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
• Deuteronomy 33:27 - The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
• Psalm 27:5 - For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me.
• Psalm 62:6-7 - He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Allow Him to speak to you through His words; and then talk to Him - Cry out to Him. Tell Him what is in your heart. Give Him your burden. Remember, when we feel far away from God, it isn’t because He moved, it’s because we moved. He is still in the same place patiently waiting for us to run back to Him. His love is steadfast. He is unchanging. He is running alongside keeping a watchful eye on our every step.
I want to close with this reading which I’ve adapted from one of my favorite devotionals:
"When everything else is stripped away, when all the things we are attached to are gone, when everything has fallen apart and fallen away, it all becomes very simple. When no one can do anything to help and there isn’t a straw left to grasp, we discover that in the end, only God holds life. It’s only God who matters, and His promise is certain. When all else is gone, God is still there and we hear His sweet voice saying, 'I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.'"