“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the LORD helped us.’”1 Samuel 7:12
I can still vividly remember my father’s words. I often heard him say, “Till now God has helped us – what will happen next?” He had gone through a lot in his life, and had many answers to prayer and personal experiences of God’s nearness and guidance. But as he was aging, this concern quietly surfaced: How to carry on?
Isn’t there a lot of uncertainty in our world today? All around us, people talk of crises and dangers. In addition, everything is subject to unpredictable change, which also affects our lives. What will the future hold?
This year, 2022, is mostly behind us. Everyone had personal experiences and adventures. Not all of them were pleasant. We may have had times of great hardship and struggle, weakness, and uncertainty. But haven’t you also experienced your heavenly Father’s powerful hand?
There is something special about looking back after a long trek. There are memories of the beautiful highlights of the journey – and the challenges that happened, too. Look farther back in your life: Can you see the loving and powerful hand of God? Do you see evidence of the wisdom and comfort that guided you? Do you see the blessings of God upon your family? Once, David exclaimed, “Who am I, O LORD God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” (1 Chronicles 17:16) God keeps His pledges and promises (Psalm 33:4).
And there is the thought Paul expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:9: “Lord, I am not at all worthy of all the goodness and mercy I have been privileged to experience.” Can you also look back at your life, your failures, stumbling, weariness – and the indescribable goodness, patience, mercy, and grace of God? God has embraced us with His love and repeatedly encouraged, strengthened, realigned, and carried us. He continued to entrust us with new tasks and blessed us. He did so, though we did not deserve it. Do you see the patience and mercy of the Father? Through Scripture and the preaching of the Word, He has strengthened, refocused, and encouraged us. Yes, it’s true: The Lord has carried me thus far.
It is a great privilege to say with Samuel, “Thus far – every single day of my life – the Lord has helped me.” God, that Rock in the stormy surge, that refuge in darkness and fear. HE, the Eternal, is your safe haven and mine. Yesterday, today – and tomorrow. He is not a distant God. He is not an uncertain yearning or just a hope. HE is my Father. I can know Him and live with Him every day. Even if I do not feel His presence, I know with certainty: HE is very close to me and holds me in His hand.
Our God, in His wisdom, has given the world stability and balance. He has initiated and maintained the steady circle of life. He is the provider of man and creatures. The power of His will guarantees our continuance until Christ’s return. This eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent God sustains everything by His Word (Hebrews 1:3) and is at the same time my and your very personal, loving Father and God. He bends down to us, caresses our souls, and encourages us through Isaiah: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (41:10). In 43:1 we read, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.”
None of the looming hardships, difficulties, dangers, and uncertainties are greater than our God. Yes, when we look to ourselves, to our weakness and limited knowledge, we may become fearful. Yes, if we listen to the demagogues and alarmists, we may despair of life. But on the threshold of the new year, we have the simultaneously gentle and powerful word: “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10), and the next verse says, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” And yes, the psalmist also experienced and lived during turbulent times, but he countered that with a “nevertheless” and begins the psalm with, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.”
Therefore, we may confidently look to the future. Our past experiences prove the faithfulness of God. His Word gives us the assurance that this help will be available tomorrow as well. Even when our strength wants to fade, when pain reduces prayer into a desperate sigh, our Father carries us through. His goal is to guide us safely to the eternal harbor. His grace and strength are sufficient for each day. His patience and mercy lift us up when our strength and willpower fail.
“Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15)
“Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God” (Psalm 146:5).