A Word to the Anxious Heart

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Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution he will come to save you.” 
Isaiah 35:4

“What is the world coming to?” I overheard a conversation between two ladies as they watched the news playing on a tv perched above the bar at the airport.

Who hasn’t muttered a phrase of similar persuasion in the past few years? It seems as if violence is becoming a regular occurrence, fear an all-too-common emotion. Many of my friends are also moms who voice concerns about the environment their young children will be growing up in. We worry if they will be adequately equipped to handle the struggles they may face. We question our ability to instill Godly conviction in them. We wonder, will they turn out ok?

I imagine our concerns may be similar to those of the remaining faithful Jews living in Israel while the vast majority had walked away from religious traditions. In the book of Isaiah, we find a message of judgement in response to the Israelite’s rejection of God. Impending doom for God’s chosen people must have evoked fear and worry in the hearts of those who desired to obey. Perhaps they questioned if their commitment would be enough. Would the Lord remember His promises to Abraham and King David if their descendants forgot about Him? They may have felt desperate for change yet powerless to do anything.

Have you every felt that way? I wish I had a crystal ball telling me how things turn out in the end. My hope is that my sons grow up to be kind, independent, and courageous Christ-followers. I want them to find God’s path for them, but worry that the noise of this world will cause great distractions.

That’s why I find Isaiah 35:4 particularly comforting. In this chapter, we see a shift from the message of death and destruction to one of encouragement and hope for restoration.

And I think it speaks to a specific group of people – those of us who have a tendency to worry. We believe in God and trust His authority, but relinquishing our need for control is extremely difficult. The verse says, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong and do not fear; your God will come, He will come with a vengeance; with divine retribution, He will come to save you.'”

Say to those with fearful hearts; the Hebrew word used here is leb, which refers to a fearful mindset. The heart, mind, or will of a man is in a state of concern or alarm. It’s a tendency to anticipate a bad outcome. It’s an ever-present unsettled feeling, rather than being scared about a specific situation. A fearful mind finds it extremely difficult to trust God. We want to manage our circumstances with substantiated evidence of tangible control; believing an invisible God will give us what we need is uncomfortable and nerve-racking.

But God has a tender spot for those who long to be brave. He cares deeply for those who are fighting fear and worry day in and day out. He wants to whisper in our ear, “I’ve got this. I see what you’re facing and I’m in control. There’s nothing too big for me.”

If your heart has a tendency to worry rather than trust, be encouraged today that God has a special message just for you. He calls us to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9) for our benefit. God doesn’t want us trying to play god – He’s the best one for that position. He longs for us to experience His peace (John 14:17) but tranquility and turmoil cannot co-exist. It is impossible to live a joyful life when our minds are consumed with the possible outcome of circumstances beyond our control. When we know The One who has the authority to command the wind and seas to obey (Matthew 8:27), we can rest assured that He will take care of us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

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