Friday, October 12, 2012

I am afraid of circumstances beyond my control

I woke up in the morning with fear, anxiety, and worry hanging over my head and invading my thoughts. There was a situation I had to face. For half an hour I laid in bed thinking about possible scenarios and how I could respond to each one. I finally reminded myself I couldn't control anything. All I could do was get up and spend some time with God before I moved on with my day.

I laid on the couch, the day heavy and forboding. I had made a small list of gratitude which I had hoped would help bolster me out of the pit I could feel myself going into. Tears began to fill my eyes and I knew in that moment. The gratitude doesn't help if I don't live it. And so I got up, and did what was set before me to do for that day.

Our circumstances vary by the day, season, and moment. Sometimes they are hard and heavy. We can justify sitting in the sadness and letting it swirl around us as we break. We can, and no one would blame us at times. But what good does it do if we never get up? Emotional release is good, but how long do we stay there?

We have no cultural norms of how long it takes to grieve something. And for many of the things we grieve in life, others would find it laughable anyway. We have to find that balance within us. We know when we are sinking. We know when we need to stop. We know when we need to release our assumed control over our circumstances and hand it over to God.

Two times in the past few days I was able to turn from my emotions and fears and instead face God knowing that I may not be able to do a thing about those things, but He is with me. He will take me through it all. And when I moved away from the fear and emotion I was able to take a step closer towards peace.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The fear of your circumstances.

Isaiah 43:5
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
 and gather you from the west.

We are not slaves exiled to a land which is foreign and hostile, yet there is much we can learn from these verses in Isaiah. We are similar to the exiles for sin is our nature. We cannot save ourselves. We can only watch the sun rise. We are tied to our circumstances because so many times we have no control over them. So what are we to learn?

The One who is in control is one to be trusted. When times get hard, He is there. When circumstances threaten to overtake us, He has not abandoned us. Nothing can separate us from His love, and He loves us.

You want to see it? You doubt that it can be true? How can such times be from One who is in control?

He never leaves us in our moment of need, and He is our strength. He gives us the choice to turn to Him or run away, and yet He never stops loving us. He calls us home constantly. The Israelites were in captivity because time and time again the nation had turned from God to man for help, but what man can come against our God? And despite this continual turning they did, He told them, “I will bring you home.”

Yet things don’t always make sense to us, do they? We who think we understand so much and more. And so we point fingers and blame, and God is there saying, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here.”

"God is too wise to be mistaken, God is too good to be unkind, so when you don't understand, when you don't see His plan, when you can't trace His hand...trust His heart." (Trust His Heart – Babbie Mason)

Question 1: Are you in a difficult situation where your circumstances are saying it’s hopeless? Have you reached a point within your heart where you want to give up? Have you seen enough foreign and hostile moments to keep things from making sense? Then let go of the control and the desperate attempt to make everything make sense for now. Trust God.

Question 2: Sometimes life seems as if things should be great, and circumstances aren’t that harsh, yet your heart is heavy and worries and anxieties climb on your back. Would it be possible for you to praise today and worry tomorrow? Would it be a choice you could make?

Dear Father
We come to you powerless
We come to you with great desire
We come to you aching
Thank you Father for being there
Thank you for never leaving
Thank you that I can trust You.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Exiles' Fear

We still find ourselves in Isaiah in the “Book of the Consolation of Israel.” Chapter 41 Isaiah 41 was one of comfort. Isaiah 43 is one of power. Again, I can’t seem to fictionalize Isaiah. I can only imagine being an exile hearing God’s words. Please imagine with me as we read it in The Message.

Isaiah 43

But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started Israel:

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.

“So don’t be afraid: I’m with you. I’ll round up all your scattered children, pull them in from east and west. I’ll send orders north and south: ‘Send them back. Return my sons from distant lands, my daughters from faraway places. I want them back, every last one who bears my name, every man, woman, and child Whom I created for my glory, yes, personally formed and made each one.’”

Get the blind and deaf out here and ready – the blind (though there’s nothing wrong with their eyes) and the deaf (though there’s nothing wrong with their ears). Then get the other nations out here and ready. Let’s see what they have to say about this, how they account for what’s happened. Let them present their expert witnesses and make their case; let them try to convince us what they say is true. “But you are my witnesses.” God’s Decree. “You’re my handpicked servant so that you’ll come to know and trust me, understand both that I am and who I am. Previous to me there was no such thing as a god, now will there be after me. I, yes I, am God. I’m the only Savior there is. I spoke, I saved, I told you what existed long before these upstart gods appeared on the scene. And you know it, you’re my witnesses, you’re the evidence.” God’s Decree. “Yes, I am God. I’ve always been God and I always will be God. No one can take anything from me. I make; who can unmake it?”

God, your Redeemer, The Holy of Israel, says: “Just for you, I will march on Babylon. I’ll turn the tables on the Babylonians. Instead of whooping it up, they’ll be wailing. I am God, your Holy One, Creator of Israel, your King.”

This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies – they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ – the coyotes and the buzzards – Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me.

“But you didn’t pay a bit of attention to me, Jacob. You so quickly tired of me, Israel. You wouldn’t even bring sheep for offerings in worship. You couldn’t be bothered with sacrifices. It wasn’t that I asked that much from you. I didn’t expect expensive presents. But you didn’t even do the minimum – so stingy with me, so closefisted. Yet you haven’t been stingy with your sins. You’ve been plenty generous – and I’m fed up.

“But I, yes I, am the one who takes care of your sins – that’s what I do. I don’t keep a list of your sins.

“So make your case against me. Let’s have this out. Make your arguments. Prove you’re in the right. Your original ancestor started the sinning, and everyone since has joined in. That’s why I had to disqualify the Temple leaders, repudiate Jacob and discredit Israel.”

Isaiah 43:5

(Research)

Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. (NIV)  
Fear not, for i am with you I will bring your offspring from the east [where they are dispersed] and gather you from the west. (Amplified)  
So don't be afraid: I'm with you. I'll round up all your scattered children, pull them in from east and west. (The Message)

east - misrah - direction of the sunrise
west - marab - the place of the sunset

Reformation Bible:
God will establish a new community

Matthew Henry Commentary:
connected to the close of the previous chapter... though many among them were intractable and incorrigible, yet God would continue his love and care for his people, and the body of that nation should still be reserved for mercy

godvine.com:
the more natural interpretations is to refer it to the Jews who were scattered abroad during the exile at Babylon, and as a promise to re-collect them again in their own land

Calvin's commentary:
when Isaiah frequently repeats this exhortation, we ought not to act as if its superfluous; for we know and feel how prone we are by nature to distrust. Scarcely any words can express the greatness of the alarm by which the church was at that time shaken. As soon as we begin to call in question the promises of God, our minds are distracted by various thoughts; we are alarmed and continually tormented by the greatness and diversity of the dangers, till at length we are stupefied, and have no perception of the grace of God. ... And yet it is not the will of God that we shall be so devoid of fear as to give ourselves up to slothfulness and indifference; but when we are informed that he is at hand and will assist us, cheerful confidence ought to be victorious in the midst of fears.