“The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like deer’s feet,
And has me walk on my high places.” (Hab. 3:19, NASB)
How was your high school experience? I did not enjoy mine at all. I was bullied over my skin color and disparaged by my teachers for not being as smart as they wanted. I was sometimes ridiculed by my friends for my weaknesses and was challenged for my faith. All these factors continually bothered me and eventually sucked all the self-confidence I had gathered till that stage of my life.
I kept staying anxious and was so emotionally captivated by these thoughts that I got to where I couldn’t study, sleep, eat, or talk well. I became overly sensitive and often very rude and arrogant. And of course, jealous as well. There were certain times when I felt that there was no God and that, even if he did exist somewhere, he was using his power and force to work against me. I felt he either did not like me or that he favored others more than me. I seemed to have all the negative thoughts a pessimistic person can have.
With my focus strongly diverted away from the good facets of my life, I ended up terribly failing ninth grade with less than a 23% overall grade.
“That setback tore me and shattered my dreams of success which had developed and gathered in my mind since my childhood.”
That setback tore me and shattered my dreams of success which had developed and gathered in my mind since my childhood. At that moment, I accepted myself as an absolute loser and a total failure. I just knew that, when people found out, they would ridicule me, and sure enough it happened. I hated myself and thought there was no purpose or meaning left to my life because all I was left with was shame. I found myself completely hopeless and useless, especially living in a society where one proceeds and succeeds through education.
Fears That Steal Our Hope
In that moment, I thought I had no value, no dignity, no strength. Time felt like it had stopped for me. I felt none of my relationships would be affected by my absence because no one cared. This fear and pain of failure was so strong and captivating that, at the age of 14, I attempted suicide. I was now not only nihilistic but also suicidal.
Strange and scary, huh?
When was the last time you felt yourself completely crushed? You saw all your hopes slipping through your hands like sand? When was the last time you said, I am done! Or you even questioned where God was? Or if there even is a God?
“When was the last time you felt yourself completely crushed? You saw all your hopes slipping through your hands like sand?”
We all have fears in our lives. Some of us take them more lightly; others take them to extremes. Common fears could be of rejection, an unsuccessful life, unsuccessful marriages or relationships, an unknown future, getting bad grades, being bullied, harassed, or molested. We fear aging, walking in the dark, losing our loved ones, losing salvation. We can fear water, public speaking, catching a deadly disease. And this is not an exhaustive list of fears.
Most of these fears are enough to steal our peace and hope and keep us worried and insecure. Staying fearful can even lead us to emotional distress and anxiety disorders. They can drain every ounce of courage from us and leave us feeling empty and void.
Hope for Exiles
If you ever come across any of these fears, I want to encourage you that you are not alone in this journey. And that God did not design or intend us to stay in fear. As his beloved people, whom he carved on his palms intentionally, purposefully, and meaningfully (Is. 49:16), he does not want us living in the grip of fear.
God is my strength: “As his beloved people, whom he carved on his palms intentionally, purposefully, and meaningfully, he does not want us living in the grip of fear.”
The Bible consistently reminds us that people throughout history have encountered fears. The prophet Isaiah, who prophesied in the 700s B.C., predicted a time in the future, during the years of Babylonian exile, when the children of Judah suffered so long in exile that they gave up the hope of returning to their homeland. They thought that God had canceled his covenant with them and had abandoned them because of their sins. Their hearts were anxious, and their souls were crushed. They were losing hope.
I suspect how much this scene would have impacted the heart of God, who is familiar with all our ways and thoughts. He could not have stood the fact that fear was ruling his chosen people and was sucking every ounce of hope out of them. He would have known that Israel had no chance for success without God in her midst, and thus in response to their distress and hopelessness, God directly and confidently spoke through Isaiah to reveal his strength. He says in Isaiah 41:10,
“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.” (Is. 41:10, NIV)
God is my strength: “I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
In Isaiah 41:10, God encourages and empowers his people by reminding them that he is with them. In this passage, God reminds Israel that “I am your God…and I will help you.” In the midst of their fears, God was reminding them of his closeness with them. It is not that God is far-off, yelling commands to them. Rather, he tells them that he is personally, intimately present with them. He is living, powerful, and strong, unlike idols which their heathen neighbors were following. Throughout their history, Israel had witnessed God’s holiness which unveiled their sins and his justice which called for punishment. But right now, God knew they needed to see his strength and incorruptible love.
In this passage, he also reminds them that he had never forgotten them or his promises to him. Since he is a God of promises and he promised to preserve them, he is now acting upon his promise. He is faithful to his commitment. In this preservation, he himself is willing to come to their rescue and help.
