“. . . be satisfied with what you have for He, (God) Himself, has said:
I will not, in any way,
nor give you up,
nor leave you without support.
[I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not]
in any degree
leave you helpless,
nor forsake you,
nor let you down [relax My hold on you]
So, we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say:
The LORD is my helper.
I will not be seized with alarm.
[I will not fear
or be terrified]
What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6 AMPC) (Emphasis added to words in bold and underlined)
“Nana, can we play outside afta’ you exacise?” I smiled down at my grandson and gently stroked the back of his head.“ Of course, darlin’.”
Pondering the Word. I watched him put his Garfield water bottle and hoodie into one of the red and yellow cubbies lining one wall of the playroom, then walk over to the table where the childcare worker was tracing little hands onto white paper plates. I smiled. I knew what Ansel would proudly give me in an hour and a half when I finished my “exacise”.
“Thank You, Father, thank You, thank You, thank You that I live close to my grandsons. Thank You for the privilege of helping care for them.”
I walked down the hall and into the kitchen area, filled my own, non-Garfield, water bottle and added an energy/vitamin powder. The familiarity of the kitchen and lounge area of the big, window-walled YMCA enveloped me. A twenty-something woman sat in one of the cushy chairs near the silenced TV, yellow baby blanket draped from shoulder to lap, caressing little feet in tiny lace-topped socks as she talked to another mom opening snack boxes of grapes and cheese for the two toddlers staring at the Cookie Monster.
I nodded and smiled at the retired couple sitting at one of the four countertop-height tables. As usual, he was reading the paper and she was working the crossword, several copies of which were set out each morning for the many seniors who frequented the YMCA, some of us by choice and others of us, like me, to combat arthritis and keep some body parts from further loss of function.
After putting my gym bag and water bottle into their usual spot in the corner by the rack of weights, I spread a mat on the floor, sat down cross-legged and put the stack of hand-written papers on the floor so I could look at them while I stretched my quads. For the next twenty minutes of stretching, I looked at the top paper in the stack, moving it from one side to the other as I twisted and turned, repositioning legs, arms and torso, reading one phrase, doing one stretch then glancing at the paper again to be sure I had that phrase right, then moving on to the next phrase as I held the next stretch for fifteen or so seconds.
Two weeks earlier, I had started studying, desperately, Bible verses about peace, my area of greatest need. Heeding the sound teaching of Joyce Meyer and Derek Prince to take the Word of God like the medicine it is and to meditate constantly on verses in my areas of need, I had used a rickety card table as my desk, perusing the Word as if for a test. I copied the verses in longhand so I could carry them everywhere and use them as the sword and shield they actually are, to fight back against fear and other negative feelings.
As I copied the verses, I put groups of phrases that went together, on a separate line, anything to help me deeply understand what God was saying and to ensure God’s imprinted Word came to mind when negative feelings surged. That little stack of handwritten verses had become my lifeline and that morning, while Ansel played and I stretched, lifted weights and then bicycled, I thought about what God was saying in Hebrews 13:5-6.
The context of Hebrews 13:5-6. Hebrews 13 opens with instructions about loving each other, practicing hospitality, and the surety of God’s judgement on adultery. Verse 5 begins with the warning to not love money, but rather to be satisfied with what you have because God would never fail or abandon us and that, because of that, we can confidently say “God is my helper, so I will not fear. What can people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6, NLT) . By God’s grace, thirty-plus years of experiencing His faithfulness had molded a trusting heart, and years of consistent effort to be thankful had molded a grateful heart. However, I was now desperately pondering God’s faithfulness to provide for my biggest need, which was emotional. I glanced at the page as I leaned sideways, arms overhead.
“. . . be satisfied with what you have for He, (God) Himself, has said: . . . “ “So, satisfied means content, which brings to mind a cud-chewing, peaceful, cow, one that has ceased grazing and is not fretting about the next mouthful of grass, simply enjoying what she now has. So, I reflected as I leaned to the other side, to be content emotionally I should relax where I am right now and stop searching. I inhaled deeply. And I can do that because God, God Himself, the Amplified version says, is making the rest of promises I have copied down. God Himself, the One Who created and sustains the entire universe, is here with me, He Himself. I repeated those words several times — “God Himself”.
“I will not, in any way, fail you nor give you up, nor leave you without support . . . “ “Father, those three beautiful words, “in any way”, cover everything. How reassuring! And You have, in every way, taken care of me and Sharon for so many years. And not just materially. You sent godly men to be father figures for her, kind-hearted people to initiate friendships in my years of painful shyness, the energy to finish school and get a good job, and a wonderful husband for Sharon. And then You brought me here to Austin when she had Ansel’s older brother.
