April 1, 2012

Hold Tight!

One of the clear memories I have of when my children were infants is putting my finger on their palms, and watching their little hands grasp mine. How tightly those little fingers held on! As my children grew into toddlerhood, they loved to hold hands with me. Sometimes I would give their hands a gentle squeeze, and watch their faces light up as they reveled in the sheer joy of having their dad close beside them. Love, joy, security, and safety were all communicated to them by our clasped hands.

I remember hearing about a little girl who was walking home with her father late one night. As they trudged along in the darkness she said, “Take my hand, Papa! I can only take a little piece of yours, but you take the whole of mine.” A few minutes later she asked, “Papa, are you afraid?” “No,” he replied. “All right!” she said. “If you are not, I am not.”

How many times have we been in the same position as that little girl? It may not have been a walk in the darkness that concerned us. Perhaps it was something far more devastating: a financial crisis, troubles with a rebellious child, serious illness, or the loss of a job. Or it may not have been a major crisis, but just a nagging sense of insecurity or foreboding. The fact is, no matter how strong we are, times come when we feel like a scared child inside. We all face circumstances at some point in life when we simply want to say to someone bigger and stronger, “Hold my hand!”

What is there about holding a strong hand that is so comforting? I love the picture the prophet Isaiah gave us when he said, “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus [and we can put our names there in place of Cyrus], whose right hand I have holden…” (Isaiah 45:1). The Hebrew word translated holden literally means, “to fasten upon; to seize, be strong, cure, help.” God was saying that when our hands are in His, a strong, unbreakable bond is formed between Him and us. And like that little girl grasping her father’s hand, we somehow find reassurance and understand that we do not need to be afraid.

As children grow a little older, their perspective about holding hands changes. They become increasingly independent, and at a certain point they become embarrassed to be seen walking hand-in-hand with their dad. That is normal when it comes to a child’s development.

Sadly, it is also possible to develop an independent mindset in our spiritual journey, and begin to withdraw from our Heavenly Father. Perhaps we start to think that we are capable of taking care of our own problems; we do not need to “trouble” Him with every detail. We lose contact with God because we do not feel we need Him that much. As we loosen our grasp on God’s hand and cease to be fully dependent on Him, it is not long before we find ourselves alone, and without comfort or direction.

It is valuable to consider some benefits of holding tightly to God’s hand all the way along our spiritual journey.

It shows God that we love Him. In certain cultures around the world, it is customary for adults to hold hands as a sign of friendship. I remember making friends with a Vietnamese interpreter. Once or twice he reached out to hold my hand. I felt a little uncomfortable at the time, given my American background, but I understood that the young man was trying to communicate that he was my friend and he trusted me. I think God feels that way about us when we cling to His hand. He understands that it is one way we show our love for Him.

It provides us with guidance. Only God knows what will happen today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or ten years from now if Jesus tarries. He knows where we will be. The Psalmist said, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:9-10). We do not need to see far into the future, for God knows what we will be doing. We simply need to let Him lead us step by step, past every detour, every temptation, and every rough spot in the road.

It gives us strength and courage. In the Book of Isaiah we find this wonderful promise, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10). Just a few verses on, we read, “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee” (Isaiah 41:13). Although this covenant commitment was made to Israel, it applies to us as well. What a wonderful assurance!

It is a source of provision for our needs. When Ezra the priest desired to lead a group of Jews back to

Jerusalem, he faced a challenging task. We read, “And the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.” The journey was accomplished “according to the good hand of his God upon him” (Ezra 7:6,9). Scripture does not tell us exactly what Ezra requested or how this occurred, but clearly God’s hand of blessing was upon Ezra. And it can be upon us as well.

Those who serve God are not promised a trouble-free life, but they are promised that God will be there to sustain them.

It is a support in challenging times. Many verses in the Book of Psalms speak of God’s support and defense of His people. For example, regarding the advantages of the righteous, David declared, “Thy right hand hath holden me up” (Psalm 18:35). The “right hand” in Scripture is symbolic of power and authority. In Psalm 37:17, the Psalmist asserts, “The Lord upholdeth the righteous.” Those who serve God are not promised a trouble-free life, but they are promised that God will be there to sustain them. 

It symbolizes our confidence and trust in God. Just prior to the 1988 Winter Olympics, a television program featured the training of blind skiers for slalom skiing. After mastering the skill of making right and left turns on flat ground, they were taken to the slalom slope, where sighted partners skied beside them shouting, “Left!” and “Right!” Think of the confidence those skiers needed to have in those who were issuing directions! By dependence on the sighted skiers’ words, they were able to negotiate the course and cross the finish line. If we live in trust and total dependence upon God, He will never let us down.

Knowing all this, why would we not want to hold tightly to His hand as a child does to a parent? When life is fine, it feels good to nestle our hand into the sure grip of our Heavenly Father and enjoy the journey. When life brings challenges, what a comfort it is to feel the strength of our Heavenly Father’s hand holding ours.

No matter whether we are new in this Christian journey or have served the Lord for many years, let us remain as little children who depend on their father for comfort, assurance, help, and guidance. In the good times, let God grasp our hand. In the hard times, let us grip His hand tightly. He will lead us safely all the way to Heaven!

apostolic faith magazine