February 17, 2012

Fear Not

The Old Testament narrative relates how the nation of Israel was many times under a threat. They were fearful and dismayed by their enemies and felt powerless before them. 
I felt like that yesterday, at least for part of it. My enemy is not external, but rather this physical condition that cannot be fixed. My heart felt like a stone inside me and I was overwhelmed by the realization that I could feel like this the rest of my days. I nearly forgot that the Lord promises to take care of me, to be my strength in weakness. While I remembered the first part of Psalm 73:26 — “My flesh and my heart may fail” — I did not remember the second part, “but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Yet God does not forget His promises even though I do. As I prayed, He put the thought in my head to ask for strength for just one day. In a short time, the heaviness was gone and I felt normal again, the first time in many weeks. This lasted all day, even through the night. When I woke this morning, I again asked the same thing — strength for just this one day.

This morning’s devotional reading took me to a description of God’s response to one of those times Israel was cowering before their enemies. He reminded them of His role in their lives.
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:8–13)
Many times when I pray for things that seem impossible, I remind God and myself that nothing is impossible for Him. He can reach into the darkest life, bring life and blessing to those who seem so far into trouble that nothing can get them out. I have seen His answers and rejoiced in the power of God for others. Yet like many who pray for great things, my mind is not on my own needs. Perhaps this is why the next verse from the devotional reading feels a bit like a smack on the side of the head, even though God, who says I am His friend, is wrapping me in a warm embrace.
Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 41:14)
Spurgeon authored the reading that goes with this verse. Here is a paraphrase of what he said.
O my soul, is not this enough? Do you need more strength than the omnipotence of the triune God? Do you want more wisdom than exists in the Father? More love than displays itself in the Son? Or more power than is manifest in the influences of the Holy Spirit? Bring near your empty pitcher and surely this well will fill it. Hurry and gather up your wants, and bring them here —your emptiness, your sorrows, your needs. Look, this river of God is full for your supply. What can you desire besides that? Then go forth, my soul in this your might. The eternal God is your helper!

God, You humble me almost to the point of humiliation. I know that the future can hold days of terrible weakness and physical disability, but You bid me to not fret about tomorrow. Instead, I am to rely on You for this day, one day at a time, even moment by moment, for nothing is too hard for You. Again, You prove Yourself faithful and true to Your Word. I am a worm with fear and a bad memory. You are God who is able to remind me of what I need to know, when I need to know it, a God who tells me, “Fear not, I am the One who helps you.”

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