Have you ever stood on the sidelines of a sporting event?
Whether you’re at a Little League game or in the stands at a collegiate or professional match, there is nothing like being in the environment of an exciting, competitive event.
I’m in the season of life where all of my children want to try every single sport: winter, spring, summer and fall. Which basically tells you I’m a full-time theologian but also a full-time taxi driver.
I remember when my oldest son, Liam, got his first chance to start on his flag football team. There were so many good players that he had to work hard to get his opportunity as a starter. The competition was fierce!
Ever since Liam started playing flag football at 5 years old, I had been coaching his team. I’d always been with him on the field and on the sidelines. So when the day came for him to start, he looked at me and said, “Dad … you’re going to be with me, right?”
I said, “Of course, son. I’ll be with all the other parents cheering you on from the stands.”
He said, “No, Dad, I need you to be with me. Like, with me on the sidelines.”
You see, there was something comfortable about Dad being on the sideline with him. Having that familiar voice to provide instruction, direction and encouragement in an environment filled with the perfect recipe of adrenaline, stress and fun brought comfort to Liam. Regardless of his performance, he knew his dad was going to be on the sideline with words of praise, a hug and a fist bump after every play.
But all of that would not be possible if Dad was not with him. Isn’t it true that someone’s presence makes us feel secure and safe? Confident and strong?
This got me thinking about my relationship with God. The assurance of God’s presence brings me comfort. It makes me feel secure and safe. His strength makes me feel confident and strong. But like Liam, many of us struggle when it feels like we’re on the field and God is in the stands. I can find myself thinking, No, God, I need You to be with me. Like, with me on the sidelines.
If that’s you today, here’s something that has encouraged me when I find myself looking for God.
We are reminded of the power, presence and authority of God when we see the phrase “his own arm” in Isaiah 59:16. This reminds us God is not distant from the sidelines but present with us. And for the people in the Old Testament who would have heard this in real time, their minds would have instantly been drawn to a Warrior King who leads His armies into battle. This is the type of King who doesn’t hide in the back and watch. This is the type of King who is on the front lines, personally leading His army into battle.
This tells us something pretty incredible about God: He cares. He cares so much that He would use His power and strength on behalf of the people He loves and cherishes — you and me.
When we think about God in this way, we are reminded of the confidence we can have in God because of the protection He provides for us. Even when we can’t physically see God or even understand what He’s doing, His character has always been to provide for His people. To provide strength. To provide freedom. And not just to provide it but to literally embody it Himself. He is strength. He is freedom.
And because God’s character never changes, the assurance of Him providing for us will never change. Jesus wants us to see Him as the solution and to experience His presence and His kindness even in the middle of all we’re experiencing right now. He has never caused evil or the hurt that comes with it, but He will be so very present with us in the middle of all of it.
So what does this mean to you and me?
When we feel weak, we can take comfort in God’s never-ending, never-ceasing strength.
When our feet feel like they’re slipping, we can hold on to Jesus. He is our stability. He never loses His grip on us.
And when we feel disoriented and alone in a heartbreaking situation we’re facing, we can take hold of the arm of Jesus, who is forever our strength and protection.
God, thank You for Your strength that never fails. Thank You that, even when I feel weak, Your always-present strength is working on my behalf. I trust You in everything I’m facing right now. Continue to reveal Yourself to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
FOR DEEPER STUDY
Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (NIV)
What does the psalmist tell us is our reason not to be afraid? How can this truth interrupt any fear you may be feeling today?