The Pastor and I celebrated 23 years of marriage this month. Buried here in Isaiah 7, you’ll find the reason why.
The people of Judah and their king, Ahaz, have heard that the armies of Syria and Israel are outside the city, ready to destroy them. Their hearts begin to shiver, as the trees of the forest shake before the wind (7:2).
God has a word for them, which He gives to the prophet Isaiah to carry out to the king.
Say to him, ‘be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and and do not let your heart be faint.’ You can do this, the Lord says, because He Himself promises that the destruction you fear shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass (7:4, 7).
Between the battle cry and the victory, however, things are going to get rough: the outcome will be true and good and beautiful, God says, but the process definitely won’t be. This road will be callous and uncertain, and triumph won’t come for years. In the meantime, there’ll be no steady place to stand.
The Lord anchors these plans and promises with the only way forward:
If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all (7:9).
Trust will be our only stability, the Lord says — confidence in Him our only certainty. When there is no firm ground under our feet, we steady ourselves the only way that we can — stretching out one way to tie ourselves to the promises of the past and another to grasp the hope of the future.
These stakes of faith are the only way to still the trembling branches of the heart.
While cleaning out my office this week, I found a letter Mike wrote to me on our tenth anniversary. We had just wrestled through the hardest year of our lives — losing jobs, friends, income, and certainty; gaining a new church plant, a new baby amidst life-threatening circumstances, and new, shockingly heavy spiritual and practical burdens. We cried, we labored, we fought, we were exhausted. I remember very few good days in 2003.
But Mike held on to past promises tightly enough for us both that year.
You always ask ‘why do you love me?,’ and I answer with three silly, inane reasons. But the real reason is that long before we ever knew each other, God was preparing us for one another. All the experiences — those of joy and those of disappointment, were given to us for one another. I love all of you. I always have. I may not have had a name and a face, but you were in my heart.
And he stretched our hands forward to grab on to the hope of the future.
Ten years is a long time, but in many ways it feels like only yesterday that I saw you coming down the aisle. I was so nervous and excited and happy. I can see now that those feelings would carry through our marriage. The nervousness of our lives and where we are going has never gone away, but through it all, I have been excited and happy to see where God will lead us.
And this is the hope we have even in our darkest hours: that our success is based on God’s work in our past and His words for our future, not the circumstances of our present. Eternal results come from holding on to eternal, unseen promises — the ones God made in our yesterdays and for our tomorrows — not from the strength or willpower we can muster up for the moment.
Faith — the thing that pleases God most — the thing that God says truly makes us firm — is never about now. It is not bound up with the happenings or feelings of the moment. Faith is remembering what God has done and reminding ourselves what He will do. It is an exercise in history and eternity, not in today.
This is how we can be careful and quiet in a new year, without fear or a faint heart, even if we are at the start of a hard and lonely road. This is how we tell the story of forever — in a marriage, a moment, a calling, a life.
If you want more joy, you have to plan for it.
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