But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you… – Isaiah 43:1-4
We were at a church conference at which Pastor John Ortberg offered a message at the beginning of which he had us write down the words from Isaiah 43:4, “You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.” The experience – some 20 years ago – is still fresh on my mind. Such a powerful and important word from God assuring us that we are precious and loved by him. It anchors the heart and enlivens the soul to hear this and gives life, hope, and salvation to those who believe it.
As the flood waters rise the challenges of recovering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane and now Tropical Storm Harvey loom large. The words that set the stage for this testimony of God’s love seem especially apropos: “When you pass through the waters I will be with you.”
During these difficult days, there must be something that sustains our spirits, and keeps us going. One part of that equation has to do with the inimitable spirit of the human being. There is, to be sure, something within us all that wants to move forward, to overcome adversity, and to make our way through life with a sense of meaning and purpose.
For the follower of Jesus Christ, however, there is another facet of our being that goes beyond simply living a fulfilled life. Make no mistake: we will not be spared the waters and the fires. We are living in that reality even now. God’s presence in the life of a follower of Jesus directs, sustains, and enlightens us along the way.
There are certain people who simply – by their presence – bring you up or drag your spirits down. When we bring God with us into relationships and encounters we have the potential to offer hope and comfort that is so greatly need in these days. His very presence helps us to do that. God moves us to look beyond our own necessary self-preservation because he has us in his loving care. He is with us, and that being the case we not only have confidence and courage in the face of the challenges of life, but a foundation upon which to build a life of service and love to others.