The Malaysian jet liner’s disappearance has raised many questions in my family about God, about faith, about prayer and about purpose.
Most of the questions came from our younger ones but nothing during that initial announcement of the plane’s disappearance created more questions or caused more disruption in my daughter’s family than the news that a 12-year old classmate of my granddaughter’s was struck by an automobile while riding his bicycle and that he lay helpless in a coma in the hospital. Later, he succumbed to his injuries and died. So young, so promising.
I received a note from LaKisha, our daughter, who wrote: “Herman and I had to comfort our girls last night while they mourned the passing of their friend. Through
tears, prayers and ice cream, they were finally able to go to sleep. I woke up this morning to see Taylor posted on Instagram.”
She had posted the scripture from Isaiah 43:2: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
What a scripture! What a perspective!
Without a faith perspective, our feet can stray from the place where we met God. There are things like disease, disaster, disappointment and, yes, death that can cause our feet to stray.
The tried and troubled people of God during the prophet Isaiah’s day had three things that helped them stay on the right path with God. First, they had His powerful presence. The Lord assured them He would be with them. No less than seven times, in chapters 41,42 and 43 did the Lord declare that He will be present to help His people. No greater assurance is possible.
As the promise was to Joshua, so it is to every child of God: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be afraid; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you; He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Then, the people of God had God’s potent protection. The waters, rivers and fires of adversity would cause no harm to the Lord’s people. All will be subjected to waters. Some to waters of poverty, unemployment, impaired health, discrimination. Some to fires of physical or mental incapacitation, abuse and the like. But the Lord protects His own. No one is immune from trials, tribulations, troubles and turbulence in this life.
Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Finally, the Lord’s people had His preeminent promise. That promise was that the waters and rivers would not overflow them. Weapons would be formed but would not prosper. Dangerous, deep and dark waters would threaten but could not overflow God’s people. His promise is sure: “They will not overflow you!”
Henry Crowell’s great poem, When Thou Passest Through the Waters, captures the wonderful truth found in Isaiah 43:2. The first stanza reads:
“Do you feel your heart discouraged as you pass along the way?
Does there seem to be more darkness than there is of sunny day?
It is hard to learn the lesson, as we pass beneath the rod,
That the sunshine and the shadow serve alike the will of God.
But to me there comes a promise, like the promise of the bow, That however deep the waters, they shall never overflow.”
Isaiah 43:2 reads in the Message Bible: “When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end.”
My grandchildren are still sad about the loss of their classmate but they are not overwhelmed. They are learning to trust God. They are assured of His powerful presence, potent protection and His preeminent promise.
Lord, keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net . Website: WTRMinistries.com.