Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. . . .
Two nights ago, about the time I should have been going to bed, I found a two-week old email from a relative with a link to a blog telling about the condition of a sick child, also a relative. I looked at the blog and it was a little like starting a novel in the middle. I didn't know who the characters were. I went back to the first entry and began reading from there.
It was the story of a four-year old boy — a grandson of one of my cousins. His name is Caed. On the morning of March 1st, he would have seemed like any other four-year old, except that his face was so perfect his parents should keep him out of Schwab's Drug store in Hollywood where doubtless a talent scout would see him and take him away to a career in the movies.
That Saturday afternoon, the family was preparing to leave for home following a visit to grandparents. They were in Idalou, Texas (near Lubbock) about to go home to Celina, Texas (near Dallas) — a journey of more than three hundred miles, estimated by Google Maps to take 5 hours, 47 minutes. There are no major cities along the most obvious route. About half an hour before they planned to leave, Caed began to complain of pain in his stomach. Concerned that he might have the flu, they took him to a clinic in Lubbock. The clinic ran some tests and immediately referred them to a hospital Emergency Room.
The hospital found Caed in a dire condition. To find out what was wrong, they did emergency exploratory surgery. It wound up lasting about three hours. They found a sometimes-fatal condition called volvulus, which Stedman's Medical Dictionary defines as an "abnormal twisting of the intestine causing obstruction." It can also cause a loss of blood flow. These things often result in necrosis of the intestinal wall. Every account of it mentions the extreme pain involved. During the surgery, doctors removed 50% of Caed's small intestine and a small portion of the large intestine. A few days later, in another three-hour surgery, they removed more of the small intestine.
If you would like to know more of the story or check on how's he's doing, here is the location of the blog.
Caed has two siblings, a seven-year old and, as of March 1st, a three week old. Can you imagine the pain of this young mother? For almost a month now, not only has she watched her four-year old in agony, but has hardly seen her newborn. A quick internet search told me that Caed's dad is the Youth Minister at a church in Celina and lost his 58 year-old father to heart disease back in November.
The blog makes clear that these are choice people. We humans, with our fleshly tendency toward superstition, build an illusion that bad things only happen to bad people. But these are the good guys. They're smart and beautiful and do things the right way. They eschew evil and cling to the good. This young mother's faith testifies to the greatness of her God, her love for Him, and her family. If you go to the blog, you will be inspired.
The longest essay on this site, "Is God a Nice Person?" looks at what C.S. Lewis called The Problem of Pain. I wrote "Is God A Nice Person?" to answer the question, "How can God be good and allow suffering in the world?"
I stand by my answer, but, in retrospect, see it as incomplete. A Christian can fully believe in God, know He is good, have a sound Biblical understanding of the presence of pain in the world, but find a merely intellectual comprehension less than adequate. You can be told that almost three- quarters of the earth's surface is covered in water and be made to see how essential that is for sustaining human life. You can believe it and understand it, but it probably won't make you feel any better if you're drowning.
I have good news. God has an answer beyond the intellectual one, and that answer is the best possible - Himself.
We began this essay with a reading from Isaiah 41. Verse 14 makes clear that this section was originally written to Israel. For reasons I won't go into here (but would be happy to give anyone who emails me) these verses are also properly applied to Christians, corporately and individually.
Let's look at verse 10 in a little different way, using bullet points:
. Fear thou not;
. for I am with thee:
. be not dismayed;
. for I am thy God:
. I will strengthen thee;
. yea, I will help thee;
. yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Each phrase is potent, but the cumulative effect is something more — a power almost impossible to define or describe. As you read each word, remember the identity of the Speaker and that He's speaking to you.
Fear thou not
We see variations of this striking command all through scripture. It may be because fear and faith present basic incompatibilities. It may be because fear of anything other than Him is an insult to the greatness and goodness of God. We're to fear Him only. Otherwise, we're to live in a special place God has provided for us, a place above fear — a place called love.
For I am with thee
"I am with thee" is an almost overwhelming statement. If the President called and said he would stop by for breakfast in the morning, you would be thrilled. Well, this is better. How much better? Count the ways. 1- "I Am" is Creator of the universe, savior of souls, infinite being whose majesty can't be measured . . . and He's certainly not in the same league with a merely human leader. 2- The Lord is not just coming over for breakfast. He's here now. I mean really here - every here, always here - with me as I type, with you as you read, no matter the distance in space or time. And He'll be here at breakfast, too. 4-He doesn't drop in, then leave. He remains. He's our constant.
"For I am with thee." Don't forget the first word. It relates this phrase to "Fear thou not." The thought lines here are as pure as 1 1=2. It's not right or reasonable to be afraid when the omnipotent Savior who loves you is also with you.
"Fear thou not for I am with thee." It's strong enough for anything.
Be not dismayed
The New American Standard Bible renders this, "Do not anxiously look about you." It's on the same theme as "Fear thou not," but it's more than a repetition. It has to do with anxiety, surprise, and being overwhelmed. And then it gives a fabulous reason why we need not be dismayed.
For I am thy God
It rests on Him. He is our God. Not only is He with us and for us, when we're His, He's ours. He's on our side. Keep remembering Who the speaker is and that He's speaking to you.
I will strengthen thee
The challenge can be great trouble or great success. Either way, we get tired - mentally, physically, spiritually. He gives you strength, amplifying your power and blessing your efforts — whether it feels like it or not.
Yea, I will help thee
The President calls and says, "Hey, I'm coming over for breakfast, and afterwards I'll help you clean your garage." God saying, "Yea, I will help thee," is better, and it's no fantasy. He promises to help, and He keeps His promises.
Notice that He doesn't just say, "In my omnipotence, I will do whatever needs to be done, so you just sit there and watch." No. He says He will help you. He and you will partner together. He doesn't need you. But He chooses you. He puts you at the heart of the endeavor, but doesn't leave you alone there. I AM THAT I AM says, "I will help you."
Note, too, that it begins with a strong affirmation - "Yea" - as does the next phrase.
Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
What a relief! You are not your upholder. He is. He upholds you with His right hand. Scripture often refers to God's right hand as signifying His power. Exodus 15:6 says, "Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power."
We often see another theme in scripture - He saves with his right hand. In other words, He saves with power. Psalm 17:7 says, "Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee." Psalm 16:11 says that at His "right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
He is omnipotent. He created the heavens and the earth. His strength is signified by the expression, "His right hand." And that's what he upholds us with.
He could uphold us in every other way, but if He left us depending on the quality of our own righteousness, our boats would be sunk. Thankfully, He promised to uphold us with the right hand of His righteousness.
Philippians 3:8-10 says:
. . . I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
It's central to the Christian faith - all my good deeds, fine prayers, moral rectitude, positive attitudes, helpful suggestions, generosity, and good intentions . . . aren't worth much unless they're made clean by Him, covered by His righteousness.
Look at the verse again. And then look at it again . . . and again. Revel in it. You can't be too busy for this. Memorize it, and you can take it with you forever. Here it is again, this time we'll add a companion from two verses down. Remember again Who is speaking and to whom He is speaking.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. . . . For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. —Isaiah 41:10 and 13
Christians Hurt, Too
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