Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom….So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand….For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you….When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Luke 12:32; Isa 41:10,13; Ps 56:3,4)
I wrote the first version of this back in 2017 in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey which engulfed the Houston metro area. More than 30,000 people were displaced and many have not yet fully recovered from this monster storm. I expand it now for people struggling with new painful trials and troubles.
Jesus Is Our Creator and Caretaker
The Blue Marble is a photograph of Earth taken in 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, 28,000 miles from Earth. It is one of the most reproduced images in history. Pastor Jacob Eppinga (1917-2008) kept a picture of the astronaut’s photo on his study wall to remind him of Christ’s loving creation and care for us on His planet. The photo reminds me of Acts 17:24-28:
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth….He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man (Adam) He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being….We are His offspring.’
The Blue Marble photo triggers awe and wonder when we remember the Lord who created us and our planet. Psalm 100 declares: “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Sadly humans have spoiled Jesus’ perfect world with our sinfulness.1 But graciously God still cares about us individually when we sit, rise, walk, and lie down. The Lord knows all that we think, say, and do every minute. Christ knows about our suffering from natural disasters, from our own sin, and from sin against us by Satan and other people. The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; He remembers that we are dust.2
Christ Will Re-create New Heavens and a New Earth
Pastor Eppinga rummaged through his boyhood toys and found Old Bluey, a glass marble that was nicked and chipped and resembled the astronaut’s photo. He began to carry the marble in his pocket. Soon Eppinga used Old Bluey to show and tell a children’s lesson at church. He taught that Jesus holds our world in His hands and He never drops it. We lose and forget glass marbles, but Christ never misplaces us or fails to remember us. Eppinga taught how God’s perfect world is now damaged, decaying, flawed, and frustrated by human sin,3 but the Lord will return to renew it soon. Christ says: “See, I will re-create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”4 Revelation 21-22 tell us many more details.
These truths are deep, rich, and sweet and they change our perspective on everything. A song summarizes the doctrine: God’s got you and He’s got me in His hands; He’s got our brothers and our sisters in His hands; He’s got all of His creation in His hands; He’s got His whole world in His hands.5 The writer of Psalm 121 lifted up his eyes wondering, where will my help come from? Then by faith he answered, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” He reminded himself of Bible truth like we must do.
Pastor Eppinga repeated the lesson for other groups and at a memorial service for one of Jesus’ followers who was promoted to glory (from Earth to Heaven). He used it in pointing people to Christ as our only Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. God so loves the world and the people He made, that He not only holds us up, but God gave Jesus, His only Son, to live and die and rise and pray for us, so that whoever trusts in Christ will not perish but have everlasting life.6 The Lord who is wise, strong, and loving enough to create us and His world that we live in is also wise, strong, and loving enough to save us and carry us through this life and into the world to come. We sing: “His love is breaking through my heart of stone. His love is breathing to awake my bones. His love is reaching out to save my soul. His love’s never gonna let me go.”7
Jesus Has Helped, Is Helping, and Will Help Us
Elisabeth Elliot’s radio program “Gateway to Joy” opened like this: You are loved with God’s everlasting love, that’s what the Bible says, And underneath you are Christ’s everlasting arms.8 When people asked Elisabeth, is God paying attention? And if so, why doesn’t the Lord do something about our suffering? She answered, “Christ has, He did, He is doing something, and He will do something.”9 Hang on and trust Him.
- Past Help: God the Father showed His love for us by sending His one and only Son to be the Savior of the world that we might live through Jesus. By Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, He made full atonement for our sins. God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His beloved Son so that whoever comes to Jesus will never be cast out.10
- Present Help: The Son of God upholds the universe by His powerful word. And He is our High Priest who sympathizes and empathizes with our weaknesses and gives us mercy and grace to help in our time of need. In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. We cling to Jesus because His right hand upholds us.11
- Future Help: Christ will return and bring us as His Bride to a new heaven and a new earth. God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) will dwell with us. We will be His people and God Himself will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. And we will live with the Lord forever in paradise. Christ will say, Well done, good and faithful servants! Come and share your master’s happiness!12
Our blessings in Jesus are so great: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Christ.13 I never want make light of people’s suffering in this life. Jesus wept with sorrow over the death of His friend Lazarus and over Jerusalem’s unbelief.14 But the Bible says that when we think about being in paradise with Jesus for a thousand years, for 10,000 years, for a million years, our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.15
The hymn says, “Jesus Christ is our God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home.” That’s true before, during, and after Hurricane Harvey. And the Lord loves us and cares for us before, during, and after all the troubles we face. So let us re-trust Christ whatever is going wrong in our lives and help others do that.
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.16
Notes (various translations used): 1 Gen 3:17-19. 2 Psa 103:13-14. 3 Rom 8:18-22. 4 Isa 65:17. 5 adapted from Spirituals Triumphant, Old and New (1927). 6 John 3:16. 7 Kristian Stanfill. 8 Quoting Jer 31:3 and Deut 33:27. 9 Suffering is Never for Nothing, p. 13. 10 1 John 4:7-21; Col 1:13; John 6:37. 11 Heb 1:3; 4:14-16; Rom 8:28; Ps 63:8. 12 Rev 21:1-4; 1 Thes 4:17; Luke 23:42; Matt 25:21. 13 1 Cor 2:9. 14 John 11:35; Luke 19:41-44. 15 Rom 8:18. 16 Heb 13:20-21.