But you, Israel, my servant,Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff;
you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.
Isaiah 41:8-16 (ESV)
I’ve spent a significant portion of the last three years of my life battling discouragement. We all experience it from time to time - that thought that what we’re doing isn’t important, or that nobody cares. Sometimes, it can come from others’ input (or lack of input in some cases), while in other moments we find ourselves being our own worst critic.
I’ve spent the past 8 months on staff at my church, and they have been some of the most rewarding, exciting, epic, and fulfilling months I’ve ever had. At the same time, it has been one of the most chaotic, stressful, and challenging endeavors I’ve ever encountered. I will say this, and you’ll probably hear me say it often if you’re around me: I LOVE MY JOB. It still blows my mind to think that I spend my days working with teenagers, playing music, building tables, Photoshopping my boss’s face onto cartoon characters, and changing lives, and I get paid! That being said, everything is not always that simple. Throughout this year, I’ve discovered the reality of spiritual warfare. Sound fake? I always thought so, too. That is, until I began to see it work against me. I met students whose parents did not want them at church because of their conflicting religious views. I work with teens who are living in a culture where broken families are the norm; where parents and peers place impractical expectations on them that drive them to the depths of depression, despair, and self-harm (I actually have a whole post on this coming soon). I’ve heard comments and rumors about myself from people I hold dear to me, which are aimed at discrediting me or questioning my motives. I’ve physically and emotionally exhausted myself by staying up into all hours of the night with racing thoughts and feelings (hence the 2am blog) and then running at full speed for weeks straight while on empty. All in all, the weight of everything can be rather overwhelming. I’ve found that often, my prayers look a lot like, “God, what the heck did you get me into? Why did you pick me for this?” When you pour your entire life and passion into a cause and a mission, it becomes incredibly easy to get discouraged when things around you seem to be crashing in.
Earlier this month, I had read Isaiah 40. I actually wrote about it as well. After I discovered it one night in a time of need, I began to revisit that passage quite a bit. I began dissecting it. I started to share parts of it with others. When God’s Word speaks to you, your life begins to speak it back. The power of this passage began to stick with me, and it began to dawn on me: “If I can feel my life begin to make sense after reading God’s Word, why don’t I do it more often?” In the past few weeks since, I’ve become fascinated with reading more and more of the Bible. Especially the Old Testament. There’s something about reading something that was composed thousands of years ago and have it jump out with as much clarity as if it were written yesterday. I discovered Isaiah 41 soon after (I mean, that’s logical. It’s the next chapter. Haha). God starts out with explaining to the Israelites that he has chosen them. That word carries a lot of power. God could have used anyone to do the work I’m doing, but he selected me. I find myself overwhelmed by that; not in the “ooh, look at me! I’m the best” sense, but as a child whose father has given him the attention he desires. But here’s the cool part: it doesn’t stop there. God didn’t just tell them he had chosen them and then leave them to fend for themselves. Check out Verse 10, my favorite:
“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Often, I feel as if God has thrown me into an arena in my underwear without a sword; a fighter whose weaknesses are fully exposed and who has no defense, fully vulnerable to attack and criticism. But God promises us strength. We weren’t meant to do it alone. But at the same time, we can’t be lazy. Verse 10 uses the words “strengthen”, “help”, and “uphold”. I watched Evan Almighty last night. Morgan Freeman (God) spoke to a character who was struggling, and shared the idea that “God [doesn’t just] give a man courage, but the opportunity to be courageous.” I’ve seen that movie many times, but last night it jumped out on me. We talk sometimes in Christian circles about God fighting our battles for us, when in reality we are given the opportunity to rely on him for the strength needed to take on our enemies. Verse 15 says that God gives us the strength to completely demolish the mountains and make chaff (waste) out of them. That’s huge.
I still don’t fully comprehend the mission God has created me to fulfill. And I don’t think I ever fully will. But my prayer is that I would continue to seek refuge in Him, that my strength would be renewed and in turn I would be able to share this glorious reward with others.
And if our God is for us,
then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us,
then what can stand against?