What do you do when you are caught without your Bible?
I grew up with the story about J. Russel Morse who spent several years in solitary confinement in a Chinese prison for the crime of being a missionary. Rumor has it that Morse had committed the entire New Testament to memory. Morse retained his sanity by quoting to himself huge chunks of Scripture he had memorized.
Our elders and teachers told us this story as a motivation for Scripture memory. “You can’t always depend on having your Bible with you,” we were told. “Someday we may be like the people in China and Russia who have had their Bibles taken from them.”
I listened, wide eyed. Imagine a life without a Bible readily available. It seemed unfathomable. While I agreed in principle that it was great Mr. Morse had memorized all that Scripture, the chance of that ever happening to me was beyond remote. Still, through church camp competitions and a special course taught at my church, I did commit a number of individual verses to memory.
I’m so glad I have. The reason for Scripture memory, always apparent in my walk with Christ, never became as clear as in the last few weeks.
Doctors opted to perform my recent surgery for a torn retina under local anesthesia. My family doctor and a former surgical tech assured me I would be sedated enough to be dimly aware of my surroundings without remembering anything afterwards. Wrong. I was “out” for the pain block that numbed the upper left quadrant of my face. Beyond that, I heard, knew, and remembered everything. I saw lights that were lasers and straight green lines that were needles. I heard the doctor ask for a bigger bit-head for his ultrasound instrument. I heard him ask his assistant for suture material. The surgery was lasting longer than he had predicted and he was obviously doing more than he told me he was going to do. I couldn’t take it anymore. I began to repeat some of those Scriptures I had hidden in my heart. The needles and the “shop-talk” slipped to the background.
Here are some of the verses that sustained me during that difficult time of endurance. Perhaps they can help you as well.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?” – Psalm 121:1 (NIV)
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5,6
The truth of the matter is this. You don’t know when you may be caught without your Bible or your Bible app on your smartphone. It may not be ripped from you before you enter a jail cell. But you may have your glasses—or your sight—taken from you. You may be strapped to a surgical table or, as I was, face down for a week as your body heals. A power outage or a tornado may silence your smartphone. A traffic accident may fling your phone out of reach. There are many times when your Bible won’t be within easy reach. It may not even be you who is in crisis but someone else who needs you to encourage them with the Word of God. Even if it were in your hands, you wouldn’t know where to turn in times of crisis if you were not familiar with the verses beforehand.
You don’t think you can memorize? Here’s an easy way to do it. Choose one verse, just one. Write it out several times and place it where you will see it. Repeat it to yourself every day, several times a day for seven weeks. Keep reviewing it. Soon, it will be imprinted upon your heart, ready for the Holy Spirit to bring to the forefront of your memory when you need it most.
In spite of the physical and emotional discomfort of being awake during that surgery, I’m glad I was. Near the end, the surgeon spoke to me. “I’m a cautious man and I don’t like to make predictions. But we’ve been able to correct some other problems with your eye and I think I can guarantee that you will see better than you ever have before.”
Psalm 37:4, a verse I’d quoted to sustain me now rose in praise: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” In the late summer of my life, the Lord is giving me the gift of improved sight. Yes, I’ve wanted better sight all my life, but early on, even as a child, I had surrendered my life as a visually impaired person to the Lord. He was giving me the deepest longing of my heart even though I had told Him years ago that it was all right if I couldn’t as long as He would stay with me.
Share with us. Encourage the rest of us. What verse will you memorize this week? What Bible verse has sustained you when you didn’t have your Bible nearby?