Such a big question that so many of us ask for a variety of reasons throughout our lives, yet during this virus season I have been hearing it more often. Where is God? How can I be sure He’s good? Why? How?
The summer of my 8th grade year I was sitting in evening chapel at summer camp. It had been a great week of swimming, worship, late night scary stories, and sunshine. I remember it being later in the week, probably a Thursday. It was ‘salvation’ night (or as some campers call it, cry night) and after four days and nights of building a relational connection, the speaker shared with us all about the gift of salvation through Jesus.
I had accepted Jesus into my heart at 7 years old, walking to the front at Vacation Bible School. Yet, as the speaker shared the opportunity to accept Jesus, I had raised my hand to respond. I’m not really sure how many times I had done this before, but every time Jesus was offered, I responded. I had to make sure. I mean, I knew how much I sinned, and I wasn’t sure if I had committed the unforgivable sin…PLUS I didn’t want to miss out on eternal life. So, each altar call, I responded.
The reason that particular chapel time stands out is because of what the speaker did when he was finished with the prayer. He asked if any of us had ever asked Christ into our lives before but still felt we needed to ask again – just to be sure. I remember thinking, how does he know? Do I look guilty?
He encouraged us to stay after chapel if we had any questions. I almost didn’t stay, I mean, who wants to admit that they have doubts about Jesus? I was nervous because I thought I’d be the only one, but I sucked it up and stayed. There were about ten campers in our little circle in the front of chapel that night.
After everyone else had left the chapel, he smiled and sat down with us. I remember being excited to have answers as he opened his Bible to Hebrews 13:5.
For God has said, “I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.”
He reminded us of how loved we are and of God’s promise to the Hebrews – and to us. He shared more verses and patiently answered question after question, but my heart zeroed in on I will never abandon you. I had NO idea that was in there! I can remember feeling relief and joy as we closed in prayer. My life was secure in His hands.
I wish I could remember the speakers name, I would thank him for taking time with a bunch of middle schoolers to explain that although this promise didn’t mean easy and pain free, it meant that God would be with us through it. I have clung to this verse ever since.
In Hebrews, the author is reminding the readers in chapter 13 to live for Christ and shares this quote from Deuteronomy 31. The Deuteronomy chapter is the recording of the words of Moses as he passes the leadership mantle to Joshua. In both verses 6 and 8, Moses reminds Joshua to be strong and courageous reminding him that God wouldn’t fail him or abandon him. He also told Joshua to not be discouraged or afraid.
The author of Hebrews knew that the readers would understand the words of God through Moses. They had the benefit of hindsight and knew that God had honored his promise. He hadn’t abandoned his people even when they failed him. Even when they abandoned him, God remained faithful. The same God who honored his promise to his people then, honors his promise for his followers today.
We live in an uncertain world, preparing for whatever is next. The words from Moses continue to stand true – God will not fail. He will not abandon us – He is personally going ahead of us. I continue to hold on the words of Moses shared by the author of Hebrews:
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and
do not panic before them. For the Lord your
God will personally go ahead of you.
He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
A couple summers ago, I stood inside a circle of middle and high school campers. I had shared the gospel in the Thursday night message and had invited anyone who felt that doubt – the need to respond just to be sure – to join me. The circle was full of expectant eyes silently asking, how can I be sure?
I smiled and opened my Bible to Hebrews 13.