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The Hand That Guides



by Jennifer Rothschild

Standing in the Radiant Bookstore one cold December afternoon, I met a gentle man named Rosario. His voice smiled as he introduced himself. His companion reached for my hand and placed it on Rosario's hand as he spoke.

Rosario, you see, is blind. Like me.

In order for us to orient ourselves to one another, we bridge the gap of sight with touch. As we stood speaking as old friends who had just met, we never pulled our hands away from one another. At times, we would shake them or grip a little tighter. During tender times of our conversation, I would place my remaining hand on our grip. But until our conversation ended, the touch lingered. It was the physical bond that reassured each of us that the other was still there.

Somehow, in the darkness, touch is the reassuring affirmation that we are not alone. Touch grounds us, guides us, and orients us.

When my world became dark as a fifteen-year-old girl, my greatest challenge was to remain oriented. I had to find a way to navigate my new darkness—physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

For physical orientation I relied heavily on the guiding touch of my dad.

He was the one I felt most secure with. His hand was always steady, his touch gentle, and his paced was perfect for me. The emotional and spiritual darkness that blindness invited, however, was far more difficult to navigate.

Isn't that the nature of hardship? Sometimes it isn't the event itself that leaves us dazed and confused, as much as the trappings and wrappings that surround it. Blindness is one thing, but having to reconcile why God doesn't heal is another kind of darkness. Coping with deteriorated retinas is challenging enough; fighting the anger, disappointment, and bitterness resulting from that loss is another matter altogether.

You know what I mean.

The emotional and spiritual shadows that loom over us can completely disorient us. We lose sight of where we're going, where we've been, and even who we are. Most sadly, we lose sight of God.

That's when life gets really frightening. In the darkness and pain of personal cries, we must have the touch of our unseen Father to keep us oriented. At times we may sense His affectionate pat on the hand. At other times, He grasps us a little more tightly so we're sure He won't leave.

You don't have to be in total darkness to become disoriented. I know many folks who are fully sighted—yet are as confused and bewildered as they can be. Their disorientation is of a far more serious strain.

It is spiritual.

Spiritual disorientation results in questionable actions, wavering beliefs, and devastating consequences. It leads us through a maze of confusion and lands us at destinations we would never have chosen. The hard truth is, we simply can't find our way back to the right road, the right path, the right place, the right life … apart from the Father bridging the darkness and making contact in our lives. The touch of His hand becomes our compass.

This isn't anything new for God. He's touched the lives of men and women since the beginning of everything. He's touched prophets who became disoriented by their own rebellion. He's touched kings who had a less than stellar track record. And He's even touched the ungodly who cried out in desperation for guidance.

He's done it for me.

He has not yet touched my physical eyes so I can see, but He has "enlightened the eyes of my heart" (Ephesians 1:18). He has touched my fragile feelings and given me truth as my fortress. He has touched my ashes and made them beautiful. His touch has oriented me and guided me, and I know He longs to touch you, too. When you realize what His touch can do, you will call on Him just like I did.

And just like Manasseh did.

Manasseh was the son of godly King Hezekiah of Judah, inheriting the throne from his father. He was the thirteenth king of Judah and reigned longer than any other Hebrew king.

Unfortunately, his long reign wasn't the only thing that put Manasseh into the record books. He also bears the distinction of being Judah's most wicked king. As far as Judah was concerned, he was Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein all wrapped up in one vile package.

It's surprising that Manasseh was so evil, knowing how good and godly his father was. Surely Manasseh grew up in a home where the God of Israel was honored and revered. Certainly Manasseh had heard the daily psalms read and even sang the song of Moses. When he assumed the throne at age twelve, he most likely co-reigned with his father for nearly a decade. The influence of the Lord upon Manasseh, as both a growing young man and king being groomed, is undeniable.

