I’m not exactly sure when it happened, when the reality of His never-failing presence truly settled into my soul. I’ve always remembered, “Be strong and courageous” and “do not fear”. Yes I’ve read “He will not leave you nor forsake you” a bazillion times before, but this time it was different. This time it became more real than anything ever before in my study time. This time, it became true.
As Dad is spending his final days…maybe even hours on this side of eternity, I began to grasp for God to speak to me. Why is he lingering so? Why is he continuing to deny he is dying? And the biggest why of them all; why is a dying man…a man obviously on his death-bed, unable to communicate or move, why is he continuing to refuse Christ as his Savior?
My heart is so confused by all of the emotions swirling around my soul. No, not because I’m loosing my Dad. Truth is, we didn’t have a great relationship. Dad was a lifelong, mentally abusive man. It’s all I had ever known for the last 42 years of my life. And yes, there were times I prayed God would just take him. But God never answered that prayer, at least not in my time. Yet one thing I never did was pray that God would inflict this degree of suffering on the man who raised me. Even now, my heart breaks to know that he hurts so profoundly.
I found that the only way to walk through this journey in life…this storm speeding headlong for me was through God. It is only in Him and through Him that I can find strength and courage to stand facing the wind as the power of the storm batters my tired body. “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them, for the Lord your god, He is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6-8)
I read over it just like I have so many times before, and then the mighty power of the Holy Spirit yanked hold me and forced me to see! “Yes child! Read it again!” I could hear that small still voice…God’s voice strong and steadily commanding me to read it again, and this time, listen. Back to Deuteronomy 31, and there is was…verse 6, “He will not leave you or forsake you.” Verse 8, “…He will not leave you nor or forsake you, do not fear nor be dismayed.” It washed over me like a tidal wave. He will not leave…me.
Right there in verse 8 was the reality of what I had been needing…what I was seeking during this storm in life. I was not to be dismayed…shaken. God spoke it clearly to me as I watched the words on the page jump off at me. “Tonya, there is no reason for you to be shaken. I put your feet on solid ground. I go before you, I stand behind you, I walk beside you. I have hemmed you in my child; I will never leave you.”
No matter how many times in my life I’ve felt unworthy, worthless, or alone, I never have been. Not for one solitary moment! Just as God freed the Israelites from bondage and led them through the wilderness, He has done and continues to do, the same for me. He is my protector, so there is no reason to ever fear. He is my strength, so courage is a gift from Him. He is my protector. I keep saying it over and over because it’s new; sort of like the new Easter dress that I would twirl the skirt in as a little girl. New and exciting, satisfying, beautiful…He will never, He has never left me.
I may not see God in the form of a pillar of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by night like the Israelites did was they wandered the wilderness, but He leads me. On this side of eternity I may never have the answers to the “why” questions with which I’ve showered my Heavenly Father, but one thing is certain. He is my Shepherd. Just as the shepherd brings out his sheep, opens the gates for them to guide their paths, and leads them along the right path in John 10:2-1, God does the very same thing for me today…and every day. Forever. How do I know? Quite simply because my Abba told me so.