September 30, 2017
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
You came near when I called on you;
you said, “Do not fear!”
All my life, I had two very real fears: that I would have a child with a birth defect, and that my marriage would break up. Even before I was married, I worried about how I would handle these things if they happened. Perhaps that seems silly to some, but some of you might know exactly what I am talking about. Your fears are always lurking, taunting you with their possibility.
In Isaiah, God told Hezekiah of the impending exile of his descendants to Babylon, but assured him he would already be dead by the time this happened. In our humanness, we can identify with Hezekiah when he thought with relief, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime” (Isaiah 39:6-8, NLT). That was Hezekiah’s fear talking—fear that something terrible like that would happen in his lifetime. And what a loud voice fear can have. Sometimes it can even overpower the voice of God as He lovingly reassures us of His nearness.
As you can probably guess, my two worst fears were realized. My third child was born with a severe birth defect that kept him hospitalized for months, then with full-time nursing care when he was home. He was dependent on a trach and a g-tube just to live.I had entered a world I knew nothing about, the very world I had feared all my life.Later on, in the aftermath of our son’s birth, my marriage also fell apart. The years of struggle and financial stress took their toll and left my husband and I virtual strangers.We would have to fight to save our wrecked marriage. I was living my worst nightmare.
But I was living.
I learned in the midst of our struggles that our verse today is so true. God does draw near to us in the midst of our worst fears. Even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death—the death of a loved one, the death of our dreams, the death of a marriage—He is with us, just as He promised. Not only is He near us, He is working things out, growing our faith and our character as we wrestle with our fears and learn to accept His will. While we can’t understand why He allows our fears to materialize, we later realize that we have come to know Him in a whole new way through them. He is our reward for persevering.
I know that, for me, I have come to appreciate what I went through and, while I would never choose to go through it again, I also am grateful (yes, grateful) for what God birthed within me as I lived out my worst fears. I learned that in our struggles we will see Him. In our trials, we will learn to trust Him. And in our fears, we will come to a new level of faith.
Dear Lord, Help me to trust in You even as my fears are realized. Help me to hear Your voice telling me that You are with me and that I don’t need to be afraid. Help me to feel your nearness. Most of all, Lord, help me to see Your purpose for me even as I am walking through trials. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.