Yet, sadly that influence seemed only to impact him negatively. For whatever reason, it drove him the other way. Instead of walking in the spiritual footprints of his father, Manasseh seemed to lurch headlong into the evil ways of his grandfather, Ahaz. He erected altars to Baal; he set up an image of the goddess Asherah in the sacred temple (where he almost certainly had joined his father in worship as a boy). His idolatry and depravity went so far that the hardhearted king even scarified his own son to the Ammonite god called Moloch.

Anyone in the nation who spoke against Manasseh's evil actions was killed. I guess it's pretty clear by now that Manasseh was a bad dude! He utterly turned his back on his godly heritage, and his heart increasingly hardened as he adopted false gods and evil practices. The Bible puts in a nutshell what Manasseh did. "But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites" (2 Kings 21:9).

Manasseh's rejection of God led to disorientation. Eventually, however, the judgment of a righteous God caught up to him. (By the way, it always does.) The evil king was taken captive by the Assyrians: "The Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon" (2 Chronicles 33:10-11).

This was the kind of body piercing that will never be in style. The once proud king of Judah, arms and legs shackled in bronze, was pulled along the highway to Nineveh by a hook in his nose. He'd made his own reservations and chosen his own accommodations by turning his back on the God who loved him. The son of Hezekiah was now a captive of a mighty military state and was utterly without hope.

You see, when we choose to reject God, we eventually end up like Manasseh—captive, bound, and chained by feelings of hopelessness. We find that the sacrifices we've made are not worth the price we have to pay. Our hard hearts have led us to a place of utter desperation.

So how do we become oriented again? How do we find freedom from the bondage our rejection has created?

Look at 2 Chronicles 33:12-13. To me, it's one of the most amazing passages in all the Bible.

In his distress he [Manasseh] sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to Him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom.

Manasseh was far from home, deep in the bowels of some awful dungeon, possibly chained to the wall, robbed of all light and hope.

Almost…

At a moment that must have been close to utter despair, the captive king remembered something. Something from childhood, perhaps. Something from his long-ago innocence. Maybe it was a psalm, a prayer, or a promise. Whatever it was, he turned his heart to the God of his father. And he exercised just enough humble faith to invite God's guiding touch into his life.

You and I must do the same. No matter where we are in life. No matter what we've done or failed to do. No matter what circumstances in which we find ourselves entwined and bound. When we find ourselves in the disorienting darkness of our own captivity, we must humbly call upon our God. He stands ready to respond, and He is willing to come and touch us if we will simply remember Him.

If you harbor any doubt of that fact, look at what happened when Manasseh prayed. It is the very thing that happens when you and I pray. "And when he prayed to Him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea" (v. 13).

The Father listens for even the voice of the one who has rejected Him. He is moved to respond even to the one who has forgotten Him. What a longsuffering and merciful God! When Manasseh remembered God, He was then mercifully delivered by the hand of God. "So He brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God" (v. 13).

Don't reject truth in your life, for it is truth that sets you free. When we reject truth and embrace lies, those very lies will lead us into captivity. And great cost is incurred when we reject the Lord. We tend to sacrifice what is most sacred and precious to us on the altar of self-gratification. When we forget God, we tend to invest in idols that are fleeting and temporary, yet so very, very demanding. It might be a career or materialism, it might be chasing fame or fantasies, but it will always lead to bondage.

Accept the truth that leads to real freedom.

Don't reject your God.

Humble yourself and seek His favor.

When you do, His hand will reach directly from heaven into your heart. He will guide you out of your bondage and restore you.

Why would God touch a heathen king who wasn't worthy of mercy? The same reason He touches me and touches you. It is the loving nature of God that compels Him to seek and save that which is lost. He doesn't lean back on His throne, watching and waiting to see how well we maneuver toward Him. No, we know that God's own Son left His throne, choosing to place Himself on a cross instead, just so we could feel His touch. Instead of rejecting Him, receive Him. By faith, lift your hand to heaven and you will feel His touch. His hand will receive you, restore you, and guide you down the path of His purpose for you.

Adapted from Fingerprints of God © 2003 by Jennifer Rothschild. Published by Multnomah Books, a division of Random House. Previously published as Touched by His Unseen Hand. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Books.

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