In this 100th blog, I wondered what the Bible had to say about ‘100’.
Nothing glamourous, as I had hoped. The first one embodied a cynical old man! “Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?'” (Genesis 17:17) I wondered… am I still on the ground laughing at God’s promises? Do I still doubt him when he says he will save?
Then a surprise. The last ‘100’ at the end of the Bible was about Abraham as well! “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old.” (Romans 4:19) Yes, each of us can flounder in impossible situations. So often I do. But it is God who laughs at those impossibilities and difficulties.* He tells us, “I’ve got it. Don’t fear.”
Someone asked me, “How do you cope with your emotions when someone has been unkind to you?”
“I have a melt-down,” I said, “and then another one. But afterwards, I try to look to God. It’s hard, though, because all my attention is drawn towards that person, reliving the hurt and wanting justice. But as I read my Bible and pray, I find the strength to look away. I can forgive.”
“I suppose forgiveness lasts forever.”
“Not for me,” I said. “Something will happen and it triggers a memory. I’ll have another melt-down, because, an injustice is always unjust. But I can find God again. I can forgive again, and I can move on.”
Emotions overcome many things, sometimes even the facts. A fact about ourselves is that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.” Yet, we might say, “Dream on. I just took a look in the mirror and, well … Let’s not go there.”
But, if we look deeper, we could see down into our hearts. Sure we might want to hide things, but God has put something profoundly beautiful inside us. “He has also set eternity in the human heart.”
Eternity. A longing for something that lasts. A longing for a relationship that never ends. A dream of never being forgotten, of being remembered and loved. And this is God’s dream for us – him forever relating with our beautiful hearts. Now this is a fact.
Sometimes I forget that I am loved, that God’s strong arms are around me. Jesus told of a runaway: “His father saw him and… ran to his son, threw his arms around him…” (Luke 15:20) That father had waited in agony. He had wept bucket-loads of tears. He had questioned himself, but he didn’t hold it against his son. He hugged him.
God is like that, for “the eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.’” (Deuteronomy 33:27) He knows us. He understands us. He embraces us in our hopes, dreams, in our confusion and grief.
His arms are safe. We can rest. His arms are tender. We can trust.
The waves crashed. Winds howled. The ship was breaking apart. But some sailors in the Bible frapped their ship. “They passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together…” (Acts 27:17)
All of us have been hit by an almighty storm, and our lives are breaking apart. But God wants us to know that he is frapping our hearts. He is holding us together in his strong, encircling arms.
This doesn’t mean that the storm will pass us by, but our hearts can be calm. For Paul on that ship, God told him, “Do not be afraid.” (Acts 27:24) And God keeps telling us, “Do not fear!”
His encircling ropes appear in many ways, and often it comes through us. I’ve seen a lot of frapping happening right now, us helping others before they fall apart. No matter the storm, we can show God’s heart.
There is another side to what we are experiencing now. For when we stop, we begin to see. When we are silent, we begin to hear. We begin to notice what other people feel. Stopping is just as much living, as running our marathons.
“Jesus stopped and called [two blind men]. ‘What do you want me to do for you?'” (Matthew 20:32) He saw their pain and dared to care.
“Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.'” (Mark 10:49) He enabled others to do the same.
In our lockdowns, personal and social, we can follow Jesus’ example. We can stop. And we don’t have to be afraid, for he wants us to see.
Sometimes our emotions hurt too much and we hide from God. But, if we could take a deep breath and open our Bibles, we could find God’s comfort. “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) He cares so much for us.
Taking a walk can bring comfort. For me, it was watching a bird hop along a path, trying to escape my approach. Suddenly it stretched its wings and flew away. And God reminded me that I too can get away from those who threaten me. He says, “I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” (Exodus 19:4)
Talking with a friend is another way. The Bible says, “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.” (Malachi 3:16) God wants us to share our hearts and hurts, for this too is his comfort.
Someone sent me a Valentine’s card. It said, “Your secret admirer.” But it was a prank and my teenage heart hurt. Then as those Valentine days ticked by and I received no more cards, I thought, “I must be totally unlovable.”
Years later, I met an elderly widow and she said, “Everyone one of us has a secret Valentine, someone who loves us so much.”
I knew who she meant, but to me Jesus didn’t count. Yet, this widow’s eyes sparkled. “He sends us Valentines all the time.” She showed me a heart cake she had made, with a Bible verse on top.
I don’t remember the verse, but she was right. Jesus said, “I have loved you.” (John 13:34) And he always has. He always will.