This week, the Daily Office Lectionary (the schedule that takes pray-ers and read-ers through most of the Bible in the course of two years, found in the back of any Book of Common Prayer, and online in various locations, like this) has been taking us through Isaiah. This prophet’s words are major faves for Messianic imagery and promise–Isaiah’s are the words ones Jesus quotes most during his ministry as recorded in the Gospels. They’ve been fertilizing my heart the last few weeks (and months–in our women’s Bible Study); here are a few thoughts on two verses from Isaiah 43, part of the Lectionary’s reading in the last week.
“When you pass through the water, 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.” Isaiah 43:2
We have, we do, we will face rivers and fires–storms of relationships and financial stability and physical/mental health–there is no promise God ever makes that we will be shielded or that we can avoid trials and pain in our lives. The promise made to us here is that when we face pain and trials, because we will, we won’t be drowned or choked or suffocated or burned or consumed–we won’t be killed. When we face pain, we have an opportunity to grow and learn and to become stronger through the trouble we’re encountering. If we stick stubbornly to God, like a burr on a dog’s coat, our trials become moments that we can learn trust, and we can come out the other side stronger and happier and closer to God than before.
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
We don’t experience much physical wilderness in our day & age–there aren’t any places on the earth that haven’t at least been mapped, if not overrun with people and paths and conveniences (especially in the US)–but perhaps you can imagine what it might be like to stand on the edge of a desert, or at the end of the road leading into the nature preserve (if that’s the closest we can imagine to “wilderness”!), and try to conceive a way through the uncharted space to wherever it is we’re supposed to go. Even if it’s like a park, and there are paths running through this “wilderness,” such ready-made paths never seem to go quite the right direction. Though we face areas of wilderness in our lives–relationships that are stuck and have no clear direction out of the mud, medical or financial or other problems that have only walls and uncertainty–God will guide your path (the one for just you–not a pre-made, well-worn path, perhaps).