The Lock Screen on my phone has not changed in years. Even though I have changed phones, I have kept the same image of my grandson and me walking to the zoo train ride. My wife took the picture, so the photo bears a lot of sentimental value to me, but that’s not the reason for its long-standing role as my Lock Screen, you know – the picture you see every time you go to use your phone. Back when Dubbs was three, it was still cool to hold my hand, not so now that he is older. It’s funny how we ‘grow up’ and lose that connection with the One who loves us dearly. The picture is so important to me because it reminds me of the child-like faith we need to walk so intimately with our Heavenly Father, the One ‘who never leaves us nor forsakes us.’ That promise holds true no matter the circumstances.
Earlier this year, I did not think I would make it to Christmas because of a heart issue. I believe now God has allowed me to struggle so much to reinforce this truth, ‘If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” We repeat that truth with such simplicity as if its only value is as a Starbucks’ cup quote. But when what you’re up against drives you to your knees and leaves you gasping for a breath, when the pain strikes through you like a hot dagger to your heart, that ‘Truth’ becomes the very last thread you grasp hold of, keeping you from sinking below the unknown.
God does not just say these words; He backed them up by giving His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 ESV) And since our Father “did not spare even His own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?” In the most desperate moments, we can be confident He will meet our greatest need. I can tell you that it’s not always healing or painless, but what He supplies is always exactly what we need to strengthen our faith and guide us closer to Himself. And since God is love, and in His presence is ‘joy everlasting,’ there is no more secure place to be no matter the scars it takes to get you there.
With our faith firmly established in the Truth of His Word, a foundation that is engineered by the Spirit, “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with Himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”
I think back to that picture of Dubbs and me walking off to the train ride. Because I love him and want him to be safe, the important thing wasn’t that he held my hand; no, it was more important that I held onto him. It was the firmness of my grasp that gave him the assurance he needed to press on. In the same way, it is God’s grasp of my heart that enables me to press on… even when I hurt the most, and that breath doesn’t seem to want to fill my lungs, He is there. When the pain sears down my arms, causing that moment of fear, and that little child in me asks, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?” I am assured by God’s promises that the answer is ‘No!’ Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No! despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loves us. “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 NLT)
My story is one among many who endure illness, struggles, and conflict. Many could write the same basic narrative… but just as the battles are similar, so is the answer… there is hope, and His name is Jesus.
If I could hold onto my grandson’s hand for the rest of his life just so he would know he is never alone, I would do it. But isn’t that exactly what God has promised us through Jesus, our Savior and Lord? Jesus promises to give His rest to all that come to Him who are weary of striving alone and fighting an endless battle without hope. To receive such a wonderous gift by grace, you need only repent of your pride and lay down your own willful desires. In doing so, we make room in our lives for His perfect will, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, that same Spirit who drew Christ out of the grave. I don’t know what you are facing today, but I am confident you don’t need to face it alone.
I keep that image of my grandson and me on my Lock Screen because I need the constant reminder of God’s promises. I look forward to that day when I will actually stand in God’s presence, no longer relying on shadows of things to come; I can’t wait to rest in His presence forevermore. But for now, I close with the final line of Gladiator, ‘We are free, and I will see you soon, but not yet!’
Written by David Brown: David Brown is a husband, father, grandfather, Pastor with a Masters of Religious Studies and a Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religions. Dave is the Associate Pastor of Pemberton’s First Baptist Church.