Last night, I did something I very rarely do.
I went to our women’s Bible study.
I only stayed about 15 minutes, long enough to see and visit with everyone. I didn’t stay because if I joined the study, I would miss the next three weeks do to other obligations, graduation and an upcoming business trip. But I wanted to at least “show my face” and encourage them in the beginning of this new study. I would have loved to have joined the group permanently, but my schedule just isn’t allowing it this upcoming cycle.
But, it was so great to be there, even if just for 15 minutes. The entire room was packed out with ladies not only from our church, but from other churches as well. I was especially thrilled to get to sit and visit with two of my friends from “my second church”, Rising Sun Baptist Church, who have joined the study.
The funny thing is, though, is that I was there long enough for the first “group activity”. Now, anyone who knows me well, knows I’m not very good at things like this. I don’t know why, I’m just not. It’s not that it was a hard activity. We were each given a lump of homemade play-doh (that even smelled like lavender), and told that we were first to make something that represented us, and every one at the table was supposed to guess what it was. Hmm. Ok, I’ll play along.
I took my little ball of play-doh and smashed it flat. I then took another piece and rolled it into a snake. Surprise–no one could guess what I was making. It seemed obvious to me–it was a piece of paper and a pen. I’m a writer. Oh well, I guess my play-doh making skills are a bit lacking. It wasn’t one of my favorite things growing up. Too messy.
I thought the exercise was over, but then we were directed to take our lump of play-doh and create a depiction of how God sees us. Hmmm. I looked around my table, at everyone deeply concentrating on their masterpiece. I could see some making hearts, other’s making praying hands, others making crowns (for princesses), and still others making children (child of God). Well. Creativity is not my strong suit. You will never read a novel from me—I just don’t have creativity in me to develop fiction. Or make anything other than “Snakes” with play-doh. So I rolled up my lump of play-doh and dropped it in the cup in front of me. My seat mate asked me what it was. I told her “I am a lump of clay that God is molding.” Bingo. Sunday School Answer for the Win!
After the exercise was over, some people were asked if they wanted to share what they had made. I kept my mouth shut. But a friend at a different table shared her creation. She showed us a hand, and inside that hand, was a depiction of herself. Her explanation was that she was in the middle of God’s hand.
Yeah. So much for my lump of clay. She was spot-on.
I thought about that last night as I went to sleep. What in the world does that mean to be in God’s hand? I certainly don’t “feel” as though I am in God’s hands. I’ve seen too much–experienced too many times when I’ve wondered where his protective hand was. Wondered too many times why He has allowed the things He has allowed in my life. Questioned too many times His very existence. Argued too many times against the providence of God. If God is Sovereign, and He allows Job and Peter like stories, how does this mesh with being in His protective hands?
Still on my mind this morning, I searched for a scripture that I’ve read before, but wasn’t sure where it was. I found it in John 10:28-29:
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
This is Jesus talking. And it speaks directly about being within His hand. And in His Father’s hand.
And I still don’t understand it.
But if I break the words down, and if I remind myself that this is scripture and it is truth, then even in my finite, limited and unintelligent understanding, there is comfort here. No, there isn’t explanation about why suffering happens. There isn’t explanation as to why two friends of mine lost their jobs this week. Or why my best friend from high school is standing next to her mother’s hospital bed this morning while her mother struggles against a very serious illness. There is no explanation as to why, in two weeks, instead of celebrating my son Tim’s graduation together as a complete family, we will celebrate one day, then go visit his father in prison the very next day. It doesn’t explain why two teachers at our local middle school would think it was ok to physically abuse an autistic student. And it doesn’t explain the horrors of sexual molestation, human trafficking, tornadoes, despair, and hopelessness and so many other evils of this world.
I wish it did.
But therein, lies the answer possibly. Here in verses 28 and 29 lies a critical piece of the puzzle. We find it in the very first words “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.” This is not our home. Not really. We are just passing through. And as I was reminded a couple of weeks ago, even though this life seems at times to be terribly, terribly long, it really is very, very short. This is not our home. When we believe, when we become followers of Christ, we are given a new home. We are given eternal life. And it is because of that, nothing can snatch us from the hands of Jesus. Nothing can snatch us from the hands of God. He is greater than all. Greater than all the ills and trials and sufferings of this world.
Those are hard words to hear when you are in the midst of suffering. I know. Believe me, I know. But even though they are hard words to hear, hard words to believe, they are truth. We lie in the hands of God, even in the midst of the hurricanes and disasters. Even when we are surrounded by the evil of this world.
As I’ve often shared honestly here, I struggle with doubt. I struggle with the concept of “who I am to God”. I worry–needlessly, I understand, but I worry nonetheless–about salvation. If I am truly His. If I am truly His child. Especially when I don’t sense His presence.
I think, maybe, we need to be reminded of this especially when we don’t sense His presence. And I think that is what I was reminded of this morning. It’s not just that He is here, even though we may not sense Him. It is not even that He is near, when we are experiencing suffering. No, it is that He has us. He has us, in His hands.
And nothing—and no one—can snatch us out of those hands.