“You gave my love, when nobody gave me a prayer.” I leaned over, put my hands on my knees and breathed. Sweat ran into my eyes as I straightened and walked, slowly, hands on hips, cooling down. Running in early evening dusk was better than late afternoon’s blazing heat when I usually came to the park after picking up Sharon. Tonight, she was with her father. After a few stretches, I got in the car and drove down Himes then Hillsborough Avenue, toward Parkview Apartments, fighting back tears.
Having taken up serious running two years earlier, I was familiar with emotions being stirred up after a hard run, but that night opened a geyser. Extreme shyness and the need to work long hours and take work home on nights and weekends since the divorce had created isolation from any but shallow work relationships. One close friendship—that I had thought would be so much more than mere friendship—had vanished when Joseph, whom I’d dated, finally admitted he was still in love with his ex-wife. The buried pain of that loss, now a month old, burned fiercely.
I glared into the darkness above the yellow arc of headlights, silently asking “Why, why, why? Will I always be alone? Will it always hurt this bad?” Then I heard it, the song and the words that God used to draw me to Himself.
“You gave me laughter, after I cried all my tears.
You heard my dreams while the rest of the world closed it’s ears.
I looked in Your eyes, and I saw the tenderness there.
You gave me love, when nobody gave me a prayer.”
God used the lyrics and melody of “You Gave Me Love” (written by Claire Cloninger and Archie P. Jordan) and the rich, masculine quality of B. J. Thomas’s voice to open a secret place in my heart that He has occupied ever since. Searching for the source of the Love I heard in that song led me to a Christian bookstore and, eventually, giving my heart to this One Who gave His life for me and gave me His love to me while I was yet a sinner (Romans 5:8). Listen and let God touch your heart, as He did mine, 41 years ago. . . 41 years in which He has never once failed my in any way.
The comfort of His presence. Before I began obeying God and living for Him, I was desperately lonely, fearful, and unhappy. However, the intimacy of His presence I felt that night—though I was lost—steadily grew.
In seasons of trial, my awareness of His presence often flickered but the One who is our Living Hope steadily pushed darkness away as I kept loving Him and turning to Him. The blazing light of His peace and His joy now garrison my heart from within. I can only gratefully say with the psalmist:
“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of Your presence, LORD. They rejoice in Your name all day long; they celebrate Your righteousness. For You are their glory and strength.“ (Psalm 89:15-17a, NIV)
Review of Part One: In Part One we talked about the blessings of diligent Bible study and meditation and saw the historical context of Isaiah and an overview of Chapters 40 and 41. These chapters show what happened to Israel when they were taken captive by the enemy of our souls, sinned greatly through idol worship—depending on and honoring things rather than God—and were taken into exile. We surveyed the main threads of thoughts in Isaiah 40 and 41, setting the stage for a deeper look at Isaiah 41:10, one of God’s sure cures for loneliness and fear and for living in victory through the great trial the whole world is currently enduring.
Part Two Outline. Here is what we will cover in Part Two.
- God’s sure cure for fear and loneliness
- Why fear and loneliness hurt
- The power of presence
- Isaiah 41:10 Ample provision for fear and loneliness
- “Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you;
- “. . . do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I AM your God.”
- Being Kingdom-minded
- Remembering the nature of our great God.
God’s sure cure for fear and loneliness. Isaiah 41:10 is one of God’s many healing balms for fear and one of the verses I meditate upon often. I cling to the truths in this verse whenever the enemy tries to cause fear or loneliness. Isaiah 41:10 teaches us how and why we can trust this One, this Sweet and beautiful One who gives us His very own love and laughter, this One Who hears our dreams and wants us—wonder of wonders—to look into His eyes and see the tenderness there. This great and loving One does not want us in loneliness or fear.
Loneliness and fear, two painful human conditions, come to each of us. For some, it is a long-standing condition, whereas for others it is a blessedly brief state of heart and mind. Loneliness and fear happen to singles and marrieds, young and old, rich and poor, in every nation on earth. www.freedictonary.com defines lonely as “unhappy as a result or being without the companionship of others.” God created people for companionship—with Himself and with each other. We can all enjoy times of being alone but no one enjoys loneliness, that sadness that comes from feeling we are alone when we do not want to be.
Of all the feelings that accompany loneliness, the most dangerous is likely fear. I believe that loneliness is actually a kind of fear. Loneliness comes when I am aware that my God-given need for companionship is not met. Awareness of that unmet need can bring fear—because loneliness hurts and, alone, I might fear I cannot stop the pain. In that moment, I feel it will last forever. In the moment, I feel hurt, I am afraid, my need is not met now, and I am afraid it will not be met tomorrow.
