Day 3

God’s Presence Strengthens Us

from the reading plan

Deuteronomy 31:6-8, Psalm 46:1-11, Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 40:9-11, Isaiah 41:10, 2 Timothy 4:16-18

I must confess that some of the most well-known Bible verses—the ones that tend to be printed on bumper stickers or embroidered on throw pillows—are the ones that unsettle me the most. When I am told to be “strong and courageous” or “do not fear,” I can’t help but reflect on the undeniable reality that I am often weak-hearted and chicken-livered, that fear is a governing force in most parts of my life. I can feel so disappointed in my lack of inner fortitude, and while I know that God’s perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18), I can still believe the lie that the strength talked about in these verses is found in my ability to do what is right, say what is best, think what is correct, and feel what I’m supposed to. I can imagine God as an ornery gym teacher, whistle and a clipboard in hand. He furrows His brow and screams, “Alex, stop! How have you not figured this out yet? Stop being so afraid of everything. Just…Just be courageous already!”

I don’t think this is an accurate illustration of God’s heart in passages like the ones we read today. Rather than God berating us for not being enough of this or being too much of that, He is laying out a vision of what life can be like if we submit to His power. We are not called to be braver by sheer force of will; we are invited to rest in the assurance of His incomparable power. He persists in redirecting my gaze away from my own insufficiency and towards His plenitude. And rather than listing a series of platitudes about what we could or should be, He offers a vision of all He is capable of providing.

This morning, God put a conviction on my heart that I ought to have utter confidence in passages like this—”God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1)—not because of the gaps between how I feel and this truth but because I am convicted that God is who the Bible says He is. How do I know this? I know it because when I remember to read the Bible as a testimony about who God is, He ushers me into the experience of basking in the security of His tender presence.

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