The word was not simply in the verses I was reading, Isaiah decided to use it three times. Well, the Spirit guiding Isaiah's pen or quill or chisel (what does a prophet write with anyway?) chose to use the word. Somehow, being annoyed at Isaiah's writing rather than God's seems more holy. If I were on the receiving end of this revelation, I would kindly suggest changing the word, when, to if.
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“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;
and 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.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
(Isaiah 43:1-3a NIV, emphasis added)
"If" seems gentler, safer. Possibly, you might run into a little trouble at some point in the future, but I'll be there. "When" hints at imminent gale force winds and untamable mountain wildfires. No, thank you. I'd rather stay on the sunny shore praising God for the picturesque sunset. See, I prefer a calm life. I like who I am and how I respond when plans go, well, as planned: a smile on my lips and a bounce in my step. Deep water and fire are frightening.
Why do I need the storms in my life? Why does God, who knows what's best for me, think that trials should be included in my story? He knows that my response on rough days reflect my true character. He understands that I need a proven track record of him consistently showing up for me. He is aware that the only way to nudge me toward more holy responses is to take me out of my comfortable shelter.
So, I cling to His words, "I will be with you. They will not sweep over you. You will not be burned." If I must go through hard times, then I must believe in his promises. My loving Lord never leaves me on my own. He uses trials for my good, though I may not see it that way at the time. My perception of the events do not change the fact of his care. He is a solid foundation, a rock when my hopes and plans drift away like sand. With each passing storm, I cling tighter and am more assured that His strength will pull me through the next squall beyond the horizon.
I am thankful Isaiah followed the Spirit's prompting as he wrote. He must have written those words, tears falling on the parchment, reflecting on God's faithfulness to his people both now and forevermore.
Constant one, thank you for shaping me into who I am meant to be. Though I do not enjoy the rough seas, I know it is how you choose to take me to places I would not choose to go on my own. Help me to cling tightly to your unchanging love and strength. Give me peace regarding whatever trials may come in the future. I know you will never leave me to handle them on my own. You will give me sufficient grace when I need it most. I will trust you without worrying. Amen.