I paused as I flipped on my back for crunches. “Lord, I am certain that the words ‘in any way’ include healing my heart of depression and fear and teaching me to stay in peace, though that seems impossible right now. I choose to believe that, Lord. no matter my feelings.”
. . . fail me, nor give me up, nor leave me without support. My margin note from Webster’s 1828 dictionary defined fail as “to become deficient, to decay or decline or to be entirely exhausted” (http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/fail). “Well Lord, You are the exact opposite. You are all-sufficient, never-ending, ever the same, and without limits. Failing is impossible for You, and You say You will never fail me.
And regarding giving up, that sounds like giving someone up to an enemy, and I know You would never do that, because the enemy of my soul is Your enemy. I need to ponder on that some more, but the promise of never leaving me without support brought hope and comfort the first time I saw it. You know, Lord, how often ‘I can’t do this!” comes to mind. In just the three days I’ve been pondering this verse You have already done something because now, as soon as that thought comes, this truth of Yours overrides the lie, and I think of You right beside me, helping me. Then I do not feel so alone or scared. I know that in You, with Your support, in any way I need it, I can do anything You want me to (Phillippians 4:13) and that includes sitting down with the bills, getting the car fixed, and hanging on to Your Word until depression is only a memory.
[I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not. I held the papers in my hand as I did leg extensions. “Bible teachers and preachers consistently say pay close attention when You repeat something three times, Lord. Thank You for focusing my attention on that. It speaks of the fierceness and determination of Your love for us. And it strengthens all of these promises.”
“in any degree” I know that degree can mean part of something or how much of something is present. It is also a term in geometry, like the smallest parts of an angle or circle. And Your Word has lots of references about how You encircle us or surround us or compass us about. That is another way of saying You have us completely covered.
. . . leave you helpless, nor forsake you, nor let you down [relax My hold on you]. “ Lord, that is so comforting! You know how often I feel helpless and like everyone has given up on me. You know how dreadfully alone I feel sometimes. Help me hear, with my heart, how intensely You are saying in these verses that You will take care of every single aspect of every single thing I need.
“Assuredly not!” I put the papers on the floor by the biceps machine as I read the next phrase and thought: As if He had not already made it clear, with this “Assuredly not!”, God is reinforcing, like rebar undergirding concrete, everything He said before. He is saying that He will DEFINITELY take care of me.
“So, we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say: The LORD is my helper. . .” Hmm, that “so” is there because it connects these thoughts, meaning that everything in the previous verse, I am empowered to take comfort. And I notice the word “take.” God offers it, but I must take it. That is a choice. So, because of everything else God has just said, I can be comforted and encouraged . I can know God will help with whatever I am doing and I can have confidence to say boldly. . .
I will not be seized with alarm. [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?” I pondered that phrase and the whole passage during the next thirty minutes on the recumbent bicycle. Then, I put my verses in my gym bag and walked toward the Child Watch room, pondering the phrase “seized with alarm.” “Lord, that is what the fear feels like. It feels like someone has grabbed me. So, maybe that means if I give in to fear, if I think about the problems instead of You, the enemy uses fear to grab and control my heart. Help me think about that, Lord.”
God Himself. . . I signed Ansel out then followed his eager feet down the hall to the playground. With him seated on the bench next to me, swinging his legs, I opened the package of cream-cheese and chives crackers and made a circle of the six crackers on the napkin in his lap. He leaned against my left shoulder, I opened my baggie of grapes, and we had our usual snack as we watched other children run up the ramps and giggle on the see-saw. Grandfather oaks interlocked thick branches overhead, grackles flew under the shaded canopy from one tree to another, and butterflies zigzagged above the tall grass at the distant edge of the play area, all as familiar to me as my own bedroom.
“And to Ansel”, I reflected. “He is at ease here with me. Although he cannot verbalize it yet, he feels safe and he is fully immersed in the moment. He is not afraid of anything here, he is not dreading anything, and if something does scare him, I will not let his fear turn to terror because I will take care of whatever has troubled his little heart. I will not let anything happen to him. I have the power to do that. He is safe and content because I have never, never, no never, failed him in any way. Assuredly not! And don’t I tell him over and over “I love you, I love you, I love you”? And don’t I show it a thousand ways?”
A soft breeze whispered in my ear and I turned to the side to be sure the paper plate was securely nestled in the top of my open gym bag, safe from any gust of wind. I placed my hand over the little hand print traced in the center, encircled by paper flowers with white glue bulging around the edges.
“Yes, Lord, and don’t You tell me You love me in a thousand different ways? And don’t You take care of me a thousand different ways? I will be content, Father, right here where I am, with You, with You Yourself. That is more than my mind can comprehend, Father. Thank You! Help me have more faith, faith like a little child.”