“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. 11 “See, all your angry enemies lie there, confused and humiliated. Anyone who opposes you will die and come to nothing. 12 You will look in vain for those who tried to conquer you. Those who attack you will come to nothing. 13 For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. 14 Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.”
Last time we saw that God’s first prescription for panic is His promised presence and as we continue in Isaiah 41 we will see His second antidote to anxiety is:
- His Promised Protection
When we choose to trust in God’s presence and power we are not only delivered from our fears but we are also delivered from our enemies, the source of those fears. Verses, 11 and 12 make it clear that destruction will come upon those who try to use fear as a weapon against us, “11 See, all your angry enemies lie there, confused and humiliated. Anyone who opposes you will die and come to nothing. 12 You will look in vain for those who tried to conquer you. Those who attack you will come to nothing.” God declares that all of Israel’s adversaries, from those who are angry with them (v. 11) to those who are declaring war on them (v. 12), will become confused and humiliated. These verses remind us that while our enemy is real and out to destroy us, our Redeemer is greater and has the power to protect us. Often we fail to trust in God’s protection and instead take matters into our own hands. Instead of resting in His power to protect we end up retaliating, instead of trusting in His timing we resort to revenge. Do you trust in His power to protect or are you tempted to take matters into your own hands? Remember that while it can be hard to trust God, especially when we are under attack, turning to self and taking matters into our own hands leads to sin and more suffering. When we choose retaliation instead of relying we show the world our hurt instead of God’s heart, and the world gets to witness our pain instead of His power. Are you going to let God rescue and redeem or are you going to play into the enemies hand and rely on retaliation? When you fear the dark valley experiences remember that God’s infinite love can carry you through and provide protection regardless of the pain. Only He can find a way when there seems to be no way. Only He knows the path through the sea and has the power to part it so we can pass through. When we turn to and trust Him, He will show us how to resolve all conflicts. He reminds us of His immeasurable love and then shows us how to love others through Him. Look to His love and allow it to quiet your fears, remember God said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” Romans 12:19, Hebrews 10:30. You may have a tendency to take threats and criticisms personally, but learn to objectively offer them all up to the Lord. Learn to live behind the shield of faith that will defend as it deflects the fiery darts of the devil, Ephesians 6:14-18. Learn to lovingly accept the scary situations that the Lord allows to come into your life. Sometimes it takes fearful situations to force us to turn to Him in faith. No matter what weakness, fear or feeling of deficiency you are facing His grace is always sufficient. As God said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 in response to his thorn in the flesh: “MY grace is sufficient for you for My power is made perfect in your weakness. Most gladly therefore, I will boast of my weakness (feelings of fear) for when I am weak, then I am strong, the less I have the more I depend on you.” God doesn’t always remove the afflictions in our lives but He will provide us with sufficient grace so that a watching world will witness His power in and through us. When we let His power be displayed through our weaknesses it encourages the hearts of others to turn to and trust in Him. Fearful times put into the hands of God can be used to make us more compassionate, sensitive and caring so we can more effectively minister to others. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:2-4, “He comforts us in all our afflictions so that we are able to comfort those who are afflicted with the comfort we receive from God.” Don’t just look to grace, lean on it, live in it and let others see it. Not only does God’s antidote to anxiety involve His promised presence and protection but also His:
- Promised Provision
The reason for the deliverance is revealed in verse13, “For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.” As God’s people we are forgiven, as a result we can face the future without fear knowing that He will keep us form faltering and falling. It is interesting to note the parallelisms with verse 10: an admonition not to fear because He is their God and will help them, as well as God’s right hand upholding us in verse 10 and then in verse 13 His hand holding our right hand. When you put these verses together they paint a powerful picture of a parent protecting and providing for a child. Not only is our Fathers hand tough enough to defeat our enemies but it’s also tender enough to hold onto ours. This final emphatic “I” in verse 13 underlines the personal involvement God has in the life of His children. He does not merely standby, but instead He holds on to us securely. Because of His powerful provision and our tendency to panic the command to not fear is repeated again in verse 14: “Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.” Worm here, is a reference to their feeble condition, despised and stepped on. In and of themselves they had no power, but because of Him they would be redeemed. God is strong enough, creative enough, and compassionate enough that nothing can prevent Him from carrying out His plan. God is holding our hand but the question is are we holding His, are we trusting in Him? Some of us need to confess our sins of self-reliance, we need to stop trying and start trusting. Too many of us are carrying burdens that God did not intend for us to bear. When fear comes it should be like a warning light on the dashboard of your life. Just like your check engine light it is a signal that something needs attending to before the engine of your heart overheats and blows. Don’t deny your feelings of fear, but instead let them cause you to run to Him and be a catalyst to take up the full armor of God that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6:10-18. Do not be afraid of being vulnerable, God will deliver you when you stick your neck out for Him. Remember a turtle never makes any progress until he sticks his neck out, so it is for those of us who have a tendency to want to feel safe and stay in our shell. Be bold, don’t cower to the culture, speak and share about His word, His will and His work in your life. Don’t live in fear of what others might think of you remember the teaching of 1 Peter 3:14-16: “even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do NOT fear what they fear, do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” It’s time for us to rework our perceptions of what we think are the ideal circumstances. Life does not have to be safe, secure and stable in order for God’s will to be accomplished. We need to learn that there are many cycles in life, as Ecclesiastes 3 says, there is a time for tears and a time for rejoicing. Life is not easy, and we need to be careful not to base it on our current conditions that can and will change but on Christ who does not, the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Be careful not to magnify scary situations and project your problems way out of proportion. Resist the temptation to over react by re-framing your hardships in the light of the afflictions that Jesus faced as He walked through the dust and the difficulties of this world. Are you going to focus on your problems or the promise of His power, presence, protection and provision?