Ever struggle to get something out of the Bible? Tricia Williford guides us forward with hope for our reading.
The Winning Check
By Tricia Lott Williford
Have you ever gotten one of those winning checks in the mail, the kind that’s ostensibly made out for tens of thousands of dollars? I have. And it looks so good at first. Addressed to me, made out to me, all for me. A glance at a check like that makes the mind spin and the heart stir. All I have to do is sign it, and everyone’s Christmases and colleges will be paid for? Quick, I think. Somebody hand me a pen.
But then I realize that “they” didn’t sign it. They, the anonymous philanthropists and creditors who promised me all the money, are waiting for me to sign the check. They’re waiting for me to make a promise to myself, to sign on the line and become indebted to them. I could have all the money, but I’m only borrowing it. I have to pay it all back—or I become their slave.
Instead of signing the check, I exhale in resignation and indignation. That kind of money wouldn’t be mine, not on these terms, not on this day. I write in bold letters across the front: VOID.
Because when someone writes a check that cannot be used, you must write the word VOID across the face of the check to make sure nobody tries to spend what isn’t really in the account. No matter the amount written in the box and on the line, that check is now worth nothing. It’s like millions of Monopoly dollars. It comes up empty. Returned void.
The Bible says that the Word of God does not return void (Isaiah 55:11, KJV). And I had never really understood that term before, return void. I mean, I understand what both words mean separately, but together it sounds like some kind of King James language that nobody uses anymore.
But as I stared at one of those checks, suddenly that phrase, those words, return void, it all made sense to me.
When the Bible says those words, we can have confidence that it’s not a scam. It’s not a trick. And it will never come up empty. Because, you see, when I study Scripture, I am making an investment. I store it in my heart and my mind. Scripture is full of deeper truths that impact me exactly where I am, shining a light into my anxiety, my hurt, my fear, my relationships, and my choices. Even if I read something that seems to not apply to me, something that makes little sense to me, something that raises more questions than answers—it is not empty. It fits under the category of “maybe not today,” not under the blanket of “this doesn’t apply at all.” The words are not meaningless. They will return to me in a moment when I need them. The words will show up in my mind when I need comfort or clarity. The principles become a building block for something I will learn later, something I couldn’t have understood if I hadn’t learned this first. The Word of God does not return void. There is something in it, the seed of something I can take to the bank, so to speak.
God will use his words in your life however he chooses, and it’s exciting to get to watch for the ways he’ll meet you there. His words matter. They have deep meaning. They do not return void.
As I’ve thought about how to help people fall in love with the Bible, I felt daunted. I started spilling with notes and ideas, revelations and discoveries, stories and ideas. But instead of feeling joy and anticipation, I felt anxiety. God’s words are so vast and deep and full, so much bigger than anything I could possibly hold or put on a page, and so holding my thoughts has felt like wrestling with a giant bouquet of helium balloons in a windstorm.
But God’s words are—his Word is—not mine to control or wrestle. All I’ve been asked to do is offer what I have, a few of the ways God has met me in the pages of the Bible, and where he might just want to meet you as well. Falling in love with the Bible isn’t a straight line, a checklist, a clearly charted path. I can give you a glimpse, a taste of how God’s words aren’t just for a church service or to be left on a shelf—they are living and breathing in our actual lives.
Here’s what I want you to know, beloved and anonymous friend of mine: Spending time in the Word of God is never ever wasted. It’s a blank check that keeps multiplying, with zeroes and commas, and it’s signed. God has signed it. He always delivers on his promises. And because of that, his book has something in it for you and for me, no matter what we’re facing that day or what friendship might be falling apart or what fear might be eating away at us. He will meet us in the pages, even if we don’t recognize him at the time.
He invites us to come to him, and he calls us to abide in him. That means get close and stay closer still. He promises that time with him, time spent looking for him and finding him, will never be a waste. Let’s hold on to this promise with both hands: Spending time with God is never ever wasted. God said it, and I’m banking on it.
Tricia Lott Williford writes, blogs, co-hosts the “Let’s Talk Soon” podcast with her brother Rob, and speaks about faith in the face of loss and hope when the miracle isn’t yours. With raw transparency, honest grief, laughable joy, and a captivating voice, she shares the hard pieces of her story—and the redemption God offers in the midst of it. Tricia is the author of the recently released This Book Is for You: Loving God’s Words in Your Actual Life, along with Just. You. Wait.; You Can Do This; And Life Comes Back; and Let’s Pretend We’re Normal. She lives in Colorado with her family.