Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand." (John 10:25-29, NKJV)
Many images capture the essence of the thought. A young child clings to her mother's hand in a crowded shopping center. A father reaching down the rocks to grab the hand of his son as they ascend to the summit. Even Frodo and Sam in the belly of Mount Doom as one the hero pulled back from the edge of the flaming abyss. The firm, saving grip of someone stronger, on firmer ground, and in a position to help and protect. Add to that the image I get of a precious object being placed in one hand, held firmly, and then another hand – one even larger – envelopes both the object and the former hand.
The leader of the men's ministry at my church regularly signs his e-mail with the phrase "In His grip". It dawned on me this week, as we had another event approaching, that the passage in John portrays this in such a plain, protective manner. I've quoted that verse multiple times, but I don't think I made such a connection before with this line of thinking. God has me "in His grip" and has no intention of letting go of me. In His love for me, He sent Jesus to die in my place, rise again, and place me in His own hand. Then God the Father wrapped His massive hand around all that and holds it all.
So, why do I tend to feel uncomfortable rather than safe? Why do I try to wriggle out of His grip and go it on my own? And why, after all He did to get me there, do I feel like I'm not really worth hanging on to anyway? At the core is my internal conflict with self-sufficiency and self-doubt.
I like to feel like I'm going it on my own. I want to feel like I contribute something to my salvation, or at least to its continued relevance in my life. The Pharisee in me rises up and believes himself to be important enough to make his own decisions. God's redemption was a great start, but now He expects me to take over and do it myself. Sure I'll need his protection from time to time, but that's only as a kind of "back-up" for making sure I can do it on my own. As a result, I don't feel comfortable "in His grip" like I should.
Or, when my thoughts of great inferiority rear their ugly heads, I know God can't possibly want to keep me in His hands. Oh, I'll sing the old camp bus song along with the best of them, but I don't feel like I belong. There is an uncomfortable intimacy in those hands and my acute awareness of my own sinful life makes me feel ashamed. As a result, I don't feel comfortable "in His grip" like I should.
The great paradox here (at least for me) is that God wants me to be bold and act for Him. He has chosen to make me His emissary on earth … to share His love for a lost and dying world. He also wants me to be very aware of my sin and how it did disqualify me from being in his presence. In constantly recognizing that, I remember that I have a great Advocate in Jesus who took care of that part for me because I couldn't do it on my own. And in being a bold bearer of His Gospel and a blessed recipient of that same Gospel, He is all the while holding me "in His grip" for my own safety, comfort, and my very life. And He does this all based on His own choice and out of His own sense of love for me. He already knows us more completely than we know ourselves … and He still desires the most intimate contact with us.
As I travel down the Crooked Path, I can feel confident and secure knowing that the God of the Universe has reached down across time and space to hold my hand. The path may get difficult, and I will need that Hand to keep me safe. The path will get weary, and I need that Hand to comfort and sustain me. The path is most definitely crooked, and I can rest in the assurance that God's hand will guide me through every twist and turn. Like the son reaching up to the father while ascending the slope, my Father has me "in His grip" and that is a most comforting thought indeed. So the next time Dean signs off his e-mail with that phrase, I can smile broadly and feel very loved and very secure.
- When was the last time you really felt like you were "in His grip"? Was it a source of comfort or discomfort?
- Do you feel like you want to wriggle your way out of the Father's hand so you can "do something" or otherwise make your mark?
- When you think about being held by God, do you get a distinct sense of unworthiness? Do you struggle against a feeling that you don't belong there?
NKJV - Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.