“Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” Isaiah 35:4 NLT
We are living in a time when prophecies of God’s judgment abound. We grapple with the fear of the wrathful judgment of an angry God as we seek the merciful justice of a loving Heavenly Father. When the Jews were facing the spectre of an invasion by the Assyrians, the prophet Isaiah pronounced the following judgment of God on the nations:
“Come here and listen, O nations of the earth. Let the world and everything in it hear my words. For the Lord is enraged against the nations. His fury is against all their armies. He will completely destroy them, dooming them to slaughter.”1
Our response to God’s judgment reveals the condition of our hearts. Sinners will shake with fear and terror will seize the godless when they are confronted with the devouring and consuming fire of God’s judgment.2 But for those who are honest and fair, who refused to be corrupted and enticed to do wrong,3 they have the blessed assurance of God’s salvation:
“Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.’”4
There is a spiritual war against evil, our spiritual enemy. As in any war, there will be suffering and pain. After the visit of the Wise Men from the east to the infant Jesus, Jewish boys in Bethlehem who were 2 years old or younger were massacred by King Herod when the Wise Men did not tell him that they had found the infant Jesus.5 It was a grim demonstration of the suffering that pride and the lust for power in the human heart can cause.
Suffering is part and parcel of life in a fallen world. It is the season of winter that comes to all of us – in sickness and in health, for the old and the young, for the poor as well as the rich, and is irrespective of our race or creed. The greatest suffering is the absence of God in our lives. Instead of hungering and thirsting for God’s love, we become addicted to the pleasures of the world to fill the empty space in our hearts that only God can fill. When there is no room in our hearts for Christ, our monkey minds keep us from seeing the simple blessings of God’s love in our mundane lives every day.
Jesus was born as the poorest of the poor, crushed with grief in the Garden of Gethsemane, and was filled with anguish by the absence of God on the cross to show us that God will always provide and is ever present in all human suffering. The worries and troubles of our daily lives distract us from a wonderful experience of being in God’s Presence in the midst of the storms of life – to hear our Lord voice saying, “Peace, be still!”, to our restless minds filled with anxious and fearful thoughts.
We have the freedom to choose, like Mary, the sister of Martha, to do the most important and essential thing – to sit at our Master’s feet and listen to what He wants to say to us. Our spirits may be willing but our flesh is weak. We need to watch and pray to be alert and to overcome the sin of acedia:
“Stay alert, be in prayer, so that you don’t enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don’t be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”6
Christian meditation helps us to watch our thoughts and to listen to God in prayer. The goal of Christian meditation is not to seek spiritual experiences – it is the simple way of expressing our hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness – blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.7 It is preparing the soil of our hearts to receive the hidden mercies of God.
Love came down at Christmas to empower us to go through suffering as well as to be with others in their suffering. May we be filled with wonder as we receive the most precious gift of all – Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God:
“May the gift of God amaze us still
The triumph of all time
As His child I kneel to Heaven’s will
To make His purpose mine
Though this road be scarred with trial and pain
It’s paved with lavish grace
Knowing Him will be my greatest gain
My hope the Saviour’s face”8
Lord, open my eyes to Your hidden mercies in the challenging times of my life.
- What are my thoughts and feelings about the judgment of God?
- How have I experienced the hidden mercies of God in times of trouble?
- How does prayer help me to face and overcome temptations?
Song of Praise:
Holy Child Who Chose The Hearts Of Men
- Isaiah 34:1-2, NLT
- Isaiah 33:14, NLT
- Isaiah 33:15, NLT
- Isaiah 35:4, NLT
- Matthew 2:13-18, NLT
- Mark 14:38, MSG
- Matthew 5
- Holy Child Who Chose The Hearts Of Men – Keith & Kristyn Getty