“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)
Read Isaiah chapter 41.
Thinking about this upcoming Mother's Day, I realize that one of the interesting things that happens after you marry and become a parent is gaining a new perspective on your own parents. I remember as a child having fears that many children have. Yet as a young boy, I was never overwhelmed by those fears because I knew that my mother and father could protect me from anything.
As an adult, however, I realize that is not entirely true; my understanding has changed now that I'm the parent—one who is supposed to protect the family from dangers. The reality is, I'm just . . . me. I don't have any special superpowers that make me invincible or give me the ability to overcome every danger that exists. So while it's true that I would do everything in my power to protect my kids, I also recognize that I cannot stop all dangers from coming their way.
Some have said that the phrase “fear not” and other similar commands (e.g. “be in peace”) are used at least 365 times in the Bible, one for every day of the year. I haven't counted them all, but I do know that God tells us many times to “fear not.” The reason given, as the passage from Isaiah 41 reveals, is that God promises to be with us.
In chapter 41, the prophet Isaiah prophesied about a future time when Israel would be delivered from its enemies by King Cyrus. Remember, Isaiah was writing during the time when the nation was being oppressed by the Assyrian empire. Yet God was revealing through Isaiah a time when God would defeat Israel's oppressors. In other words, although the Israelites were currently in a bad situation, God would keep His promise and bring them out of bondage. Though that was true, it wouldn't happen immediately. So where was their present hope? Let me explain.
God is greater than any human parent in many ways. One way is that He is able to protect us from all harm, and often, He does just that. However, that doesn't mean He always chooses to intervene to divert bad things from happening to us. Loved ones still die in accidents, friends still get sick, financial ruin still happens, but we must notice what verse 10 actually says. It never says that God promises to keep us (or Israel) from ever experiencing anything bad. Instead, it says that we should not fear because God will be with us. He will strengthen us to endure. He will help us find a way through the darkness. He will uphold us with His mighty hand when we can't hold ourselves up any longer. In the most desperate of times, God is right there with us, helping us get through—if we trust in Him.
Just as I was not afraid of anything when I was a young boy as long as my mother and father were around, we, too, can choose to not fear in dreadful situations because our heavenly Father is always with us. What a blessed hope that is!
Join me in Part 2 when we’ll look at the other side of this coin—what does it mean to “Fear the Lord”?
Prayer for the week:
Thank You, Father, that like our earthly parents, You are always there for us when we need You the most. Help me today to embrace that reality in a deeper and meaningful way than ever before—regardless of what I'm facing. May I walk without fear knowing my heavenly Father is right beside me.
Andy Lauer is senior pastor of South Bend First Church of the Nazarene in South Bend, Indiana, USA.
Written for Coffee Break.