Why fear and loneliness hurt. Loneliness—feeling unhappy when alone-comes often to those of us who struggle with intimacy but also to those of us for whom intimacy comes easily. We all need someone to talk with about the normal ups and downs of daily life and especially when problems come. We need the emotional support of talking with someone who cares, someone on whom we can occasionally lean and someone who will help carry our burdens. We also want practical support and help with the activities of daily life, help to buy groceries, cook, take care of the car, pay the bills, and make decisions. Most of all we all need love. We need to know someone loves us and accepts us just as we are. With that kind of love, we can face daily troubles as well as big ones. And we need that when we need it, which is not always convenient for those upon whom we depend.
The power of presence. Why does the presence of someone who loves us stop fear? Because, in their presence, we perceive their care and concern. We stop feeling alone. We know we will be helped. Why? Because that particular person has helped us before. Crying infants cannot, of course, say they are afraid and they cannot say they need their parent. They do not have to. Even before a feeding or diaper change, the mere presence of the parent and being held calm the infant at a visceral, instinctive level.
God gives newborn living things the instinct to cry out. That instinct helps keep the mewling kitten, the bawling calf, the whining puppy and the crying human infant alive because it draws the parent close. Science has “discovered” what mothers have known for centuries—that hearing their baby cry moves them powerfully to respond. In one study MRIs documented that with moms and five-month-olds from eleven countries, “each mom, when hearing her baby cry, had virtually the same brain activity which spurred her to move, speak and respond to the child”. How a Crying Baby Affects a Mother’s Brain | Neuroscience (labroots.com)
I believe that, in some way, this reflects what happens when we cry out —in earnestness and innocence—to God. Our cry moves Him and He always, always, always responds to His children. God knows that being aware of His presence will calm His child. God wants us to understand and trust His great love for us. Although His love is unsearchable, in many Bible passages God clearly explains those facets of His love that we humans can understand.
For example, in Isaiah 49, when God is talking about how He will restore Israel, which can be understood to symbolize the believer, He asks:
“Can a nursing mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me.” Isaiah 49:15-56, AMPC)
Ponder this. Do you hear God telling you that your needs move Him even more powerfully than her crying baby moves a nursing mother? A nursing mother and her infant have a physical as well as an emotional connection, a mutual need. The infant’s cry stimulates the flow of the mother’s milk, and the mother needs her baby to take that which her body has prepared.
God wants you to know: He is with you and He will meet your needs. He is compassionate—He feels with you, He feels what you feel. Your needs move Him. Everything you need is in Him, and He longs to meet your needs, to love you, and to shower upon you mercy and loving-kindness. Pause now and ponder Isaiah 30:18.
Isaiah 41:10 – Ample provision for fear and loneliness. Whenever we are afraid, no matter the cause, we all need the peace that comes from being aware “I AM THAT I AM” is with us, from knowing that the One who has taken care of our every need and loved us is with us. When we are aware of His presence, THEN, we do not feel alone and we feel safe. God hears the cry of our heart every time we feel afraid or alone. He knows when we need peace. He knows that if we are aware of His presence we will feel safe.
“As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe]. For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14, AMPC)
He knows how susceptible all humans are to fear. It has been said that God speaks about fear 365 times in the Bible.
Let’s examine Isaiah 41:10, one of His many powerful antidotes for fear and loneliness that never, no never, no never fails. (Hebrews 13:5). Remember that this verse is set in the context of Isaiah 40 and 41 where God speaks to His beloved people who have been taken captive and separated—because of individual sin or the sin of those around them–from living in the peaceful place with God where promises are fulfilled. Can you hear His father heart?
Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I AM your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)
“Fear not [there is nothing to fear], . . .” When we are consciously focused on the fact that God Himself is with us—the One who created all that exists and Who sustains all life, Who loves each of us individually—we grow calm. Why? Because when (we are aware that) He is with us there truly is nothing to fear. When we look at him—rather than at things causing fear—our hearts are flooded with the light that comes from perceiving truth—that is, the light that comes from perceiving that God Himself is actually right with us. Our emotions reflect what our mind is focused upon, whether that is the light of truth or the darkness of lies. Not only that, but God Himself is in us and is working in us. (I John 4:15-16, Philippians 2;13).
When a loving parent hugs a small child, fear stops because the child is viscerally aware that the one who has taken care of its every need is touchably there. That child’s world becomes safe because the parent IS that child’s world.
“. . . for I am with you.” When fear attacks—and Satan is seeking constantly to use this weapon today—I recall verses I have meditated upon and memorized that reassure me God is right here with me and watching over me. Over and over I repeat, for example, 2 Chronicles 15:2 “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you.” (AMPC). As I repeat a verse, God often highlights one phrase and I talk about it with Him. “Lord, I am definitely trying my utmost to be with You and I am seeking You because my soul needs You above anything else! So, Father, I know You are here with me though I cannot see Your face or touch Your hand. You say You are here because I am doing my best to be with You and I believe You! You are with me”
“. . . do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I AM your God.” Notice the word LOOK. There is incalculable value in keeping our eyes and minds focused on God and “things above.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
We must look to the Lord. When our mind is turned away from God, looking at earthly things, we see darkness. But when we look to God, when we turn our face to Him, the light of His love and awareness of His presence enlighten the eyes of our heart. When the light that comes from Him and that IS Him penetrates the eyes of our understanding (Ephesians 1:18), we take a bit of God Himself into our heart.
