Nov 08

God is with me – a lesson from chapel services at Intermountain

A collage of the children's watercolor projects from chapel
A collage of the children’s watercolor projects from chapel

November brings with it a season of holidays in which we are encouraged to think about gratitude and thankfulness. But, if you are a child without a home, or one that has been removed from your parents and school because you could not stay safe with your overwhelming emotions, where do you start when thinking about gratitude?

In ministry to hurting kids and families, I find that the cookie-cutter answers just don’t suffice. When working with someone recovering from a difficult childhood, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, or searching for love in unhealthy ways it doesn’t work to just pray and prescribe a bible memory verse! The reality of pain and the need for grace within the messiness of broken relationship causes you to take more seriously the raw and real nature of the Christian and Hebrew scriptures. God’s people have never been immune to trouble and difficulty, and the absence of trouble in your life is just as likely to signal your drift away from God as it is any sort of supernatural blessing from on high. In fact, Jesus stated, “Woe to you when everyone you know only has nice things to say about you!” and “In this world, you are going to have trouble! But, take heart, because I have overcome the world!” (see Luke 6:26 & John 16:33)

In a recent chapel service, we had an opportunity to discuss some of these matters of faith in the midst of difficulty and the hard work of treatment. The verse we focused on for that chapel service was Isaiah 43:2, which reads,

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

The children then got to do a watercolor project that had a special twist to it. On the art paper I had written the words, “God is with me, Isaiah 43:2” in white crayon. The words would only show up as they were painting. And, as we had discussed how the passage references feeling overwhelmed to the point of drowning, the children were invited to paint a water scene if they wanted to.

Their faces lit up as they saw the words appear on the art paper, especially since I had not warned them that the message would appear as they painted. More than a few “light bulbs” went off as the children painted. I took the opportunity to reinforce the point of the lesson one last time, saying, “Children, it is often not until we see that we are in desperate need of God’s saving that we understand that he is with us in the midst of the waters that threaten to sweep over us and drown us. Now, it’s not literal water I am talking about, but that overwhelming feeling that this world is going to be too hard for us and we have a hard time trusting it will get better. There… in our panic… God is with us.”