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Word of the month from Isaiah 43:1-2


43 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, o Jacob, he who formed you, o Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
Isaiah 43:1-2 (English Standard Version (ESV))

As human beings we experience existential challenges in various fields of lives. Such challenges are social, political, economical and religious. These challenges are evident when we hear and read news from media. Through these media we are astonished to see and hear people suffering and dying of wars, famine, diseases, global warming and religious conflicts. I addition to those problems, the whole world is facing economic problems caused by inflations, national debts, unemployment, misallocation of funds, fraud and poverty. Such difficulties imply that many people cannot access social services such as education, health and other basic needs. In this context, we find ourselves in great fear which is accompanied with uncertainties regarding our survival. Sometimes the uncertainties in life overcome or outweigh our hope and faith in God who is our refuge, source of life, sustainability and destination.

It is worth mentioning that we are not the first and last human generation to face challenges in life. The Israelites during the times of Old Time Testament faced many problems such as enslavement, famine and captivity by neighbouring nations. However, whenever they faced such hardships they realised that they had not fully depended on God. In many cases they had forgotten what God had done for their salvation. They even went astray when they failed to abide with God’s law that was meant to enhance good relationship between them and God and among people themselves. The only way to restore relationship with God and people was trough repentance for forgiveness of sin. It was through repentance that reconciliation and peace were possible.

Our text from Isaiah 43:1-2 offers good news to people when it says that people should not fear because God who created, chose and redeemed them for a special purpose. God comforts them that even if they pass through waters, he will be with them; even if they pass through rivers, they will not perish; even if they walk through fire, they will not be burnt. That is why they should not fear. This is a text that encourages us during the times of despair, depression and confusion. When we encounter fear and distress, the word of God gives us courage against fear. As human beings, the believers and followers of Jesus Christ face difficulties. But believers are supposed to face those difficulties and challenges with hope of overcoming them. When we face challenges with hope in God, we are relieved differently from those who face challenges without hope in God since they carry all the burdens themselves leading to psychosomatic diseases. Such problems create fear which is not healthy in life.

Hope in God as the one who can help us to overcome the hardships in life is a source of healing and encouragement for survival in this world which is full of uncertainties and challenges. The word of God in Romans 8:31 further says that if God is on our side who will harm us? Such words instruct us to remain in union with Jesus despite the hardships we encounter in life. In Romans 8:35 an apostle Paul urges followers not to be separated from Jesus by hardships, nakedness and hunger. The good example on this is Jesus himself who remained in union with God even in the context of torture and death on the cross. Even if he lamented on the cross that God had forsaken him(Mathew 27:46, Mark 15:34), he still put his soul in the hands of God whom he had blamed before(Luke 23:46). The event of resurrection outweighed the difficulties he had encountered in his life. In the same way his followers should face difficulties with hope to overcome them one day. In the book of Revelation 2:10 we are told that we should not fear temptations and hardships that happen and will happen to us because the hope we have in eternal life surpasses those hardships in life as long as we endure and live trustfully.

Let the faith and hope we have in God accompany us in this life so that life may continue to have meaning and purpose for the betterment of our neighbours, ourselves and nature at large. It is faith in God that we get courage against fear in life. This courage comes after realising that we are the creation of God who redeemed us through Jesus Christ as we are also sanctified by the Spirit of God. May the Lord Jesus help us to overcome fear and other problems as we depend entirely on him. AMEN.

By Rev. Dr. Abednego Keshomshahara, Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), North Western Diocese (NWD)
Theological studies at Makumira University College of Tumaini University, Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.-1997), worked as a pastor at the Cathedral of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), North Western Diocese (NWD) in 1998. Master of Theology (M.Th.-2000), teacher and principal of the Ruhija Theological Training Centre(2000-2003), doctoral studies in theology Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal / Bethel, Germany. He received his doctorate in 2008. Lecturer of Bukoba Lutheran Teachers College in Bukoba, Interim Provost of Josiah Kibira University College of Tumaini University (TU) in Bukoba (2008 to date).