There is no question I receive more from people online or at events than “Hey Mark, what’s your favorite Bible verse?” Of course, questions about whether or not Matt Maher has more gray hair than I do come in as a close second… but I digress.
There is possibly no question easier to answer, yet more difficult.
Choosing one “favorite” Bible verse, for me, is like trying to choose a favorite child. It’s impossible (although, my favor often rests on the child who is not sugar-ed up and acting like a demoniac).
You see, different “seasons” of life bring with them different needs and struggles, joys and failures. In this way and for this reason, every season has a different verse that I tend to lean on or look to for support, direction, or just plain hope.
I have several favorite verses, to be honest.
- After a long and tiring day, I find solace in Nehemiah 8:10.
- When the Lord feels distant, or falls silent, I lean into James 4:8.
- In those times my family or I am suffering, I rush to Revelation 21:4.
- In times where I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and God’s goodness, I turn to Psalm 95:2 and 1 Thessalonians 3:9.
- In times of confusion, I lean on Proverbs 3:5-6.
- When the future looks bleak, I pray Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11-12 until I actually trust in those words again.
Beyond all of these great nuggets of timeless wisdom, however, there is one verse that encapsulates each of these sentiments and more. It comes from the Prophet Isaiah, given to him at a time of great darkness, when he (and his nation) were falling into hopelessness:
“Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
I love this verse on so many levels. It is clear and concise. It is present and unwavering. It is strong but still tender, challenging yet comforting. In short, it is everything a good Father should be.
There is no command more repeated in Scripture than “fear not.” The repetition of that command is not because God is forgetful, but because we are. God knows we are often tempted to give in to fear. However, pay attention to the “why.” God tells us not to fear… because He is with us.
Think about the first time you left your child alone or lost sight of your child in a crowded store. Fear comes like a tidal wave. Yet that moment your eyes lock onto your child again ushers in a reclaimed peace and security. How often in your life are you filled with fear? If we are present enough to the situation and aware enough to pray – and call God into the situation – that fear quickly turns to dust.
Pay close attention to what the Spirit breathes in this verse. For not only does God bid us not to fear, and remind us of His eternal (dare I even say “Eucharistic”) presence with us, but He tells us there is no reason to dismay for He is God.
God is God; I am not. No matter how hard we try or how often we act like it, that simple truth brings freedom and peace. There is a God, Who cares for me and about me and is with me and desires a relationship with me. What we call a storm, He calls a path. Moses didn’t part the sea nor Peter tread upon it because they willed it… but because God did.
This second part of my favorite verse invites me (and you) to trust in His power over my own. God shifts the gears slightly, making three promises to us:
- The Father will strengthen you.
- The Father will help you.
- The Father will uphold you.
You’d be wise to commit these promises and, actually, the entire verse to memory. Write them down in your own handwriting. Plaster them on your mirrors, your walls, your dashboard… tattoo them on the insides of your eyelids if it’ll help you.
God’s not going anywhere. He will fight the battle for you (Exodus 14:14). He will be our help, our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer (Psalm 18:2). He will be there too, when we fall or jump into the pit and He will lift us out (Psalm 40:2). Like a good father, He will take us by the hand and lead us to victory, as the verse promises in its conclusion.
People are often surprised when I share this “favorite verse” with them. It’s as though they think that I never doubt or struggle, like the person holding the microphone or writing the book must “have it all figured out.”
To be clear, the only thing I’ve figured out is that I have nothing figured out, except this: I need Jesus. I need Jesus more and more every day. I cannot imagine my life without Him nor would I want to do so.
Acknowledging your need for God does not make you weak; it makes you self-aware and honest. Admitting that you don’t have it all together does more than make you merely human; it makes you humble. The more you learn to look to and lean on God’s promises, the easier it becomes to trust in them and, ultimately, in Him.
I don’t share these verses, write, speak, or tweet because I have nothing better to do, but because I have no One better to share. I don’t have all the answers but I know the Answer, and His Name is Jesus Christ.
If you’re still reading this little blog I’d like to end with a challenge. I cited about a dozen verses in parentheses above. More often than not when we read a blog or chapter we don’t actually take the time to look verse citations up. I’d like to ask you to do it this time. Grab your own Bible and highlighter. Open to each and let God’s truth pierce your heart and penetrate your soul in a new way.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what my favorite verse is – it’s about whether or not I let the Word of God dwell in me richly (Colossians 3:16) and whether you do. Life is not a wrestling match of “God versus you” but, rather a love story where God verses you – all you have to do is turn His holy page each day and let Him.