How a simple verse keeps having an impact on my life.
The first run-in was by chance.
My little world was coming to an end. I feared that I was failing in two of my college classes and felt the weight of my pitiful finances and stresses on my shoulders. I was quickly becoming anemic, had lost 20 pounds, and looked horrible. To top it off, I had gotten not one, but three rejection letters for summer jobs.
I came out of the class building full of anxiety. I had a short paper to write and needed to study for two tests the following day. I squinted up surprised that the sun was actually out shining after a long winter. I had to walk about ten minutes to get to another class and, as usual, a large group of students greeted me. Most were just hanging out sitting on the building steps, taking in the sun or waiting for friends. I took a left, then a right to get to a clear path on the sidewalk. I hated having to step around other students, but I didn’t have much time.
And then I ran into a man in a rumpled sports coat and tie. I nearly knocked him over. I assumed he was professor or teacher’s assistant and quickly apologized. I went to a big state school, but I figured it best to not to make too many enemies with the teaching staff. In any event, the man handed me a small green, New Testament Bible. In the same swift manner, he said, “You look like you could use some help, check out Psalm 34, verse 4.”
I started to hand the Bible back to the man, but someone stepped in front of me, and I just stuck it in my backpack and went about my business. Later that night, before a long night of studying, I pulled out the Bible, stuck deep in my backpack. I looked at it closely in my hands. It was a small Gideon’s Bible, named after the Nashville, Tennessee, group that has a mission of distributing copies of the Bible free of charge.
I thought about just tossing the giveaway book, but that didn’t seem right. It felt wrong. I considered leaving it in the study cubicle for the next person. Surely they could use it more than me? But could they? As I considered what to do, the man’s comment nagged at me. I opened the Bible and jumped to Psalm 34, surprised that I even remembered what he had said.
I read the verse out loud: “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” And I read it again and then again.
In my haste, the verse was exactly what I needed. My life didn’t miraculously turn around over night, but it did turn around. I was reminded once again that reading the Bible gives me hope and purpose, and soon enough I was back on the right track toward reaching my goals.
The second run-in was by choice.
When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we worried about everything that first time parents worry about. We had read all the parenting books. We listened to all the advice. We timed her contractions. When we thought the contractions were coming faster and with more oomph, we raced to the hospital. It turned out to be a false alarm, but my wife’s doctor was still concerned enough with the pains to keep my wife in observation in the emergency room.
I had long memorized the Psalm verse to memory, but I had put that same little green Bible in our overnight bag and pulled it out as a reminder. Throughout the night, I read the verse again and again and again. The sky didn’t open up. No lightening bolts. No clouds, just like last time, but, it still nonetheless gave me confidence to trust in God that everything would work out for a reason.
And the next day, God rewarded us with a beautiful baby girl.
Like the first run-in, the Psalms reading gave us peace of mind. And continues to do so today.