For about a week now, an old hymn has been on repeat mode in my mind. If you've spent any time in church world, you know it well--'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. It's the first verse that really grabbed me, though. Especially this line: Just to take Him [Jesus] at His Word.
I wonder how different life might look if were I to just take Jesus at His word. I'm not talking about a red-letter approach to the Word, as though Matthew, Mark, Luke and John had the cornered the market of Jesus' words. I'm talking about the whole Book, cover to cover. I'm talking about Christ the Word... who was in the beginning, was with God, was God. (John 1:1) I'm talking about the promise that Christ upholds all things by the word of His power. (Heb 1:3) And I'm talking about Peter's response to Jesus in John 6 following the departure of many disciples: Lord, we're not going anywhere. Besides, where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)
Jesus is the Word. He's in control, always has been. He's the Rock that compels us to take the next step when the journey is unbearable. Moses wrote over and over and over again that God was with Joseph, even in some awful circumstances. He was with Joshua wherever Joshua went, and He told him to be strong, courageous, unafraid, encouraged. He told Thomas to touch His hands and side. Thomas' response? My Lord and my God! The Word was proven true yet again. And then there's Peter... again. Get out of the boat a come to me, Jesus said. Everything was fine until Peter was overcome by fear and began to sink, but even in Peter's failure Jesus was right there to offer a helping hand.
I’m not trying to say that we have to, ought to or even should trust Jesus. I'm just throwing out the idea that He can be trusted. Big difference. Neither am I saying that fear and doubt aren't or shouldn't be part of our journey. They are and will continue to be. The question is what will we do with them. Joseph, Joshua, Thomas and Peter remind me that, regardless of circumstance, Jesus can be taken at His word. And man do I need the reminder.
I’m also definitely not insinuating that if we will just take Jesus at His word everything is going to be fine and dandy. That would be a ridiculous insult. Life is simply too messy for that. And if you're anything like me, there's probably enough life in your rearview mirror to know that as simple as the Gospel is there are no simplistic formulas for dealing with the complexities of this broken world. So take Jesus at His word? Yes. But there's no guarantee that the storms will cease to rage. Only the promise that Christ will be with you. He can be taken at His word. He is faithful to it even when we are not.
Back to Louisa Stead. It came as no surprise to me that she had a story. In 1875, life changed forever when she watched her husband drown off Long Island. He was rescuing a young boy who himself was drowning. Still, from that devastating event, she was able to give us this conceptually simple, practically complex, experientially validated and eternally satisfying truth - we can take Jesus at His word.