Okay. It’s official. Finals week has rendered me incapable of producing rational and mature thoughts.
You know, when I was in high school, getting ready to start my senior year, I honestly didn’t think that much about finals week in college. Thoughts more like, “Oh my gosh! I’m getting to go to college! I can’t even believe it!” ran through my head. And all of my older friends who had been through the finals cycle would tell me how crazy pre-finals and finals week were but I didn’t even think about it.
Now I understand.
Finals aren’t academic. Finals are capital punishment that smells like tree pulp.
Okay, that might be a little dramatic. But really, despite how much “powering through” it takes to get through finals week alive, it’s actually not all that bad. Sure, you have to sacrifice your social life along with your perfect sleeping habits, but once it’s all done and over with you won’t even care…at least, I hope that’s how it is when it’s all over.
Regardless of my stress level, God is still God, and He’s still reminding me of how very little I actually know about Him, about the things He’s done, the things He’s capable of, in the most wonderful way possible. This morning during my devotions I learned so many new things. One of the first places I visited in my Bible this morning was Isaiah. I was reading about Hezekiah’s sickness and then his recovery. Now, before this past summer, I didn’t really know a whole lot about King Hezekiah. I did a little bit of studying concerning his reign and God’s presence in his life, but not a ton. This morning, however, I learned something new about him and about God. Hezekiah was king during a time when the king of Assyria was power hungry and striving to destroy Judah (the Southern part of Israel). Hezekiah, in his frightening position under pressure of war and destruction, had been depending on himself to deliver his people. But finally, when the Assyrians were practically knocking on Judah’s door, Hezekiah stepped back and put his trust in the God of David. God says to Isaiah, after hearing Hezekiah’s prayer for health and the deliverance of his people from Assyrian forces, “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city” (Isaiah 38:5,6, ESV).
The second line and then the last are what really caught my attention. “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears.” This line reminded me of Psalm 56:8. In my Bible, the title of this chapter of the Psalms is “In God I Trust,” which is appropriate to apply to Hezekiah’s situation since, well, God was the only One powerful enough to defeat the bad guy (Assyria) and Hezekiah needed to either trust Him and accept His aid or watch his city burn. Psalm 56:8 says, “You (God) have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” The next verse is even better: “Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.”
This verse hit me right in the chest and filled me with hope. “This I know, that God is for me.” GOD IS FOR ME. Please, let us all say this together. You, reading this, say this out loud. I don’t care if there’s people around or if you feel weird, just say it. “God is for me.”
Someone, one of my Christian friends, told me that too many Christians base their relationship with God off of feelings. While feelings are a part of any relationship, I understand my friend’s point. God is not made up out of feelings. Imagine if Hezekiah believed in God based off of how he was feeling that day when he found out he was going to die, or when he saw the Assyrians coming towards his city. I’m pretty sure Hezekiah would’ve been done for. But he had to look past his feelings, his fears, his despair, and look towards something that wasn’t based off of feelings, but rather based off of faith and trust. When Hezekiah did this, trusted God despite his own feelings of insecurity, God via Isaiah reassured this king that He would defend his city.
So, despite your feelings, despite your tears, your pressures, your stresses, no matter how insignificant they may seem or how physically real they may be, God knows about all of them. God is for you, if you’ll let Him, if you’ll trust Him with the defense of your city, with the destruction of your Assyrian army, whatever it may be.
The next place I visited was, of course, the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar is no longer ruling, but rather his son, Belshazzar, has taken the throne. Despite the miracles worked in the life of his father and his father’s testimony, Belshazzar continues to disobey God and worship false idols, “the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know” (Daniel 5:23, ESV). During a feast, as Belshazzar drinks wine with a thousand of his friends and as they all worship these material idols, God does something mind-blowing. A human hand appears and writes on the plaster of the wall of Belshazzar’s palace. Yes, this is in the Bible. God used Thing from the Adam’s Family before the Adam’s Family was even a thing. When I read this I couldn’t believe God had actually done this. I had never read this passage and the miracle was brand new to me. I love how it describes the king’s reaction:
“And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together” (5:5,6). So what does the king do? Well, he calls in all the main dudes: the enchanters, the magicians, the wise men, etc. But of course none of them can tell him what’s going on. Who you gonna call? Daniel! (no, not Ghostbusters). Daniel comes in and Belshazzar tells him:
King Belsh: “If you can read the writing (of the hand) and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom” (5:16).
