“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV).
For dark days and even darker nights, for stretches of hardship that seem never to end, for the everyday problems of real life, we need to cling to this truth:
God is always with us.
More specifically, God is always with you.
Now say it to yourself, “God is always with me.”
“Is your heart breaking today? God is rushing toward you.”
We see this clearly in Moses’ pep talk to the children of God. “Be strong and courageous,” Moses exhorted them. “Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Whoever the “them” is in Deuteronomy 31:6, “they” don’t stand a chance. Let’s get the context.
Moses and the second generation of the post-Egypt children of Israel were standing on the border of the Promised Land. Moses knew he was about to die. Thirty-eight years before, all the parents and grandparents of Israel had camped on this very spot, but they had doubted God was with them and would protect them when they entered the Promised Land. The verdict? No faith—no conquest, no homeland, go wander. All of that generation had died in the wilderness. God was now going to give to the children what the parents wouldn’t trust Him for. So Moses, standing on the exit ramp to heaven, delivered these marching orders (summarized in my words):
“As you go up to face those giants in the land, you might think they are too strong for you, as your parents feared. But keep in mind—God is with you. You’re going to battle some violent opposition; you might be tempted to retreat. But remember—God is with you. You’ll face overwhelming odds; you’ll be incredibly outnumbered. Fear would be your natural response. But hold onto this—God is with you. This fight is not going to be over in ten minutes or ten weeks; there’s no quick solution. When you think it’s taking too long, remember—God is with you.”
“Be strong and courageous,” the weathered old leader said. “Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” I can imagine Moses adding, “Haven’t we learned this to be true in these forty years? He never left us while we were in the wilderness. He never forsook us but always provided what we needed. Why on earth should you fear now?”
Now as then, the worse the days get, the more God is with you. The harder the trial, the closer He moves toward you. Are you feeling crushed? He is rushing toward you to stand by your side and help you. When you’re going through hardship, or when you’re heavyhearted and burdened, God rolls up His sleeves and moves toward you in a way that’s unlike any other time. It doesn’t matter if you can see Him working. His approach may not cause you to feel any different. But it’s the truth—God is right there with you. The harder the days get, the closer He leans in so you can hear His voice. Sometimes it feels like God backs away from you when you hit hard times, but that’s not true. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Is your heart breaking today? God is rushing toward you. He is always with you.
Father, for all of us who daily need to renew our confidence and faith in You, help us now to lay hold of Your promise that You will never leave us nor forsake us. Help us to speak and live fearlessly because we are aware we are in Your presence. Lord, You are with me. I am never alone. Is there any greater assurance that I should not fear? Your promise stands, spoken over and over again in Your Word and satisfying Your followers throughout thousands of years—You are with me. I commit this truth to my heart right now. In the powerful name of Jesus I pray, amen.
There appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah” (Luke 1:11–13, esv).
Every time in Scripture when God’s presence is revealed, the person to whom it’s revealed feels fear. And then the messenger, or more often the Lord Himself, says, “Do not be afraid.”
It’s like, for example, when Jesus revealed Himself to His first disciples by causing a miraculous catch of fish. Peter said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8), but Jesus said to him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10).
Or in Revelation, when He revealed Himself to the apostle John, who said, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last’” (Revelation 1:17).
I think the angels must have been watching Him, because when they appear at various points in the Bible, and the person doesn’t know what to do with their scared, startled emotions, the angels always do what Jesus did.
Don’t be afraid, they say. What a comforting word.
Have you experienced the comforting presence of the Lord in your life? If you’ve been sad and someone’s given you happiness, that’s comfort. If you’ve been confused and someone’s given you wisdom, that’s comfort. If you’ve been fearful and someone’s said to you, “Don’t be afraid”—that’s comforting, isn’t it? “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). The Lord comforts His children.
He always has.
One of the classic books on the Christian bookshelf was written in the 1870s by Hannah Whitall Smith, a 43-year-old housewife at the time. It’s called The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, but don’t let the title fool you. It’s not a light, cheesy, be-happy, self-help, pop psychology kind of thing. This woman lost a preborn child. She lost a daughter to bronchial pneumonia. Her grown son, while a sophomore at Princeton University, died of typhoid fever, leaving her broken-hearted. Her husband had emotional problems, was in and out of sanatoriums, bankrupted the family’s wealth, and then—just when things started to go better—was caught in multiple marital infidelities.
But out of these dark places, she wrote of God’s comforting nearness. They weren’t insights learned on a mountain. They were realities experienced in the valley, where His comfort is actually felt the greatest.
I’ve gone through some deep valleys in my day, and, as a pastor, I get to go through some deep valleys with other people, too. I’m not generally the person they call to say their kid is doing great in baseball. My phone rings most often when the heartache comes. But as a result—like almost every pastor—I’ve gotten a front row seat to God’s comfort. I’ve seen people experience the reality of His presence.
Know this: God is awesome in the comfort category.
If you’re going through difficult circumstances, there’s a way. If you’re in the middle of the darkest night, He gives peace and assurance and a confidence from His Spirit that can’t be explained.
Don’t be afraid. The Lord is near. Be comforted.
Lord, You know my distresses and the pains of my heart. You know where I’m needful of Your comfort. Thank You that You always provide comfort at exactly the right time and in exactly the right way. Thank You for the precious truth that, “In your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). So I won’t be afraid, because You will give me everything my soul requires. And out of Your comfort, You will give me an overflow to share with others. In the strong name of Jesus I pray, amen.
“…Cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
Q: Who needs pardon?
Condition of receiving pardon: Knowing you need it. Get ready!
“…Cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned…” Isaiah 40:2
God’s thoughts about pardon are gospel thoughts. God’s ways about releasing sinners, setting captives free, putting you on a new page – are so much higher than ours.
Don’t let the ways you have failed the Lord in the past keep you from serving Him in the days ahead… live in His pardon and forgiveness today.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Isaiah 40:1-2
Get Ready – have you been crying? God wants your biblical messengers to cry to Him – CRY OUT!
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Isaiah 40:2
Tender words from the heart of God – not just that you’re comforted, but HOW it is heard – really matters to God. He is giving very specific direction about how He wants you cared for.
40 Days of Preparation… get ready!