Anxiety is something that many of us deal with in our daily lives. Recent circumstances in our world have made anxious thoughts commonplace. How can we overcome anxious thoughts? How do we not allow anxious thoughts to permeate every aspect of our lives, including our jobs?
Throughout our lives, many of us will find ourselves in a season of drift or insecurity. Unmoored and untethered to a comfortable and firm foundation, like a boat without an anchor, it is in these times that we find ourselves searching for truth, connection, and stability. We find ourselves drawn to hope.
While working in the public library my understanding of who the “least of these” were grew as I daily interacted with those who are marginalized in society: the homeless, those who are technologically challenged, those who aren’t comfortable speaking English, the recently released from prison, and those whom society seems to have forgotten for whatever reason.
In our lives we want to accomplish things as quickly as possible. The same is true with our library systems; we want to receive information sources immediately. As Christians, we pray and receive promises from the Lord, but most of the time, we want those promises right away. Sometimes we find it hard to wait. My wife and I know this firsthand. In January 2021, we traveled to Nigeria. As we were preparing for our return trip to the States, our COVID-19 tests came back positive. We had to wait for 14 days for additional tests, which came back negative. The waiting was hard for us and for our kids, who were in the U.S., waiting for our return.
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men. (Colossians 3:23 NASB)
A trip to Israel makes the Bible come alive. Nowhere else does the sacred and the secular mix together so completely. During my husband’s and my trip to the Holy Land, I witnessed this mix on our walk down the Via Dolorosa. Our tour traced the fourteen Stations of the Cross from the Church of the Flagellation to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional
Baseball season is almost here! For me – a Little League coach – this means once again coaching 6-8 year-olds on how to play the game – teaching them how to run through first base, going over how to stand next to home plate when batting and not on top of it, and trying to keep the outfielders from wandering over to the playground. One of the toughest things to teach a young baseball player is how to keep their eye on the ball when they are up at bat. A lot of other things can be distracting, like fear of getting hit by the ball, exuberant parents shouting advice and encouragement, or a bird flying across the field. Focusing on seeing the ball and swinging the bat at good pitches is a struggle.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 131 (ESV)
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)
As we walk through this weary world…what a pessimistic beginning to a statement that laments the challenges we face in our lives from time to time, even as believers. Yet, we can all resonate with that statement during times of difficulty. Unfortunately, in Christian higher education right now, many of us (librarians) have faced or are facing significant and systemic challenges that do not seem to be fading, which puts pressure on our faith. It is one thing when we face temporary challenges that are resolved in the short term; however, it is quite another thing when those challenges seem to be on an indefinite loop.
So, when we come to a passage, a promise from the Lord, that seems too good to be true, it challenges our faith. That is what we find in Isaiah when God gives Israel, and by extension to us as believers, an enormous promise. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:18-19).” What a wonderful and encouraging promise. I should forget the difficulties of the past and look forward to the new “thing” the Lord is about to spring on me. God says it is already in the works. Do I not see it? What if I said, “No!”
The challenge and hope of this promise is the context in which it is located. When we back up in this chapter, we find Israel has been in difficulty for a long period. In verse 2, Isaiah tells Israel that when you pass through the waters and rivers, I (God) will be with you, and the waters will not overtake you. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned nor set ablaze.
Over the past few years, I have struggled with serving the Lord as a library leader in a challenging environment. I have wanted to see this “new thing” the Lord is doing and move out of the waters and away from the blaze. Yet, I felt like the waters were continuing to rise, pushing me toward the blaze. Then, in what seemed like an out-of-the-blue event, God fulfilled this promise in my life. He did a new thing that removed me from the difficult environment and put me in a new place with a wonderful, hopeful future. Lord, thank you for keeping your promise!
While I want to relish in the “new thing” God has done in my life, God wants me to reflect on the process. Did you drown while I walked with you through the difficulty? No, God, you were holding me up. Did you get burned by the challenges? No, God, you wrapped yourself around me and protected me. Do you believe I will be with you during the waters and fires to come? Yes, Lord, you are faithful. Lord, thank you for keeping your promises!
Brothers and sisters, keep the faith. When you find yourself walking neck-deep in water or surrounded by the blaze, remember God is with you because He keeps his promises. Also, keep the faith when God springs the new thing on you because God is with you.
Ed is the Director of Library Services and Operations at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, MO. He has been a member of ACL since 2010.