Phil Bell is a retired pastor, University Baptist Church, and a stroke
survivor. He continues to write his Street & Steeple articles for
his local newspaper. I believe this is good therapy for him, and
reading his work may be good therapy for you, too.
Street & Steeple for August 21, 2020
“God Will Take Care Of You!”
By Phil Bell, retired, pastor, University Baptist ChurchThere is a lot of suffering and anxiety in our world today! Macomb is no exception. The chances are good that you are particularly concerned about the coronavirus, some other threat, or are going through some kind of major catastrophe of your own right now, causing you to despair and lose hope. If so, I’ve got very good news for you! Help is available from God Himself!
The God who is all knowing, all wise, works outside of time restrictions, is present everywhere, has unlimited power, created you and, in fact, the entire universe , and has limitless love for you! “Be not dismayed whatever betide you, God will take care of you. Beneath His wings of love abide you. God Will Take Care Of You. Through days of toil when heart doth fail. God will take care of you. When dangers fierce your path assail, remember, God will take care of you. Through every day, o’er all the way, He will take care of you. God will take care of you!”
No, a fit of poetry did not suddenly take control of me. With thanks to Civilla Martin, I’ve just shared her words to the beloved hymn, “God Will take care of you.” Not only do the Scriptures affirm it, but, by personal experience, I promise you that it’s true! First, let’s consider the Scriptures. In the sixth chapter and twenty fifth verse of Matthew, Jesus is speaking to a crowd about the futility of worry. He does, of course, a lot better speaking about worry than I do when talking about worry to my wife. My tenancy is to simply say, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Just don’t worry about it!” Then I wonder why Nancy isn’t comforted and still worrying!
In Jesus’ sermon He talks about how not even one fallen sparrow escapes the Father God’s attention and that we are so much more valuable to Him than a sparrow. Also, God has clothed the flowers of the field more beautifully than even Solomon, in all his wealth, could have clothed himself. Again Jesus states that we are much more important to His Father than all the flowers of the field. Thus, we should depend on God rather than worry and, besides, He asks, “Which one of us can add a year to his or her life span by worrying?!”
So, just how does God go about caring for us? An example is in the fourth chapter of the gospel of Mark beginning with verse 35. Jesus who was God incarnate, is with His disciples, teaching the crowd from a boat with the crowd on the shore of the Sea Of Galilee, Mark tells us, “On that day when evening came, He said to them ( the disciples ), ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd, the disciples took Him along with them in the boat, just as he was, and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.
Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush be still’ And the wind then died down and it became perfectly calm.” Needless to say, the disciples were plenty impressed and equally relieved! That was an example of God taking care of the twelve!
God did it by changing the circumstances, but sometimes He does it by changing His children instead. Jesus could have as easily calmed the disciples and enabled them to reach shore safely had the storm continued even if they had had to swim part of the way.
One of my favorite songs is performed by Scott Krippayne. Its name is “Sometimes He Calms the Storm, Sometimes He Calms his Child.” It’s lyrics include, “How quickly blue skies can grow dark and gentle winds grow strong. Fear is like white water to our soul, but we sail on knowing that our Lord is in control. Sometimes He calms the storm with a whispered peace be still.
He can settle any sea, but it doesn’t mean He will. Sometimes He holds us and lets the wind and waves run wild. Sometimes He calms the storm, sometimes He calms His child!” You may, indeed, feel like your blue skies have suddenly turned dark, your winds increased & began to rotate like a funnel cloud, and you would like to wake Jesus and say, “Don’t you care that I’m perishing down here?”
I felt that way once, too. in fact, I had the ill - conceived gall to tell God I was angry with Him! That was after my massive stroke about which you’ll read later.
If there are no actual wind and waves to command, how, then, does God go about taking care of us? There is a magnetic sign on my refrigerator which reads, “Friends are God’s Way Of taking care of us.” I believe that’s probably the way He does it most often, but there are others, including the skill of professionals and His divine intervention!
In this time of suffering for so many, there are some for which it is especially fierce, such as those in the eastern U. S. who must be asking, “What’s next and why us? First the pandemic, then a tropical storm catastrophe! The residents of Beirut, Lebanon, are surely asking almost the same questions! “First, the pandemic, then the explosion catastrophe!” The same questions, no doubt, are being asked by some right here in the Midwest, “First, the pandemic and now the wind storm catastrophe!”
For me, personally, the order was reversed, “First, the catastrophe of a massive, debilitating stroke, then the pandemic.
