Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How One Simple Gesture Can Combat Fear

So do not fear, for I am with you; 
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you and help you; 
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  
Isaiah 41:10

It’s the kind of sunny, crisp day that lures the entire family out to play before dinner.  My long-legged girl swings back and forth, pumping to make the swing go higher and higher.

“I’m swinging so high I can see heaven,” she yells.

Her brother, on the swing beside her, laughs and says, “Yeah! Me too!”

“No, really! I can see Jesus,” she insists, recognizing the faint shred of disbelief in his voice. “And He’s holding my hand!” she adds, raising her hand toward the sky.

“He’s holding your hand?” he asks. I’m thinking the exact same thing.

“Of course, silly,” she responds fearlessly. “Jesus is always holding my hand.”

My momma heart prays that she will remember this when life gets hard, troubling or unfair. I walk through most of my days forgetting that Jesus is holding my hand.  Sometimes, I completely ignore the fact that not only is He with me, but Jesus is for me.

Holding Jesus’ hand is the simplest way to combat fear.

When I was seven, I was caught in a terrifying thunderstorm in the middle of an amusement park.  I remember two things as vividly as if they happened yesterday:  first, the earsplitting sound of thunder and second, the sense of security I felt as I held my grandpa’s hand. All the way through the crowd of panicked people trying to make their way through the drenching rain, Pop squeezed my hand. Each time the black sky split open with lightning, his hand reminded me that he would keep me safe.

The power of this simple gesture isn’t reserved for childhood. I’ll never forget the day my friend held my hand and, through tears, begged God for a miracle. She knew I wanted a baby more than anything, and she also knew I was struggling to believe. Fear had invaded my heart and threatened to take over. Her touch told me that my burden had become hers. She was fighting in my corner, because fear had stolen my will to fight.

There’s security, affection, love and loyalty, but there’s also an intimacy that holding hands invokes. I love that my hand gets lost in my husband’s. After fourteen years of marriage, it communicates commitment. It reminds me that our relationship is based on a love that grows deeper with time. When all three of our babies were born, he was there beside me as I nearly crushed every bone in his hand with mine. Holding his hand made the pain bearable and the fear subside. It changed everything, holding his hand.

The beauty in this simple gesture is a joining together of weak with strong.

In relationship, strong and weak are often interchangeable. In each of these instances, I was weak –either emotionally, spiritually, or physically- but in time it was my turn to be strong for the very same people who had been strong for me.

In the last months of his life, I held Pop’s hand when his mind convinced him we were strangers. Years after my friend stood in the gap for me, I held her hand and begged God to move in her marriage. I held my husband’s hand when he lost someone he loved. 

Holding hands is an extension of the relationship. The gesture itself remains constant, but the role of those joined together can fluctuate. We alternate holding each other up. We take turns being strong, and we take turns being weak.

It is an entirely different experience when we hold hands with the One who remains constant.

In Isaiah 41:10 God uses the name Elohiym, which means “strong God.” He remains strong and constant and always present. He won’t reject us or ever let go. God will never grow tired of being for us. It’s just who He is. He doesn’t expect us to be anything but held.

When I extend my hand, I extend trust. I choose to be vulnerable. Admitting I need Someone stronger means admitting I’m not strong. It means accepting that I am weak. I’m realizing that my issue is not just that I don’t remember Jesus is here. It’s much more than forgetfulness. There’s a rebelliousness in me that refuses to grab hold. 

I want to take His hand after my prayers sound pretty and my faith feels deep and my questions are answered.  I don’t want to come honestly, vulnerably, messy and confused, because that means I have nothing to offer. I don’t want to be weak.

Fear tricks me into believing that I can’t come to Jesus as I am: broken and in need. But it’s often in my weakest moments, when I have no other options, that I move towards Him and take His hand. There in His grip, I remember that He chose me. 

Love leaves no room for fear. We could never earn His love, so we can never lose His love. Jesus makes this amazing promise in John 10:28 that’s bold enough to eliminate any fear: “No one can snatch them out of my hand.”

Jesus’ hand is just an extension of God’s irrevocable gift.

May we be reminded that we are chosen and dearly loved by a God willing and able to handle our hearts. May we move toward Jesus with empty hands and a broken spirit rather than arms full of excuses and pride. May we recognize that our only option is to be held by Jesus’ strong, nail-scarred hand. And may fear melt away in His grip.

Jesus love you,

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