• 13 November 2023

Chapter 8 – In His Hand

Last October I was stunned by the news that two great friends of mine, Chris and Susanna Naylor, had been killed in a terrible car accident, taking them immediately to God, but leaving behind three children and so many grieving friends. And their death was while they were serving the Lord, with the wonderful Christian environmental charity A Rocha. The founder Peter Harris was badly injured and his wife Miranda killed in the same tragedy.

How very strange that Chris, who was my roommate from university, and a wonderful Christian and human being, should go to be with the Lord before me, when over the past few years he had been so kind to me when I thought I would die in a few months. How mysterious and strange are the ways of God. Life appears so uncertain and seems random. The future seems very fearful.

But then again as I pondered this, my mind was once again cast back to the Bible, to a verse in Psalm 31 which simply says, ‘I trust in you O LORD, I say my times are in your hands’ (Ps. 31:14). I found this verse very helpful when I was first diagnosed with incurable cancer.

We worry about our times – how long will we live? Will I survive this illness? We, as it were, stare at the future and try and get on top of it. But friends, this is ludicrous. We are not able to control even a minute of our times, nor even to see an hour ahead, let alone change our destiny. Being ill exposed for me the truth that was always there but which I didn’t like to think about: I control virtually nothing.

So are we at the mercy of blind fate? Is it like we are simply rolling the dice? Sometimes the dice come up with a good outcome – good health, let’s say – and other times they throw us cancer. Every day 40–50 billion of our cells are replaced and sometimes that replacement process goes wrong. It’s all completely random and there is no ‘hand’.

The Psalmist rejects both outcomes. We note that he starts with trust. Belief in something implies that it is trustworthy. We put our lives in the hand of our doctors and oncologists because we trust that their actions will do us good. The more we get to know them and their skills the more we trust them. It’s the same with God. We start with trust in Him (belief ) but in fact, did we but know it, we are simply confirming the reality of something that’s been true all along: that God has us in His hands.

How comforting it is that we (if we are His children) are in the hands of a trustworthy and loving Father. A good shepherd who loves and leads us along life’s troubled paths. (Far less pleasant, of course, is the thought that we are in His hands but we are not His children. If that is you, come into the family of the Creator God who loves you.)

C.H. Spurgeon sums it up this way:

Yes, God considers our times, and thinks them over; with his heart and soul, planning to do us good. That mind that made the universe, out of which all things spring, bows itself to us; and those eternal wings, which cover the universe, also brood over us and our household, and our daily wants and woes. Do you believe that God’s hand is working with you and for you? We feel we are immortal till our work is done; we feel that God is with us, and that we are bound to be victorious through the blood of Jesus. We shall not be defeated in the campaign of life, for the Lord of hosts is with us, and we shall tread down our enemies. God will strengthen us, for our times are in his hand; therefore we will serve him with all our heart, and with all our soul. He that takes care of our times, will take care of our eternity. He that has brought us so far, and wrought so graciously for us, will see us safely home.

Given all this, how then should we live? I like good old George Whitfield’s saying ‘Until Christ calls us home, we are immortal.’ As best we can, even though grieving and labouring and at times our eyes full of tears we can stumble along as long as we ‘put our hand in the hand of the man who stilled the waters … the man who calmed the sea’.

That man from Galilee holds our times and He holds us. Indeed He will see us safely home. Trust Him!

Excerpt from Hope in the face of suffering – 20 devotions for tough times by Jeremy Marshall

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