Think about it. When a parent embraces an infant, the infant receives a bit of the parent’s warmth which is actually a bit of the parent’s very physical being. There is an exchange of a part of life itself. I believe that, in perceiving God, in being conscious of His loving presence, our spirit receives a fresh bit of God’s very own Spirit. In seeing Him, in perceiving Him, in being aware of His presence, we have all that He is – light, love, peace, joy, salvation, and all good and perfect things.
God is always with us, but we cannot perceive His presence so long as we turn our face away from Him. For half of each day, earth turns her face away from the light of the sun and, for that time, earth’s face is in darkness. As soon as earth turns toward the sun again, the life-giving light of the sun starts changing that darkness to light. The sun gives some of its very own warmth and light to earth.
In the light, or accurate perception, that comes from focusing on Him, we can say with the psalmist:
I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. (Psalm 34:4-7, NIV)
Kingdom-mindedness. The more we have our minds on God and His Kingdom, the more good we do here on earth. Kingdom-mindedness increases our ability to do earthly good. Kingdom-mindedness also multiples our peace.
If I focus on circumstances, I soon experience overwhelming fear and terror. An entire morning fretting and calculating where to cut expenses because of inflation, without God in mind, leads to terror. Terror is “a state of overwhelming fear” and to overwhelm is “To cover over completely” or “to overcome by superior force or numbers.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary) Focusing on circumstances around me allows fear to increase and cover my soul with darkness.
So, I can fret about things and do myself great harm or I can prayerfully plan the budget, pay bills and then get on with Kingdom business, with living my life for God right where I am. Psalm 37 tells us what our attitude must be when evil seems to be succeeding. I am to “Trust in the Lord and do good” (37:3a) As (in proportion to or to the extent that) I trust and do good, the Word promises I will ‘dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (37:b)
Keeping my eyes on Jesus, rather than troubles of this life, brings good cheer. I can take courage and be ”confident, certain, undaunted” as Jesus told us to be in John 16:33 BECAUSE Jesus has “overcome the world and deprived it of power to harm” us.
This is what Jesus says of those who believe in and trust in and rely on Him, who hear Him and listen to His voice, and who follow Him. Jesus says “I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-30, AMPC)
Remembering the nature of our great God. In distressing circumstances, I do well to remember how powerful my Father is. This is what God reminded Israel of in Isaiah 40 and 41 when He explained His power. This unfathomable power is part of our God but His justice and equally immeasurable mercy and loving-kindness are also part of Who He is, as He revealed to Moses in Exodus 34:5-8.
“. . . and the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. . . The Lord! The Lord! a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, keeping mercy and loving-kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but Who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
People who honor and work for anything or anyone but the One True God, are rightly filled with terror in hard times because what they are depending upon will fail. God repeatedly warns to worship and serve Him alone, and He warns of the consequences of trusting idols. When we break God’s laws, we get the consequences.
But when we keep God’s laws, we also get the consequences. So, when our mind is fixed on God, when we commit ourself to God, when we lean on Him, and hope confidently in Him, God “will guard and keep [us] “in perfect and constant peace.” As He promises in Isaiah 26.
“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.” (Isaiah 26:3, AMPC)
God never, no never, no never fails! (Hebrews 13:5). We can be confident, because God says that as–or to the degree that–we keep our minds fixed on Him we will experience His mercy and loving—kindness.
“Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.” (Psalm 38:22, AMPC)
In summary: Therefore—because of all we just saw–In fearful circumstances like today, let us turn our hearts and minds to God, recalling His message of comfort and His promises in Isaiah 40 and 41. Let us not look at circumstances, rather let us focus specifically on Isaiah 41:10–He IS with us! God Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible, IS with us and in us and working through us as we love and serve Him! This is the One Whose eye is on us!
(18) “Behold, the Lord’s eye is upon those who fear Him [who revere and worship Him with awe], who wait for Him and hope in His mercy and loving-kindness, (19) to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. (20) Our inner selves wait [earnestly] for the Lord; He is our help and our Shield. (21) FOR in Him does our heart rejoice, BECAUSE we have trusted [relied on and been confident) in His holy name. (22) Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.” (Psalm 33:18-22, AMPC, emphasis added).
Part Three: In Part Three, we will consider the second half of Isaiah 41:10, in which God promises:
“. . . I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.”
I certainly need His strength! This week, meditate on His truth, as God commanded us to meditate in Deuteronomy. Think about His truths as you wake up, as you walk through your day, and as you go to bed. Ponder Isaiah 41:10 and see what God shows you personally.