I lived in the Midwest for five years with my family...right in the heart of tornado alley. I vividly recall the weird greenish cast the sky would take on when a storm was headed our way. That was usually my cue to turn on the weather channel and watch for any watches or warnings we may be under.
Sure enough the winds would start building and the clouds would take on an ominous appearance. I've lost track of the number of times the dreaded, but necessary, tornado sirens would go off. My daughter, now grown, is still traumatized by sirens of any sort. Thankfully we had one of the few basements on our street so my neighbors knew that when the sirens went off, to just come over and come in, and we'd all meet in the basement.
We'd try to talk calmly among ourselves as the kids busied themselves with toys in the basement. It was called putting on the façade that all was okay so as to avoid sheer panic and tears. We could hear the wind whipping into a frenzy; the wind would whistle through any miniscule cracks around the windows and doors. We'd listen to the battery operated radio as to the tracking of the storm. There were some very tense times when tornados were, indeed, spotted and were tracking in our direction. We'd watch the time and tick off the minutes as danger approached.
It always happened, though, that just as quickly as the wind and noise grew to a crescendo, all of a sudden an eerie silence would settle in. You knew the wind had stopped and all was painstakingly still. We knew then that we were in the eye of the storm. Kind of ironic that in the center of this massive, swirling, storming entity, was a safe and quiet place known as the eye.
This past week, I have been in my own personal tornado. Just a month off knee surgery, I was hit with a pretty sudden and scary setback. I was already weary from dealing with some other personal issues and was grieving the possibility that I might have to put my beloved, senior gal, Zoe to sleep. Her barking has grown incessant at times.
Enter my anxiety disorder and the enemy lurking to kick me when I was already down, and I was a sitting duck... a ready made disaster, waiting to happen. To say that I came unglued was an understatement. I was a complete and total mess!
In the middle of it all, one of my beloved blogging friends emailed me and ended her loving message with this scripture:
"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand....
For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'" (Isaiah 41: 10,13)
Though I know this scripture, I wrote it down on a small piece of paper and I carried it around with me everywhere. By the end of a few days it was creased and crumpled from being opened, read, and meditated on too many times to count.
Deep down I was having a confidence crisis...doubting myself and doubting that God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do.
OCD (anxiety disorder) is justly named "the doubter's disease".
**I am interrupted as I am writing this post to hear the shocking news that the youngest son of wonderful, loving parents in our congregation just took his life...death by his own hand.
He had served a long tour overseas in the military and wrote, in his final message to his parents, that he could no longer live with the horrific images that filled his days and nights with atrocities (murder, killing, torture, abuse, rape) that he could no longer push away. The victim of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), the only way he could find peace was to end the agony.**
THIS is a STORM. What his parents are facing right now IS A STORM. They make my recent experience look a raindrop compared to a hurricane. No parent should ever have to bury their child...
Now, more than ever, I am brought back to Isaiah 41. WHERE IS GOD IN LIFE'S STORMS?
God is in the eye of the storm...He IS the eye of the storm.
In this verse, above, when God says He will strengthen you...the verb implies that God will attach you to Himself.
For the first several months of my son's life, he was very fussy. Much to others disapproval, I strapped him onto the front of me (I attached him to myself) with a baby carrier, and there and only there, he felt safe, secure, comfortable, peaceful, and calm.
Well meaning people warned he would never learn to sleep in his own bed. I'm pleased to report that my son, now 22, could sleep hanging upside down by his toes in a closet.
When attached to God...we can feel calm in the midst of the storm.
I pray those grieving parents will allow God to attach them to Himself...
God speaks with such tenderness in this verse. When God says, "Do not be dismayed," that is derived from the Hebrew meaning "to see, or to look at". In other words, He is saying, "Don't look about as one does in a state of alarm or danger."
"I will uphold you..." I will enable you to bear ALL your trials. How?
"...with my righteous right hand." This was a Hebrew mode of expression that meant that God's hand was faithful - His hand could be relied upon and counted upon. His hand had been faithful for generations.
"I am your God" = Covenant or Promise
*You can depend on My love
*You can be sure of My power
*You will be comforted and supported by Me
God means so much what He says that He repeats it twice for emphasis...again he repeats His promise in verse 13.
"Don't panic. I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I am your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you." (The Message)
I think of baby lion cubs. When they are heading for danger or trouble and can't hold on to their momma. The mother lioness gently grabs them, with her mouth, by the scruff of the neck and removes them from the danger or trouble and places them gently beside her.
I think...how many times have I not been able to hang onto God, but in His unfathomable grace and mercy, He holds me by the scruff of my neck and pulls me toward Himself and into the eye of the storm where all is safe and calm.
Though the winds may storm and swirl about me, God says, "I have a firm grip on you and I'm never letting go."
God avenges, protects, and provides a way when no way seems walkable.
Are you in a storm right now? Are the winds swirling around you and you've lost your grip on God? If not, are you prepared for when the next storm will hit? Where will you find calm?
Will you pray with me?
Lord, I lift up those parents who are groaning with grief. Hold them with your hand and attach them to yourself. I thank you that you promise and covenant with me that I can depend on your righteous right hand...that I can be sure of your power...that You will comfort, support, and hold me and never let me go. I thank you that your grasp is firm. Help me not to look about me at the storm, but instead to keep my eyes focused on you. You promise you will fight for me if I only remain still in You. I place my confidence and trust in You Lord...the One who never leaves nor forsakes. Be with all those who desperately need You, Your hand, right now. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
Ps. A TRUE STORY: A little girl, about the age of 10, tends to a crying baby in a restaurant as the family she serves casually eats their meal. She is their slave. Her dress is ragged and her hair unkempt. Her eyes look sad and wistful. She wears a tiny cross around her neck. If she's lucky she will be allowed to eat from scraps on their plates when the meal is finished. Even though she is a slave...she trusts Jesus. Her dream is to go to school, but her mother (a widow) cannot afford the price for school. Still she dreams of making something of her life. I wonder if she questions where Jesus is as she looks at the atrocities happening to believers in her country?
THIS LITTLE GIRL COULD POSSIBLY BE A STUDENT AT REDEEMER CHRISTIAN SCHOOL...HOW?
We are two sponsors away from having full sponsorship for our current students who all have similar stories. (RCS shares the love of Christ with believers and non-believers alike). THEN...we can begin adding more students to our roster if people, like you, will let these children know that Jesus does INDEED care.
God calls us in Psalm 68:5 to be a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows...to help those who are oppressed, and do not have the power to help themselves...
$10/month will sponsor one child for one year. If you want to give a desperate and destitute child hope...
Send contributions to: Bev Rihtarchik (put RCS in the memo line)
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC 27513
Also a special fund is being set up to pay for 501c3 filing fees (we're working on it!!) Note if you want to earmark $$ for this fund.
Meet Nisha. She cried when she was sponsored and knew she could attend RCS. This is a dream come true for a little orphaned girl who was cleaning houses to survive. She is 10. She loves reading her new Bible in Urdu.