'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.'
You tell me not to be afraid. God in heaven, Creator of the world, eternal Father, you bend down to me here in my little life and you whisper 'Don't be afraid.' How then, can I worry and fear and fret about things? And yet I do. When I read a verse like this and really read it; read it over to myself and emphasise different words each time, that's when I am taken aback at the enormity of it.
'So do not fear, for I am with you'
Because you are near. You are here, you are near. I read something the other day and the author of the book at one point says, 'He is closer than you think.' I can't get my head around it; I can't see you and I've never 'heard' you in an ear sort of way. I sometimes sense you, and I am sometimes overwhelmed by you, so I know that it's true, but how happy those people who saw you with their eyes, sat with you and shared a meal.
How blessed to have drunk the wine that you made from jars of water. How happy to have danced with you at a wedding feast. Wow. What a thought! Suddenly I'm sitting here smiling because I can see you laughing and singing and enjoying yourself at that wedding in Cana. Feeling for the hosts when the wine ran out, doing as your mother asks and making more simply so that the party would go on. That people would have fun at a wedding. Having a good time. Celebrating. You knew joy, didn't you? When I open a bottle of wine later this evening I will think of you.
I've got tears in my eyes.
'Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.'
You are my God. You are my God!
You have given me permission to call you mine. If that's not an amazing thing, I don't know what is.
Dismay is a good word. Makes me think of that facial expression which is a combination of surprise and anxiety and disappointment. I often feel dismayed. When things don't go my way and when I can't control what is happening. When things go wrong. When I get unwelcome news. When I've just turned over to a comfortable spot in bed with a cool bit of pillow and the alarm goes off. No, actually, that's more like horror than dismay - but I'm being flippant.
Dismay peppers my life, sometimes. Punctuates the sentences of my day, even a good day. Dismay at the bathroom scales, dismay at the weather, dismay at the spilled drink, dismay at the news. Dismay at the trivial and the serious. But you have said that not only are you here, but you are my God, and that should be enough to quell fear and banish dismay. I need to lean on you more heavily, I think. Turn to you, for you are right here, not to friends, or the internet, or food, or anything or anyone else. You are right here. God is here. I don't need to be dismayed.
'I will strengthen you and help you'
I am weak but you are strong. You have strength to spare. You see my weakness and you don't let me fall over and lie still; you give me strength to get me through. You help me. I am not enough on my own, but with you at my side, I cannot lose. I have nothing to fear, not even fear itself, for you are my God and you are nearer than I can dream.
You understand my problems and you know how I feel. You know my temptation to give up and you know when I run out of whatever it is that I need; courage, patience, determination, strength, resolve, commitment, self control. You are here and you will help me.
I am never alone.
'I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.'
The same hand that made the universe and everything in it, that created the first man and woman, the hand that was nailed to a cross, the hand that triumphs in battle - you reach out to hold onto me. You stop me from falling. When my legs go from under me, you are there.
It gives me a picture of me, leaning heavily on you on a battlefield, injured or exhausted or faint or something, and you, mighty warrior, gently leading me to a safe place. Your righteous right hand. A hand that never makes mistakes. A hand that always does what is right.
Worthy, honest, righteous. The things I'm not, and yet you reach out to me.
Lord God, I don't know how many times in the Bible you tell us not to be afraid. (Yes I do; I've just Googled it. Seems that 'Do not fear' or words to that effect are in the Bible around 365 times).
You tell us not to be afraid once for every day in the year. It sounds as if it was a message that you wanted to get through to us. Something that you wanted us to understand. A message that you keep telling me, over and over. Help it to sink in, Lord.
Help me to remember when I go about my intermittently fearful life that you are here. You are with me. I am your child and you are my God. You will strengthen me and you will uphold me with your righteous right hand. You told me so and you don't lie.
I don't need to be afraid. Help me translate that into my life so that it shows. In a world full of fear and dismay, help me to lean on my God's arm. With you at my side why on earth should I creep through this world apologetically and fearfully? It makes no sense.
Thankyou for being with me. Help me to be aware of your presence every minute of every day. Every breath that I take may I breathe you in.
'The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.'