God also tells them he will uphold them with his righteous right hand. Throughout the Bible, “right hand” is a metaphor of power. When God holds someone with his righteous “right hand,” he holds them to empower them to stand firm, so they neither stumble nor fall. This is very encouraging, and I believe that this promise must have given great relief to Isaiah’s audience through the years, especially as the nation of Judea read this passage in exile. Still today, this passage is balm to our open wounds and deepest fears.
God is my strength: “When God holds someone with his righteous ‘right hand,’ he holds them to empower them to stand firm.”
God Is Not Done with You
Today when we look at our times and culture, we are not in exile. We live and move freely. Yet, at the same time, many of us are in bondage to fears of the known and unknown. Thus, there is good news for us that the Word of God and his promises are timeless. Through Jesus, his promises are even more concrete for us. Our confirmation is in the New Testament, where Jesus, before his departure, said in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you,” and in Acts 1:8, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”
He empowers his people today no less than he used to do in the past because he is Alpha and Omega, who is not bound by our time and manner. And since God is that powerful, he himself comes to our rescue with his strength and comforts us with his counsel. He gives us the strength to continue going.
While I was failing in everything else in my life, I even failed to commit suicide. This is because though I was done with my life, God was not. I heard a very gentle and promising voice after a long time of misery, whispering, “I am still with you. The world has given up on you. It always does. But, Rahel, I have not yet. Trust me and give yourself at least one more chance. This time, hold my hand and we will do it again and you will see my purpose for your life.”
Called for a Purpose
I listened and trusted God and was able to start again. By his grace, I am stronger, calmer, and more courageous and confident than ever before. I strongly encourage you to know that God’s faithful promises weigh more than our weaknesses and fears. It is out of our saddest and most shattered parts of life that the most beautiful story of strength is born.
God is my strength: “It is out of our saddest and most shattered parts of life that the most beautiful story of strength is born.”
Similarly, God has called each one of you personally and for a specific purpose. If you have been captured by your fears, remember God wants you to face them with him. Therefore, talk to God and bring your fears to him. Be genuine and be humble. Soak your heart in his Word and pray to him for consistent empowerment and hope.
This isn’t the time to neglect God. If your fears are getting the better of you, I urge you to lean into God. Do journaling, do devotions, do prayer walks, do small group Bible studies. Find your solid Christian friends, and do one-to-one confessional sessions with them. Do Christian counseling, worship God, listen to motivational voices. Do everything in accordance with righteousness, faith, and integrity, and do not lose hope!
Do not lose sight of God. Do not think it is the end of the world or of your life, for this all still in God’s hands and he’s got this. He is still in control, and he still sits on his throne with glory, power, and authority.
God is my strength: “He is still in control, and he still sits on his throne with glory, power, and authority.”
Therefore, allow him to speak to you. And when he speaks, listen to his voice carefully and attentively in this dark, loud world. This is the most precious, beautiful, and soothing voice you will ever hear, and you will know that it is God. Thank him, trust and obey him with the uncertainties of life, and tell God, “My heart is ready. Use me and remain with me.” He will help you, just as we read in Isaiah 41:10.
Once you realize and trust that God is with you, tell yourself loudly and clearly that living in fear is not an option now. It is time to act and walk in faith. No matter how threatening the actions might appear, God will maintain his commitment with you. We are directly under God’s care, and he knows how to take care of us.
If I Were Not Afraid…
Think about it this way: What would I do if I were not afraid? My guess is that you would take important risks. You would see positivity and opportunity in every problem. You would speak the Word of God in boldness. You would start facing your fears with wide-open eyes and a strong spine. You would be willing to go into an unknown world for the sake of the gospel, regardless of the pushback. You would be able to fearlessly become what God already sees that you are.
The God of history has done bigger things than we could have imagined, and he will do it again and he will do it through us.
God is my strength: “The God of history has done bigger things than we could have imagined, and he will do it again and he will do it through us.”
We can trust God regardless of what we fear, knowing that even when we fall, God will strengthen our back and will prevent our feet from slipping. Imagine if we start taking God’s Word and his promises seriously, not limiting him to what we can calculate. Imagine if we start taking it seriously that, though we are weak and mere humans, God is God and he is strong! Imagine if we start living as children of light and promise! Imagine how much confidence and comfort could enter our lives. How great our relationship with God will be! How exemplified our faith will be!
This faith, this trust, this strength, this hope will not only impact our community, our church, and our next generation, but it will shake the entire world.