But now thus says the Lord , he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….
Did you have to memorize the prepositions as a child? I did. It was a long list of modifying words we would to sing to the tune of “Yankee Doodle” and further define as “anything a squirrel can do to a tree.”
And as I was reading the above verse in Isaiah the other day, it was a preposition which caught my attention: through. To go through (and yes, a squirrel can travel “through” the trees) means to go from one side to another–not around, not under, not over, not behind–but through. To go through something is essentially to inspect it all from front to back. You can’t go through something without seeing its beginning, middle, and end.
So as this preposition leaped off the page into my heart, God reminded me of something important: God doesn’t promise to keep us out of trouble; He promises to get us through it.
Through the waters.
Through the rivers.
Through the fire.
God didn’t tell Moses to go to the edge of the Red Sea, turn around, and wait for the Egyptians to overcome them (even though some Israelites complained that such was the case). God didn’t just wipe out the Egyptians with a breath, enabling the Israelites to go another direction (although that would have been awesome to see). No. Instead God chose a path that would showcase His glory in a way that would lead the Israelites to bow in thanksgiving and worship. That path was through the waters. God commanded Moses to lift up his staff and stretch out his hand; then “…the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground…” (Exodus 14:22). God led Moses and the Israelites through the waters; yet the waters did not overwhelm them.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (also known as Rack, Shack, and Benny for you Veggie Tales lovers), didn’t get out of being thrown into the fire. They stood their ground in refusing to bow to anyone or anything else except God, but the victory did not come until after they went through the fire; it was through the fire God reached the heart of the king.
In the Old Testament, the Valley of Baca was also known as the Valley of Weeping. So what did David say in regards to the valley? As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools (Psalms 84:6). Did you catch that? As they go through the valley. The valley of weeping becomes bearable for those who trust in the Lord. Yet it is not bearable because they avoid it; it is bearable as they go through it.
In the well known Psalm of David, Psalm 23, David praises God that even when he goes “through the darkest valley,” he will fear no danger, for he knows God is with Him and will comfort him (Psalm 23:4). Why will he fear no danger? Because God will keep him from the dark valley? No. He fears no danger because God is with him, leading him and comforting him as he goes through.
And of course our greatest example of walking through suffering on this earth, is Jesus. Peter reminds us of this in his letter: “because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Think about it. God sent His Son Jesus to this earth for a purpose: to seek and to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). Yet, even though Jesus prayed as any man would for God to take away the cross, Jesus also knew it was necessary. Jesus knew the only way to victory over sin and death was through His death, burial, and resurrection.
Furthermore, Jesus Himself reminded us as He walked this earth, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In the world we will have tribulation. He didn’t say “you might.” He didn’t say “you will avoid.” He said “you will have trouble.” Knowing Jesus does not protect us from sickness, death, persecution, failure, and famine. Plans will fail. People will reject us. Our hearts will grieve. The path of life we travel will be bumpy, curvy, and lined with thorns.
But take heart! God has overcome the world! He will carry us through! We may live in a broken, flawed, and sinful world, but we also serve a God who redeems us, knows our names, and promises that as we pass through this world with all its trouble, He will be with us.
He will be with us.. He will never leave us nor forsake us.
As God spoke to Joshua, He speaks to us now: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Wherever you go.
Whatever you go through.
No struggle we may endure could ever negate God’s goodness and sovereignty. If God Himself had to suffer through His Divine plan to save us from sin and death, then who are we to think we will get around it?
Yes, sometimes God fights the enemy while we are still and watch in awe and wonder. Others times, however, He fights the enemy by giving us His strength, His wisdom, and His guidance to walk through the battle.
So where are you today? Do you see a valley before you, a valley apparently inevitable and seemingly full of despair? Are you on the edge of the valley, looking down and hoping for a way around it? Maybe you’re in it, surrounded by mountains, unsure the way to go. Or maybe you are climbing out; you see that light, you see that mountaintop right before you. You see the end.
Whether you are at the beginning, middle, or end of your journey, let me encourage you in this: it is a journey through. This world–with its pain, heartache, destruction, and uncertainty–is not our final home. It is not our final home.
And remember this my dear friend: God is with you!
God is with you before the valley.
God is with you in the valley.
God is with you as you leave the valley.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”