When suffering is time-limited it is often more easily endured.
If I know six weeks of intensive though painful physical therapy will help me regain strength and use of a limb or joint, I can power through.
If restricting calories for a month helps me fit into that dress for a special event, I’m more likely to sacrifice for a short time so the pictures look good.
But if you tell me I’ll hobble around for the rest of my life because there’s nothing to be done about my bad back or crooked joints or you want me to change how I eat for good-well, that’s gonna take more strength than I have on my own.
When I realized-probably sometime near the end of the first year-that the sorrow and missing and pain of burying my son was going to be a burden I carried to my own grave, it was absolutely, utterly soul-crushing.
It’s a commonly repeated untruth that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible.
But there ARE a lot of them.
While many folks like to interpret these commands as admonitions to the trembling hearts standing, kneeling or falling on their face before the Angel of the Lord or begging to be delivered from a perilous situation, I think they are an invitation.
It’s no secret I have a particular fondness for biblical passages on shepherding.
For over twenty years I’ve kept goats and sheep in varying numbers and every day discover one more way I am a sheep in need of a Shepherd.
I wander, I’m afraid when I don’t have to be, I do foolish and self-harmful things, I push and shove to get that certain bit of food or space or whatever when all the while there is an abundance, and I often make it hard for the One who loves me best to guide me to the safety and rest of His fold.
That’s one reason the Twenty-third Psalm is especially beautiful to me.
But there’s another reason-hidden inside the original Hebrew-that makes it a favorite Bible passage and a very appropriate one for these frightening times: within the verses are references to seven names of God.
The world is waiting breathless for salvation from the prison of hopelessness.
We long for an end to the tyranny of fear, physical destruction and the power of an enemy that is stalking, harming and killing those we love.
Rumors of imminent help pass from lips to lips but rescue is still a distant hope.
Israel was waiting too.
And that is when God gave Isaiah this message for His people:
“Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams, a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift. And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great. The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders. His name? His name we’ll know in many ways— He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing, Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 VOICE
This message is for us as well-so much truth, hope and promise packed into a single verse!
The Christmas story is all about beginnings and seeds of promise. But Jesus didn’t remain an infant and the prophet takes us from birth to Second Coming in a few sentences.
Yes, a Son was given but that Son grew into a Savior.
I’m oh, so thankful that the Baby in the manger is now the reigning Prince of Peace! I cling tightly to the truth that He is my “Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing, Master of Wholeness”!
The day Dominic died I wrote in my journal:
“The LORD gives and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the Name of the LORD. May my soul find rest in Thee alone. May my eyes look only to Thy face. May my heart’s peace be the Prince of Peace. ‘Dominic’–belonging to God–You gave him to me and he is Yours again. Marana Tha–Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
When Jesus was preparing the disciples for His death, He knew they would need a Counselor in their grief. They would need a guide through the difficult and scary and confusing path they were about to walk.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit-the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”
John 14:26 CSB
Because I believe with my whole heart in the sufficiency of Christ’s blood and the supremacy of His Lordship, I am filled with His Spirit.
What a gift!To have the Living God in me–my ever present Guide even on this most treacherous journey.
This is what the Baby came to bring-restoration, redemption and ever-lasting life.
An end to the tyranny of destruction and fear.
A hope and an eternal future.
I once heard a Bible teacher explain Isaiah’s visions like this: It’s as if he saw two mountain peaks clearly (the earthly beginning of Jesus’ life, ministry and sacrifice and the ultimate, powerful rule and reign of His Second Coming) but couldn’t see the valley in between. I think that idea is perfectly illustrated by these verses. Jesus has come but there is still much suffering. What promises do you cling to in this Valley?
Do the names of Jesus described in these verses bring you hope? Why or why not?
Which is your favorite? Consider using a concordance to look up other verses in which it is used. Does that flesh out the meaning in any way?
I have frequently copied this passage into my journal and illustrated it in various ways. If you’ve never done something like that, try it. Writing the words in my own hand has really made them come alive in my heart.
You will notice I use a variety of translations in these devotionals. There are a number of free online Bible resources that will allow you to compare multiple translations at the same time. Try it with these verses or others. How does that help you gain a greater and deeper understanding of God’s Word?
There are days when my candle has burned low and my heart is heavy with grief. There are moments when hope feels so far away I can’t even imagine it still exists. Just then, You whisper, “Courage, My child”, to my soul.
So many times I’m at a loss for words but the Counselor prays for me. Often I wonder if there will ever be justice for the cruelty I see around me but I’m reminded that You are the Mighty God and will not allow injustice to reign forever. When peace feels like a distant dream, You come with a lamp as the Prince of Peace and flood my heart with wholeness.
Thank You that I have a Savior. Thank You that He conquered death. Thank You for these words of truth.
Some are outside myself and others start in the secret corners of my own heart.
All of them make me wish for quiet and calm, peaceful waters where I can sail the ship of life and not worry about sinking beneath the waves.
When I’m afraid I remind myself that Jesus is the Peace Speaker.
He calmed the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee and He will calm the wind and waves of my heart.
He is the unchangeable, faithful God and I am always safe in the sea of His love and goodness.
Today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, You remain the same.
Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of Your love I came to life, by Your love I am sustained, and to Your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by Your unwavering love….
O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know there is ebb and flow but the sea remains the sea.