Readings: Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Click on the readings to read them.

I don’t want to depress you too much, but next Monday – 21st January – is designated as ‘Blue Monday’. It is said to be the most depressing day of the year. It’s scientifically calculated!
Based on weather, debt, the time since Christmas, the time since failing new year’s resolutions, motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action.

A formula was devised in 2005 to calculate the level of depression for each day of the year as below:

[W + (D-d) ] x TQ
_______________________
MxNA

W=weather d=debt T=time since Christmas
Q= time since failing our New Year’s resolutions
M= low motivational levels Na= Need to take action

We have this depressing habit of looking for the worst, the lowest, the least, and so on, so we shouldn’t be surprised that such a thing as ‘Blue Monday’ has been calculated. And I don’t know about you but now that I know this, I start feeling depressed and I know that come the 21st January I’ll be wallowing!

I was watching the news this week and the story of Andy Murray facing the impending reality of a forced retirement: the tears, the silence, the sadness. January is a dark month and for Andy Murray it is a dark time.

But how true is that for so many people! The darkness that comes with news that jobs are going to be lost; the uncertainties of Brexit; the plight of refugees; the sadness of loss; the grief of those who are bereft, the list goes on and the sad truth is that in all communities, there are those whose lives are full of darkness.

And into this darkness come these words of God:

“Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine…” Isaiah 43:1

This is why I love God…

Isaiah lived between 740 and 681 BC. It was a time of great upheaval for the people of Israel & Judah. Israel had been conquered by the Assyrians and Judah lived under a constant threat of the same. Isaiah had warned the people that Judah would fall and it eventually did to the Babylonians, and I imagine the people of Judah in exile, in Babylon, remembering these words:

“When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you…
I will give up whole nations to save your life, because you are precious to me and because I love you and give you honour. Do not be afraid—I am with you!” Isaiah 43:2,4-5.

Whatever darkness you are facing, Isaiah says, you are not facing it alone. God is with you, do not be afraid.

One thing that always draws my attention when I read these words is that it is when you go through these troubles God will be with you. We don’t want troubles. We want God to pick us up and put us on the other side of the troubles we face. But that is not what God promises to do. Instead He promises to travel those paths with you; to take your hand in his as you face whatever the darkness holds.

There is a myth about Christianity that if you are a Christian and believe in God then nothing bad should ever happen to you. All your prayers should be answered and only good things should come your way. The problem with that belief is that when painful things happen, faith in God fades away: ‘why would He let this happen?’, ‘where was God when I was in trouble?’

Life is not like that; God is not like that. The Christian faith has to have meaning in this world as it is! Our lives are ones of light and shade; of good and bad. And it is in all of these that God is with us.

The people of God were suffering and in exile but God was with them, he hadn’t abandoned them. His love was one that not even death could destroy. The would know redemption and salvation. Eventually, the nation was restored, the people returned, but Isaiah’s words also pointed to the future and to you and me…

Jump nearly 700 years and here we have Jesus at the Jordan. This is the start of his ministry, his mission, and following this he would go into the wilderness and be tempted.
I imagine for Jesus, this was a time of questions, uncertainties, confusion, maybe even doubt, possibly even fear! And into this again comes the voice of God:

“You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you.” Luke 3:22

When you pass through deep waters… When you walk through fire… Your troubles will not overwhelm you…

Even Jesus would have to travel through darkness and even he had to know the assurance of a loving father who would never leave him. His journey would lead to a cross but even there he was willing to go because God was with him.

I don’t know why there has to be pain and suffering in this world but there is. But I thank God that it is in that pain and suffering we find Him. I thank God that even in the midst of death He is there and that nothing can ever separate us from His love.

My faith allows me to live this life with hope – the real hope that God is with me in everything and real healing the real salvation comes in the promise that through Jesus, I will know this for eternity for not even the darkness of death will take that from me. I pray that you will know that truth also.

I don’t know what darkness you or those you know may be facing but I do know this promise of God. And whatever you are facing hear His words:

Do not be afraid… You are precious to me… You are my child… I am pleased with you…

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