Gull at Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, Maine
This gull isn’t perturbed about the mostrous wave threatening to overwhelm it. Its confident stance is a reminder of what the prophet Isaiah realized and expressed to Israel:“…listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:1-3 (NLT2)
Life is undeniably filled with pitfalls, dangers, and disasters which threaten to overwhelm our person, families and nation. We have no reasonable expectation or promise of protection from pain, suffering, disappointment, illness, or loss. Despite that, one of the more common Biblical commands is “Do not be afraid.” Frequently coupled with that command is the command against discouragement. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and be courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)(1 Chronicles 28:20)“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15)
Anxiety and discouragement occur when we lose confidence in God. If we perceive He is unseeing, distant, uncaring, unable, and uninvolved, if we sense there is little or no possibility of resolving our situation, if we feel we are alone, our faith waivers. Where or on whom we focus in life will define our fear-self or God? On one occasion when the disciples were caught on the sea in a great storm and were desparate and frightened, Christ “rebuked” the wind and quieted the storm and then asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? (Mark 4:49-40) The power of God’s presence makes brave those hearts which are challenged by adversity. Holding genuine belief in God’s Sovereign power and remembering His loving care lead to courageous faith in devastastion and loss.
Moses repeatedly exhorted the Israelites to never forget what wonders God had done for them. (Deuterononmy 6) Christ knew how desperate life could be and taught his followers not to borrow trouble but to always keep the end goal in mind, to live as Kingdom dwellers always trusting the Sovereign King, who always did good for them. (Matthew 6:25-34) Deliberately remembering what God in Christ has done for us reorients us away from negative thinking to gratitude. The Apostle Paul, who experienced all manner of suffering, reminded the Roman Church: “We can rejoice, too, … For we know how dearly God loves us…… When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”
He also said that we can rejoice “when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.“Pain and disappointments can bring a clarity about our humanity, about our strengths and weaknesses, about what is meaningful, about motivations and goals, and about mortality and God. Trials refine and confirm faith in the “One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy and who dwells “with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.(Isaiah 57:15)
There will be “deep waters,” “rivers of difficulty” and “fires of oppression.” There will be times when we are “utterly helpless” and our spirits need reviving. However, God walks with those who have “contrite hearts,” hearts of faith which rest in His ability to ransom souls and situatons and walk with Him in the dark moments. Gospel singer Linda Randle expresses it this way in her song ” God on the Mountain”.
We talk of faith way up on the mountain/Talk comes so easy when life’s at its best/
Now down in the valleys, of trials and temptations/That’s where your faith, is really put to the test/For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley/When things go wrong, he’ll make it right/And the God of the good times/Is still God in the bad times/The God of the day, is still God in the night