“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.”Isaiah 43:1-2 NIV
“No weapon formed against you will prevail…”Isaiah 54:17a
“We’ll be fine, as long as no one gets sick and nothing breaks in the house.” That’s what I said when Austin unexpectedly and undeservedly lost his job in March. One week later, I sat looking at a positive Covid test result and an emergency plumbing bill three times what was estimated. Here’s what I wrote that day:
It could be worse, but it still feels bad. A little bit of suffering is still suffering. We’re in the thick of it and we don’t know what’s on the other side, but we’re holding fast to One we do know. Let the record show: God is good, He loves us, and we will praise Him.
Last night, as my fever burned and the water heater leaked and we waited to hear back from potential employers and a dog threw up on the rug, Austin read a children’s version of The Pilgrim’s Progress to Tim. I stared through glassy eyes at the illustration of Christian’s frightened face as two lions appeared on his path.
“Christian continued with small steps,” Austin read, “He was trembling. The lions roared and growled as he passed, but now he saw that they were chained.”1
“YES!” I yelled. Austin and Tim looked over in concern at miserable Mom’s sudden animation.
The lions roar, but they’re chained. No weapon formed against us can stand before Almighty God (Isaiah 54:17).
Our steps forward may be small and trembling, but they’re guided by the Warrior King (Isaiah 58:11).
Here’s the thing: in Isaiah 43, God doesn’t say we won’t pass through rough waters and scorching flames. He doesn’t even say “if you pass through the water,” and “if you walk through the fire,” but “when you pass through the water,” and “when you walk through the fire” (emphasis mine). Suffering is a side effect of living. It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t make sense. But God does promise that suffering cannot overcome us—we will not drown in its ocean or burn in its bonfire. Furthermore, we can be confident that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28). His ways may be unfathomably deep to us (Isaiah 55:9), but so is His love for us (Psalm 103:11). He is trustworthy and He stands by His Word; His Son’s life and death and resurrection prove that. So do His kindnesses to us as we move through our own journey. We don’t see yet how this job loss and illness and expense are working for our good, but even if we never see that, we can rock-solid trust the God who allows them.
I do believe Austin and I will look back on this season in our lives and celebrate what God was doing as we felt “hard pressed on every side” (2 Corinthians 4:8), but experience has taught us that we don’t have to wait for hindsight in order to praise God. Perhaps this is when suffering becomes supernatural: when it moves us through anxiety into trust; through complaint into praise.
So here we are, a week after the plumbing bill and the doomsday prophesy on the Covid test stick. I’m still coughing. Still no job and no justice. Our future still looks unfamiliar. But more importantly, God is still fighting for us (Exodus 14:14). The lions roar and the waters rise and the fire threatens, but in the end, none of those things can stand before the power of Almighty God. They’re chained. Let the record show: God is good, He loves us, and we will praise Him.
1Bunyan, J., Halteren, T. V., & Mello, B. (2020). Little Pilgrim’s big journey: John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress Fully Illustrated and adapted for the next generation. Lithos Kids Press.