October 30, 2017 • Life for Leaders
“I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mere mortals,
human beings who are but grass,
that you forget the LORD your Maker,
who stretches out the heavens
and who lays the foundations of the earth,
that you live in constant terror every day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction?
For where is the wrath of the oppressor?
The cowering prisoners will soon be set free;
they will not die in their dungeon,
nor will they lack bread.
For I am the LORD your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the LORD Almighty is his name.”
Do you ever find yourself gripped by fear? Are there times when your anxiety seems to devour your spirit? You pray in the hope of finding relief, but you can’t seem to get the fear out of your heart. Do you know this experience? I confess that I do. I’ve been a worrier since I was a child. And though I have certainly known the peace of God that passes all understanding, there are times when worry strangles my soul.
I find myself rather like Israel, at times. Israel was a small nation, one that had been an easy target for larger empires seeking expansion. The Persians overthrew the northern kingdom in the eight century BC. The Babylonians invaded the southern kingdom and decimated Jerusalem in the sixth century. Egyptian power continued to threaten Israel’s well-being. No wonder she remained “in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor” (51:13).
Yet the antidote to Israel’s fear was on her doorstep, if she would but open the door. However big and powerful her human enemies might have been, God is bigger and more powerful. He is the Creator who “stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth” (51:13) Confidence in the face of human threats was available to Israel… if she would not forget the Lord. Oh, I suppose that, in principal, Israel remembered the God who had so often saved her. But when it came to daily living, when it came to how Israel felt in real time, she forgot who God was and what he had done.
And so do I, at times. Maybe you do too, sometimes. When we read stories of economic collapse, when our loved ones struggle with seemingly insurmountable burdens, when we witness the tragic killing of innocent people, when we see injustice and feel powerless to help, and when we face our own mortality, we can forget the Lord. We forget his faithfulness, his majesty, his power, his mercy. We forget that God is always with us, and that nothing can separate us from his love (Rom 8:38-39). In times like these, we need the reminder of Isaiah. We need to know, once again, that God is great and gracious, mighty and merciful. And God is there for us.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of times when you have “forgotten” the Lord and found your soul gripped by fear?
If you have experienced this, what keeps you from trusting God?
What helps you to remember God in times of distress? What helps you to be reassured and comforted?
Gracious God, how many times have I forgotten you? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? I shudder to think of the number. It’s not that I stop believing in you or that my theology changes. But practically, and especially in my emotions, I forget your presence in my life. Your faithfulness disappears from my consciousness for a while. I feel afraid… afraid of where my life is heading, afraid of how my children will turn out, afraid of missing your blessing, afraid of dying young, afraid of losing my job, afraid that this world will never know your true peace… you name it. (Indeed, Lord, you can name it!)
Forgive me, Lord, for living as if you weren’t there. Forgive me for the times when I forget you and your strength. Help me to live each moment of each day with the sense of your presence. May I claim your promises and stake my life upon them. Even as you never forget me, dear Lord, may I never forget you. Amen.
Photo by July Brenda Gonzales Callapaza on Unsplash.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Managing Workplace Anxiety: I’m Afraid of Losing My Job (Luke 12 Sermon Notes)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.