Today I believe the Lord is wanting to speak to us and remind us that, He not only loves us when we are doing well, but that His love and care are powerfully there for us when we make mistakes and mess up.
In the world it is quite common, when taking up a new position or a new job, to be on probation. It’s an opportunity to see how the person does, if they are up to the required standard, and if they are going to fulfill all the requirements of the new appointment. It can sometimes feel a bit like that in church too. Often I have heard the comment from people that they felt more loved and accepted before they became a Christian, and that once ‘saved’ and part of the church it became harder to be honest for fear of not ‘measuring up’, or of being judged if mistakes were made.
It’s a wonderful thought, therefore, that our God is there for us through all our highs and lows and that the blessing Moses pronounced over the tribe of Asher is true for all of God’s children today. Moses declared to them, ‘The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms’, Deuteronomy 33:27. How wonderful that our God is ready to catch us not just when we are in difficult circumstances but also when we fall or fail through our own shortcomings.
We do know that His arms of love are all around us, but sometimes we can think that they are like the arms of a human parent who gives hugs you when you do well. Today let us thank Him that His wonderful arms are also beneath us, when we fall and also that they are everlasting – this is not a six month or even six year probation – our loving Heavenly Dad will always be there to catch us on both the good days and the bad.
Sometimes when we feel our failure, and needing to fall into those ‘everlasting arms’, it’s because we are handling a situation in our own strength, and are not doing so well, but at other times when we struggle and feel as if we are failing, it is because God is in fact stretching us and giving us the opportunity to grow and prove Him in new ways.
When the Israelites were escaping from the Egyptians, God said to them “I have carried you on eagles wings”, Exodus 19:4. That is a beautiful picture of those everlasting arms I think, but then, at another time, He says to them that He might be like an eagle that ‘stirs up the nest and hovers over its young’, Deuteronomy 32:11.
We know that this refers to the eagles’ habit of breaking up the comfortable nest so that the baby eagles are forced to take a leap and attempt to fly. The rest of the verse tells us what our God will do next if we don’t manage the challenges that He puts before us. It says that the eagle ‘spreads out its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions’. The bird will rescue and catch its falling young, and will take them back, to try again and again, until they develop enough wing strength to fly safely by themselves.
It reminds me of Peter when he stepped out of the boat. It was a bold step of faith that Jesus had encouraged, Matthew 14:25-32. We know that when he took his eyes off the Lord and saw the wind and waves he began to sink, but Jesus took his hand and took him back to the boat. How wonderful is that!? Jesus didn’t just say “Sorry mate you didn’t do it right you’ll have to swim now.”? No! Jesus said “You of little faith, Why did you doubt?” and helped him back.
I personally think He said that with a smile on his face, because He would have been delighted that Peter had at least tried. The beautiful thing is that Jesus Himself ‘immediately reached out His hand and caught him’. He didn’t send an angel or command the disciples to throw him a line, but Jesus Himself put out His hand and held him up till they reached the boat.
What a faith building experience for Peter, what a precious moment of connection with ‘the Master’. He now knows “I can take faith risks, I can step out in new ways and I won’t be abandoned by God if I fail or mess up, but I will be OK”. Today let us thank God that He is always there for us, whether we are stumbling because of our own fault or failings, or because we are stepping out in faith and having a wobble. His ‘Everlasting Arms will always be underneath us. What a faithful God we serve! One who will never let us down!