Tag Archives: Isaiah 43:2

Safe Cracking

After watching the local news recently, I have come to the conclusion that most of us are obsessed with safety.  We are willing to do whatever is required to be safe from illness, as is evident by the shortages of bottled water and hand sanitizer at our nation’s ‘big box’ retailers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  We are willing to invest significant resources to be safe from crime, installing video doorbells and high-tech security systems to prevent break-ins.  Our hearts break due to our insecurities arising from natural disasters, expecting that sirens and first responders ought to keep us from the harm of tornados or wildfire.  We expect that we, and those we love, ought to be safe from the dangers of life.

Despite all our sacrifices at the altar of safety, we remain at risk.  Emergency rooms across the country will still be filled today with those who suffered injury.  Prisons throughout the world will be filled today with people unjustly convicted to serious crimes.  Homeless shelters and food banks in urban areas will be filled by individuals and families who have been ravaged by systemic poverty.  We will continue to face illness and injustice.  We will be overshadowed by disaster and need.  We will be plagued with injury and crime.  No matter what we give – offering our power, our possessions and our priorities – safety is persistently fickle.

It is for many a troubling reality that God does not promise safety for those who follow Him.  However, we can be comforted by the reality that He does promise us Himself.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

“I will be with you” – through the waters and through the flames.  In the Bible, references to water typically represent chaos (e.g. the creation narrative) and references to fire typically represent judgement (e.g. the book of Revelation).  We all know that life can be chaotic, messy and disruptive.  When it is, and we feel unsafe, we can take comfort in the truth that God is with us.  We also know that life is filled with the consequences of bad acts, committed by our own hands or by the hands of others.  When it is, and we feel like the world is conspiring against us for our ruin, we can have peace in the truth that God is with us through it all.

We can choose to put our faith and trust in the thoughts and plans birthed by human ingenuity or put our faith and trust in the one who designed and created every human mind.  We are wise when we take precautions, refusing to be consumed by the fears that come with uncertainty and insecurity.  Whatever you face this week, you should know that God goes with you.  This world is a scary place, but thankfully we are never alone.

“Them’s the Brakes”

I have always enjoyed roller coasters.  I delight in the anticipation from the slow but steady climb and the exhilaration caused by the rapid descent.  I am enthralled to no end when these experiences of undulation repeat themselves at an ever increasing rate of speed.  I like the old-fashioned wooden coasters, with their drop-bars, shimmies and creaks.  I like the newer, metal coasters with their harnesses, loops and corkscrew twists.  Unlike the carousel or teacups, the roller coaster is the highlight of my visit to the theme park.  I will try any one of them; any one, except the emotional roller coaster.  

I went on an emotional roller coaster ride on Wednesday, beginning at 8:30 in the morning, when the dealership’s service manager called with news about my car (they had been performing routine maintenance on it for about twenty-four hours).  The voice on the phone told me that the calipers had seized and needed replacing, costing an additional $530.  Feeling the pinch of the rock on one side and the hard place on the other, I agreed to the added expense.  [Down we go.]  Then I remembered that we purchased an extended warranty with the vehicle, and because we had moved about a year ago, I knew where I could find all the paperwork for the car.  [Up we go again.]  Securing the documents and reading them, I was overjoyed that calipers were covered under warranty.  [The ride was over].

But the roller coaster didn’t slow down after all.  Upon closer inspection, the warranty covered parts and labor for the first five years or 60,000 miles, whichever occurred first.  Since we purchased the car less than five years ago, the only question was the mileage, which was, when I dropped it off at the dealer, 61115.  Because of 1115 miles, we were liable for the cost we couldn’t really afford.  [And down we go again].  All I could do was wait for the work to be done and the final invoice to be calculated.  Finally, at 12:30, I received a call from the same service manager.  It turns out the technician was able to free up the calipers and springs so that they would work properly and the repairs (and the expense) were unnecessary.  [You may now safely exit the ride.]

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.   Isaiah 43:2

It doesn’t take three years in seminary to know that roller coasters are not mentioned in the Bible.  However, we can turn to the Bible to find assurances that God is with us through the ups and downs of life.   The ups and downs of my week ended, this time, on the up side.  Maybe next time we will be less fortunate.  I want to delight in all things, for God is with me, sitting right beside me throughout the waves.  To paraphrase Matt Redmond’s song “10,000 Reasons”, whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the coaster drops.

Singing in the Rain

As I was standing out in the schoolyard, waiting for Joshua’s dismissal, I was thinking about all the umbrellas.  Did I mention it was raining?  Our relationship with umbrellas is a complex one.  We don’t think about our umbrella until we need it; we’d never search for one on a sunny day.  They break in the wind and rain, but we don’t replace them, regretting that decision the moment a bit of inclement weather arrives.  We stick them in closets or in trunks, along with the winter boots and ice scrapers, and then are unable to get our hands on them when we need them.

Some people like little, compact umbrellas that can fit in a purse or briefcase, just big enough to protect our heads from the drops (but insufficient to keep our shoes and shoulders dry).  Some people prefer the big, golf-sized umbrellas that you can use as a walking stick, sufficient to protect you and a few companions from whatever may fall from the sky.  As I waited in the schoolyard, every variety of umbrella converged: black umbrellas for the business types, rainbow-striped ones for the free spirited, pink parasols for the princesses and clear plastic domes for the utilitarian folks among us.

There were also people with no umbrella – these are the people I was wondering about.  Did they not possess an umbrella?  Did they own one at one time but lost or misplaced it?  Did they have one at home, but figured that their hood or their hat or that overhang would keep them sufficiently dry?   Did they have a bad experience with an umbrella in the past, perhaps a terrible wind or bout of hail, and swore to never trust an umbrella again?   Did they think that the weather was something they could handle and that a little bit of water never hurt anyone?

I was also wondering if people think of God in the same ways we think of umbrellas.  Are they thinking that God is good when we need Him, but unnecessary on bright and sunny days?  Do they keep God in the closet and then forget about Him?  Have they had a bad experience and blamed God for their discomfort?  Is God little more than a fashion accessory?  Well, God is not merely a cosmic or spiritual umbrella, useful only in protecting us from what may fall from the skies.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.    Isaiah 43:2

God cannot be relegated to the closet until we feel He could be useful; He is continually making His presence known.  God does not come in a myriad of sizes and colors; He is more than we can imagine and greater than we think.  God does not simply keep us dry when we find ourselves in the throes of an April shower; He can enable us to pass through floodwaters and flames.  If you want to be equipped to face the challenges of life, be sure you have an umbrella in your trunk, but make sure God is by your side.