When my children were very young, in the soft glow of their dim Disney night lights, I prayed the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 over their little heads as I tucked them into bed each night. Joy would spill over in my heart as their little, angelic toddler voices whispered this common prayer along with me, "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." I have such sweet memories of this season. I also have vague childhood memories of my own father praying this blessing over me as a child. Little did I know on these occasions just how vital an aspect of this blessing would one day become to me.
"This Lord bless you and keep you." Because these opening lines of this common Old Testament blessing have been so often recited, some of the precious truths embedded within it may have become humdrum and seemingly irrelevant to our dull ears. However, in this season I find myself brimming with gratitude over four little words that have served as a rock-solid anchor to my turbulent soul during a recent difficult and unsettling season: The Lord keeps you.
His Keeping in the Brokenness
Life can often be difficult in this broken, fallen world. The Word of God says so (Acts 14:22, John 16:33). This is true for everyone. A friend recently said in regard to the commonness of suffering, "Everyone has their own something." And yet, for some, there are seasons that seem exceptionally difficult and relentless. I just came out of one of those seasons. Life became increasingly hard. Suffering, pain, and brokenness seemed to surround me at every turn and I couldn't seem to catch a break. If my life were a wheel, every spoke seemed bent or broken. I rightly fought for faith but came face-to-face all too often with my own weakness and the frailty of my faith.
Nagging doubts, heart-gripping worries, and faith-crushing fears became constant heart companions. Every ounce of faith I struggled to muster seemed so fragile, and it often faded as the suffering mounted and the enemy assaulted. Though I have studied God's character for years, I found myself questioning God's goodness and wisdom.
Though I knew the promises about the good work God accomplishes in suffering, I struggled to see anything redemptive in my own suffering. My vision narrowed only to see the pain and brokenness. My suffering was also multiplied by the shame I experienced over the feebleness of my faith. I had never felt like such a failure as a Christian. I acutely felt my desperate need of grace! I understood my dire need to be kept.
Sifted to Trust His Keeping
Truth be told, we always need to be kept by God. We never fail to need His keeping hand of protection, security, and safety. The gift hidden within difficult seasons is that we may see more clearly and understand more deeply our desperate need of His keeping. During times of blessing or ease, our self-sufficient hearts can delude us to believe that we keep ourselves. Our hearts can deceive us.
Our common enemy does not help our situation either. Like Peter, Satan desires to sift us like wheat (Luke 22) during seasons of suffering. He loves when our faith fails. Yet, Jesus says to Peter (and to us) in response, "…but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail." Though Satan's aim in our suffering is to destroy our faith, God, in His goodness and wisdom, in His keeping, allows our faith to be sifted so that self-sufficiency falls away and true faith in Him remains.
Jesus ensures that his prayers for us will keep our faith intact during this sifting process. He will not allow our faith, which he purchased with His own precious blood, to fail. His death and resurrection ensure for us this victory of our faith.
As I came to terms with my own weakness, I leaned into His power and ability to keep me. As I felt my own vulnerability and lack of control, I was steadied by His wise and sustained control and protection over all my life. As I experienced my own feeble grip, I was assured that the strong hands that hold the universe together were also holding me. When I cried out for help, my answer came in the life-giving truth that He is my keeper.
The Comfort of His Keeping
"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." (Psalms 121)
When life takes you over troubled waters, fight for faith with all that is within you! But if you find your strength spent, your soul depleted, and your faith faint, allow the precious truth of four little words to change your perspective: The Lord keeps you! Let this reality provide rest for your weary soul. Allow this truth to be your cup of cold water in the scorching heat of the day. When you feel like you cannot keep yourself, let the certainty of His hold on you cause you to breathe out and relax into the loving embrace and strong grip of the One who keeps you.
The Lord is your keeper! He will not let go! Your faith will not fail! May this assurance translate into rich thanksgiving this season! May it infuse you with fresh endurance and strength to keep fighting the good fight of faith!