So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
I’ve learned that getting people to read blog posts can be challenging. (Thank you for reading, by the way.) For starters, most people don’t like to read. Twitter has trained us to shut down after 140 characters and Facebook has taught us to never click that See More link at the end of a status update. After all, who wants to read even more nattering on about the Chinese chicken and sweet potato casserole recipe someone found and plans to try for dinner tomorrow night?
The fact that it’s a Christian blog makes it even trickier. Start a blog post with “The Bible tells us…” and you can rest assured that post is DOA. (Welcome to the age of “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”)
So in order to grab the reader’s attention right from the start, it can help to open with a “hook”. A hook (an aptly named literary device) can be:
- An anecdote about something personal, such as dealing with a bug infestation.
- An incident from a TV show or the movies, such as the old game show “To Tell the Truth.”
- A description of a well-known place or event – like Disney World.
The unsuspecting reader starts out reading a funny story about gnats colonizing the kitchen garbage can and, before they know it, they’re reading about Jesus.
I know – it’s a little mean. But so is letting someone die without hearing about God’s grace.
My original intention for this post was to say that Isaiah 41:10, the verse at the top, didn’t need any sort of hook or distraction:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to read about this? Who wouldn’t revel in the message of this promise from God: “Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered”?
However, I’m realizing now that I actually did start this post with a hook – a hook about hooks.
So sue me. Anyway, since you’ve read this far…
I love Isaiah 41:10 – I want it screen-printed on a t-shirt. (I guess it would need to be written backward so I could read it when I looked in the mirror – or upside-down so I could just glance down and read it. The t-shirt place would probably look at me funny.) This verse lets me know that, with God in control, when it comes to having the strength to do what I have to do, I’m totally off the hook – I got nothing to fear.
One (minor) caveat: even though everything from God is ultimately good, that doesn’t mean that it won’t ever hurt. After all, Christians get killed in car wrecks and end life with Alzheimer’s. Christians who manage their money Biblically still sometimes struggle to live from paycheck to paycheck. Christians lose their jobs, their homes, and their loved ones.
I’m reminded of a dear friend who, a few months back, wrote me on Facebook: “I need your prayers. I was diagnosed with cancer last week and am having surgery Thursday. I’m not scared of the surgery, just the unknown afterward…”
(Side note: to be requested specifically by someone to pray for them is probably as great a blessing as there is. Seriously.)
I confess: I would have been scared of the “unknown afterward” too, had I been in the same situation. So where does that fear come from? Maybe it’s due to the reality of our frail humanity or our struggle with trusting God without reservation. Fear is nothing new, as Isaiah was writing about it 2700 years ago, give or take a couple of days.
Obviously it doesn’t come from God, because in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, chapter 1 verse 7 he says:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (NKJV)
He knows we have a tendency to do so, though. “Do not fear” and “Do not be afraid” are some of the most oft-repeated phrases in the Bible.
So do not fear, for I am with you…
That’s a difficult lesson to learn, but one God wants to teach us. So I wrote my friend back with some encouragement and the promise to pray, then ended with, “One more thing: read Isaiah 41:10 before Thursday.”
And I waited – and prayed…
The post-surgery message I received was, “I read the scripture before surgery. I had this beautiful image of God with his huge hands holding me in the palm of his hands! I am going to be fine. Whatever the outcome, I feel a great peace.”
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Indeed He will; He did for my friend and He has for me, just as He promised through Isaiah. He can – and will – do it for anyone.
So if you got hooked into reading this and have made it this far, just know that, in addition to strengthening and helping and upholding us and taking away our fears, God has taken everything else on Himself as well:
- He came and lived as a man and willingly gave His life to pay for and cancel our sin debt – we couldn’t do it ourselves.
- He offered this cancellation of our sin debt to us as a free gift, out of graciousness and mercy – there’s no way we can work hard enough to earn it.
- He made the gift of salvation simple – we only have to believe, ask, and accept.
And not only will He do all of these things in this life, He will do even more in the next. (I just finished reading Randy Alcorn’s book, “Heaven,” so I’m all up on how eternity’s gonna work.) There will be no more cancer, no more death, no more fear. In other words, if the upholding we get from God’s righteous right hand now happens to pinch a little (or a lot), it won’t pinch forever.
So before you get the hook in this life, be sure you get hooked on Jesus. Trust me – life with Jesus? It’s off the hook.