As some, if not many, of you know, at the age of sixty, while serving as pastor of University Baptist Church, on January fourth, 2012, at about 3:30 in the afternoon I was felled by a massive stroke in my brain’s right hemisphere requiring an ambulance ride to MDH, a life – flight to OSF Hospital in Peoria, and a craniectomy to save my life, after each hospital’s ER doctor had told my wife, Nancy, most likely I would not be still alive come the morning!
You ask, “Just how was God taking care of you through all that?!” My answer is, “He preserved my life either by skilled professionals or His divine intervention, most probably by both!” The fact that I’ve written this article is proof I am not in heaven, to some people’s dismay, including mine sometimes!
My purpose in relating this experience of mine is to encourage any of you who might be going through something similar or, maybe, worse, and are losing hope for the future and trust in God! As well as friends, God uses His children, the church, to also provide His care.
Let me give you an example. After leaving the hospital I spent time in Heartland Healthcare here in Macomb, arriving with a feeding tube in place due to my inability to swallow. I went there for care by its nurses and rehabilitation by its therapists., both of which were outstanding! Early on, Nancy applied to FICA for disability payments for me. They were approved but hadn’t yet started when the Deacon Chair of University Baptist came to Heartland to talk to Nancy and me. He told us that the church had voted to continue paying me my salary until the disability payments commenced, considering me on medical leave.
Since I had, before becoming pastor, chaired the committee which wrote our Bylaws, I happened to know that the phrase, “medical leave” appeared nowhere in the document! Those wonderful brothers and sisters had created the term just for my situation! If that’s not God taking care of us I don’t know what is. He simply used His children and our friends!
Then He used skilled professionals again as the Heartland’s excellent therapists had me eating, drinking, and transferring to the extent that I was in shape to go home, which is where Nancy brought me on July 5th of that very year, where I would lie awake at night thinking how unfair, my life is over! !
Yes, I would have preferred He’d calmed the storm by immediately making my body whole again, but He chose to calm me! It has not been easy for either Nancy nor me, but God has been faithful to enable us to weather very storm with calm assurance of His love and provision!
He has indeed begun to restore my health. I have only two remaining of the initial six stroke related physically restrictive consequences, that of still being paralyzed on my entire left side and having a constant pain in my head, which, even that God is working on. Until about a month ago, I had described the pain level as an”8” ever since I woke up from the stroke. Suddenly, recently, it occurred to me, my pain isn’t as bad. I think it’s only a “3” now! I want you to know that He wants to take care of you, too!
Don’t be surprised if God not only takes care of you through a catastrophe, but, also prepares you for it in advance. That is my testimony!
The fall of 2011 I had no health insurance. Nancy’s group health insurance company had its open enrollment period and we both thought it prudent to add me. I don’t even want to think about what we would have done about the horrendous cost of all the medical procedures I’ve required. We would have had trouble paying the cost of the life – flight alone! I assure you that is not the way to take your first helicopter ride. Not only was it extremely costly, but the view was lousy!
Actually, God began preparing me for the stroke much earlier. He started in the fall of 1969 in the Capital room of the WIU student union when he introduced me to a junior coed named Nancy Jean Riley who would become my wife in 1972. He knew she’d be a woman to honor her wedding vows, even in the most awful “bad” and most terrible sickness” either of us could ever have imagined! Not a day goes by but what I thank God for giving her to me as part of His care, nor a minute of a day in which I don’t ask for His help, which He gives without reservation!
As I wrote earlier, of course, I don’t know what catastrophe you’re enduring. It may indeed be greater than any person has ever suffered before you!
Consider, if you will, how it compares to how the apostle Paul described his sufferings in the 23rd verse of the 11th chapter of 2nd Corinthians when writing about those sufferings in comparison with other Hebrews, “In far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers from false brethren. I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
Can your situation compare with that? If So, if God was able to take care of Paul, which He did, are your problems too great for Him to take care of you? I think not! Please put your trust and faith in Christ to become a child of God if you haven’t already. If you don’t know how to do that, ask your pastor. If you don’t have one, ask any Macomb area church pastor or reach out to me.
I guarantee you, whatever your catastrophe, even if it is of your own making, you will go through it infinitely better with the maker of the universe providing for you! It is no sin to be distraught and fearful in this time of pandemic, with its uncertainty and feelings of having such limited control over you own life, but, again, I say to you, do not despair, “God will take care of you!” He most certainly has me! He also promised me a full recovery, if not in this life, definitely so when I meet Him in the clouds! He desires to do that for you also!
- Phil Bell, retired pastor, University Baptist Church