By Eileen Lundy
Lectionary reading for 3/31/2022: Psalm 126; Isaiah 43:1-7; Philippians 2:19-24
Selected passage for reflection: Isaiah 43:1-7
Isaiah 43:1-7 ESV
But now thus says the Lord he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
In this passage from Isaiah a picture is painted of God being intimately involved with His people. It is God who creates and forms us for His glory. God redeems and calls His people by name, claiming us as His own by saying “you are mine”. To be called by name is to be known, to be honored as having worth and value and to be precious in God’s eyes.
It is from this place of intimacy and knowing that God promises to be with us. God gives us the promise of His presence with us in the difficulty and pain of life. Promising to be with us in what may feel like an overwhelming tidal wave or an out-of-control fire. God does not promise to prevent these circumstances but rather to be with us in the circumstances of life that threaten to overwhelm or consume.
I have vivid memories of going to work in November 2008, the day after learning devasting news that would change my future. What I had feared and prayed would not happen was going to be my new reality. I remember stopping several times throughout that day feeling overwhelmed by the “too muchness” of my circumstances. The promise of Isaiah 43:2 would then come to mind and I would say, “God, this feels like too much, too overwhelming; but you say it will not overwhelm me, that you will be with me”. And the fear would subside, for a while. When it returned, I would stop again to say, “It feels like too much, but you say . . .” and the fear would subside, for a while. That day and in the following days and weeks I experienced the truth of God’s promise to be with me.
I love this passage in Isaiah because of my memory of experientially knowing God’s presence with me during a difficult time in my life, But I also find myself experiencing trepidation as I read this passage. I am afraid because I know that God’s promise is not that we will be protected from experiencing pain, suffering or evil, but that God will be with us. We will get wet from the water, but we will not be overwhelmed and swept away. The fire may singe or burn us, but we will not be consumed. I am afraid because I know there will be difficult circumstances to be faced in the future. God’s promise, though to my fear, to our fears is always the same “I will be with you”. Will you join me in learning to be satisfied with this answer and rest in God alone being enough?
Where are you feeling overwhelmed or in danger?
Pause to name that place and to name your fear.
Breath out your fear and the “too muchness” of your circumstances to God.
Breathe in the promise of Isaiah 43:2 “I will be with you”.
Repeat as needed.
O God, my Creator, You have called me by name and I am your beloved creation. You know my fears. In the overwhelming waves, the flames that threaten and the “too muchness” of life, may your presence sustain me. Let me rest in knowing that you alone are enough. Amen.
About the Author
Eileen Lundy is an oncology nurse, a pastor, and a spiritual director who lives in Omaha, Nebraska. She is a wife to Steve, a mother to 3 adult children and is patiently waiting for grandchildren. Eileen has a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Clarkson College, a Master’s in Spiritual Formation from Spring Arbor University and a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from North Park Seminary. Eileen loves a good story in any form; written, film or conversation.