“Put your hand in the hand of the man who stills the waters . . .”
It’s been decades since I heard that song by Ocean, but the snatch I caught took me right back to seventh grade. I was riding the after-school bus, sitting not with the cool kids in the back; not with the nerds and little ones up front; but in the forgotten center. The girl I usually rode with had died the week before. She was electrocuted in an accident, and I was trying to wrap my head around how it might have happened and what it meant that she was gone.
Back then, schools didn’t call in the psychologists to help kids deal with trauma. I don’t remember going to a funeral or my parents helping me to understand. Maybe I didn’t even tell them. I do remember sitting on that bus, wondering and grieving. And I remember that song coming out of somebody’s portable transistor radio. The chorus came to me like the voice of God:
“. . . put your hand in the hand of the man who calms the sea. […] put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.”
It was as if God said, Come to me, Sarah; you with your sadness and questioning heart. Take my hand and let me comfort you.
It was an offer not just of comfort but of hope. It was a safe place to go; it offered assurance that all would be well. It was a reminder that the One who made the seas and calmed them, who created my friend and me (and created this life that includes death) has death in hand, as well.
The Lord holds us by the hand
Recently I read Psalm 37:23-24 and thought of that supporting hand:
Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
when he delights in our way;
though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us by the hand. (NRSVCE, emphasis mine)
I thought of the way my son holds his baby’s hands as the child is learning to walk. He clears away obstacles from the floor, steers his little boy onto a clear path, lifts and encourages him as he goes. From the baby’s vantage point, there must seem to be so many dangers! But Daddy easily conquers them and leads him with a proud smile.
What I get from that psalm in today’s troubles, and what that song spoke into my sorrow when I was young, is the close and tender love of God. He holds me close like my dad would when I was overwhelmed at school, or like my mom would when I was hurt. The Lord cares. His love is personal and real, not abstract.
There are many reasons I know that love, including personal experience. But that song and that verse reminded me of how powerful it can be to have an arsenal of scripture verses and spiritual songs in your head, ready to remind you of goodness and truth when things go bad. When you take time to plant seeds of the Word in your heart by frequent reading and prayerful meditation, you’ll find that the Holy Spirit will bring the right one to mind when you need it (see John 14:26).
As Pope Paul VI wrote in Dei Verbum,
For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. […] “For the word of God is living and active” (Heb. 4:12) and “it has power to build you up . . . “ (21)
Verses to take to heart
Here are some of my favorite reminders of God’s love, that I have taken into my heart and that have fed my soul and build me up. Spend some time meditating on one or more of them and allow them to feed you, too. (If you keep a journal, you might write in it the truths they tell — and what you hear them say to you.)
- “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)
- “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
- “The Lord your God is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
- “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39)
May you draw close to God as you enter into his Word.
© 2019 Sarah Christmyer