In this year of many ups and downs in life and ministry, I find God calling me to a central theme – Hope. Jeremiah said in Lamentations that he “dared to hope” despite difficult circumstances. His hope didn’t come from his life events, but from God’s faithfulness.
This morning in reading through the prophet Isaiah (whose writings 100 years before Jeremiah’s ministry inspired him), I see he also dared to hope. Syria and Israel were postured to attack Judah. Fear ran rampant in the land. Isaiah 7:2 describes the hearts of the people and the king like “trees shaking in a storm.” Isaiah called the king to “stop worrying.” (7:4) and then prophesies God’s victory with this stipulation – “unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.”
Many things assail me every day. I worry that my daughter’s hair will not grow back. My thoughts of “what if” about everything from the church to my kids to our finances can leave me feeling like the people of Judah – like a tree shaking in a storm. (whether the storm is perceived or real) Rather than resting in God’s hope for the future – I often spin my mental hamster wheel of worry.
God clearly spells out that this is not His plan for me. In chapter 8, Isaiah calls the people to trust. He doesn’t want them to trust in their great skill, the help of other people, or stuff of any kind. When God calls them to “stand firm,” He doesn’t leave them to guess how to do it. In verses 11-17 we find these words:
“The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe. But to Israel and Judah He will be a stone that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem He will be a trap and a snare. Many will stumble and fall, never to rise again. They will be snared and captured.’ Preserve the teaching of God; entrust His instructions to those who follow me. I will wait for the Lord, who has turned away from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my hope in Him.”
I can’t help but see these key points in this text:
- Don’t think like everyone else. (who worry all the time and live in state of fear and anxiety)
- Make God holy in your life and fear Him alone. (audience of One – don’t allow the opinions of others to be the gauge of your success)
- Trust that God is the One who keeps me safe. (don’t look to physical things like people or money for security)
- Preserve the teaching of God. (teach others the truth of God’s Word and where we should place our hope)
- Wait for the Lord to work out His plan even when we don’t understand all the details. Hope in Him alone. (I’m sure Joseph didn’t understand going to Egypt as a slave that God was positioning him to rule one day – we have to trust that God is working even the hard things together for good.)
Wow – His Word is so good and relevant to my life. I’m amazed each day I open it, study it, and see God calling me to stand firm in His hope rather than the limited understanding of the events of my life. So today – I will stand firm in hope – hope that God is using things like alopecia, broken shower doors, and even the criticism of others to work together to shape my character and prepare me to be the woman He desires me to be.