Friday, September 30, 2011

Let the Lord encourage you

In Isaiah 7 there is a story about Isaiah trying to encourage Ahaz king of Judah and it resonated with me recently.

King Ahaz and his people had learned that the kings of Israel and Syria had formed a confederacy to try to dethrone Ahaz. King Ahaz and all of Judah were understandably freaked out by this. Then the Lord sent Isaiah to reassure King Ahaz:
4 And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.
5 Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying,
6 Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal:
7 Thus saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.
8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. (Isaiah 7:4-8)
So the message is that in 65 years the kingdom of Israel would be gone. That’s all well and good, but how is that supposed to help Ahaz at that moment? I can imagine Ahaz saying, “Great, but what about NOW?! What do I do to deal with the challenges we’re facing NOW?!” Isaiah continues:
And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established. (v8)
Essentially the reassurance was that only the kings were causing the trouble, and if the kings were removed, then the trouble would go away. But ultimately, King Ahaz had to believe it was all going to be ultimately okay in order to get through the current troubles.
10 ¶Moreover the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying,
11 Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.
13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? (Isaiah 7:10-13)
I had always been puzzled by this part because elsewhere in the scriptures we have Jesus’s words about not tempting the Lord our God. The difference here is that the Lord (through Isaiah the prophet) is inviting King Ahaz to ask for a sign. It seems the Lord meant this sign to be short-term reassurance to cling to over the time it would take to make it through the longer-term trouble.

So what was King Ahaz’s problem here? Essentially, King Ahaz doesn’t want to believe it is going to be okay eventually. This is really surprising; who in their right mind doesn’t want to feel it is going to be okay? It is hard to understand why unless you’re going through something that feels similar.

I realized the problem. King Ahaz understood that if he began to choose to believe it would eventually be okay, he would have to work very hard to keep his courage up in the long days to come. He would also have to strengthen his whole people. That felt like too much for him. Because he didn’t want to take courage, he had to be reassured over and over and over again (and that must have been really emotionally tiresome for everyone around him).

So this is the lesson for us today--when the Lord comforts us and reassures us, we must choose to believe that it will be okay and take courage in order to make it through.

How does this apply to me now? Welllll…at risk of being too self-revelatory…I’m starting some medicine that has some weird side effects and which I will have to take for a period of weeks before I will see improvement. I have to believe that it will eventually work, or I won’t get it established in my system enough to work. Part of me feels like, “Yes, I can do this!” and another part of me is worried about how hard it might get and whether I have the guts to make it through when it really gets hard.

One of Ahaz’s difficulties was that his people were freaked out too. This is completely understandable. When you talk to people who are alarmed, it is hard to not become that way yourself. In my case, before I started my meds, I made the mistake of looking on a forum and reading what a bunch of people wrote about the medication, and it was rather alarming. I think I was infected with their attitude, even though my side effects were really mild. What they reported made me really question whether my doctor knew what he was doing.

Since then, I’ve been trying to take Elder Uchtdorf’s counsel from women’s conference about appreciating the little joys and pleasures. I’m trying to live a little more in the moment to cut off my long-term worries. I’m trying to remind myself, “Self, you are safe now. Nothing is hurting you now.” I’m trying to remind myself to enjoy and appreciate putting tasty food in my mouth, being able to walk, choosing clothes to wear that I like, turning pages, feeling warm carpet under my feet, and the basic satisfaction of getting chores done.

Will you share with me any experience you had when you had to choose to believe the Lord’s reassurance and take courage over a long period? What did you do?


Ramona Gordy said...

This is a very insightful post. It seems that King Ahaz allowed his fear to rule, instead of mastering his fear by trusting in God.
I hope that in taking your round of medication that you will be well.
I can testify that if you stick to your plan,and do your part,not be afraid and trust in God, you will be alright in the long haul.
I'll be praying for you Michaela

Curls said...

I believe President Uchtdorf gave a talk in the last April confidence about choosing faith over doubt and discouragement. I love the idea of choosing faith, for me that was the key to unlocking the joy of the gospel. I had to choose to believe instead of doubt.

It's like King Ahaz is staring at the locked door still and choosing not to use the key of faith to unlock the blessings of the gospel.

Best of luck with the medication.

Michaela Stephens said...

Well, the medicine didn't work. I had to stop taking it. Oh well. Still, the lesson stands, even if the application didn't end up working..