And this is how Daniel begins to answer:
Dan: “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another,”
For some reason I just felt like Daniel was throwing a little bit of sass into this reply, like, “I don’t need any of your stuff.” Maybe it’s just me…
Anyway, Daniel explains to the king that, because he’s being a doofus and ignoring the legacy left for him by his father, who was influenced greatly by God, changed by the miracles performed in his life, Belshazzar is basically setting himself up against God. Belshazzar’s days are numbered. The king, according to the passage, doesn’t even react to Daniel’s interpretation. He gives Daniel all the gifts promised to him, and then he continues to disobey, disrespect, and fight against God. Belshazzar was killed that very night.
Just like with King Nebuchadnezzar, when God said He was going to drive him out of the company of men and make him like an animal, God did exactly what He said He would do with Belshazzar. God is loving; He’s perfect; He’s eternally kind and forever gracious. But He is also just and firm. He will not be disrespected.
“Well, Hunter, what about all the people who curse God’s name every day?”
Well, what do you think is going to happen to them when they die without being right with Him? Yep. I know it’s harsh and kind of scary, but it’s true. A while back I learned about some celebrities who, just before they died, had totally just dissed God. John Lennon, after saying that the Beatles were more famous than God, mocking His people, was shot six times. The man who built the Titanic said, before leaving the harbor, “Not even God can sink it!” Marilyn Monroe was visited by Billy Graham before a show, but after hearing his words, she said “I don’t need your Jesus.” A week later, she was found dead in her apartment.
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7, ESV).
This is where people often come out and say, whether they believe these accounts or not, that God is evil, harsh, violent, and terrible. But let’s think about this. God created man. Man defies God and sins against Him for generation after generation. God comes down to earth to give man a second chance, a way to be untied with Him again. Man still goes on sinning and denying God. And God is evil, harsh, and violent? Hm, seems to me like He gave us what we didn’t deserve, which is to go to Hell without any hope of rescue.
And these were just my morning devotions.
Throughout the rest of the day, as I traveled to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to finish my last Botany assignment (MY LAST BOTANY ASSIGNMENT), God reminded me that He’s here, that He loves me, that He’s for me, even though I had so many other things on my mind (finals, homework, Christmas, money, emotions…). I was originally going to go to the Garden yesterday, but it was pouring rain. Today, however, it was beautiful and sunny. Along with the pleasant weather, I was able have a nice, long, walk to the Garden. Then, after I had finished at the Garden and was getting ready to head back, I thought about how I wished I had gone with other people so I wouldn’t have to walk back alone. Surely enough, three girls from my major, who I hang out with regularly, came skipping down the pathway towards me.
God: 3 Hunter: 0
I walked back through the Garden with them as they too completed their assignment. Afterwards we walked to Bergen Bagels to get warm. Me and one of the girls were standing in line, getting ready to pay, when I asked the clerk for one more bagel. He began to give me a hard time about it. Normally, I would have no problem dealing with this like a civilized human being; I would just say I’m sorry and that I appreciate his getting it for me, despite the inconvenience. But my emotions weren’t exactly, well, stable. I was on the verge of tears, feeling absolutely destitute about the fact that I had inconvenienced this man. Before I could cry, however, my friend put her hand on my shoulder saying, “Hunter, it’s gonna be okay. Don’t worry about it.”
God: 4 Hunter: still 0
Thank You, Jesus.
Then, while I was still trying to get past my emotions and my stress in my dorm, Karly knocked on my door and gave me a hug. Talking with her made me feel much better. I’m pretty sure at that point I had given up counting the blessings God had given me during the day. God was just amazing…I mean, He’s amazing every day, but He was especially amazing today. Through the people around me, through the sun and everything else, God stabilized me like I was a rocking ship on a stormy sea. He reminded me that He’s bigger than my feelings, that He’s for me, that He’s made me for something great 🙂
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power, love, and self-control.” –2 Timothy 1:7