It’s easy in this journey of loving a prodigal to be dismayed. Circumstances cause reactions of dismay. Words cause reactions of dismay. Actions cause reactions of dismay. A phone call can cause reactions of dismay. We are just so desperate to know they are saved, living the abundant life the Lord has provided for them, walking in fellowship with God, experiencing peace and the other fruit of the Spirit, and fulfilling their God-given purpose, with heaven as their eternal destiny.
Once, when I was in dismay, I decided a trip to the ocean would bring me peace. Sitting by the water usually helps bring me peace. Its massive size points me to the expanse of God and His power and ability, but there is also something about the sound of the water as it moves. Ezekiel did say God’s voice sounds like many waters (Ezekiel 43:2). When I read this in the Word of God, my love of sitting by the ocean made a little more sense for me, but the ocean is not my source of peace. God didn’t give me the okay to go to the ocean at that point in my life, perhaps to require me to put my focus totally on Him for peace, the One who made the ocean and ordained its movement and sounds, instead of focusing on the ocean, and He did give me peace.
In Psalm 121, the psalmist apparently went through the same process, but instead of water, for him it was hills. However, he came to the same conclusion I did: my true peace doesn’t come from watching the waves roll in, and his true peace didn’t come from the hills. True peace comes from the Lord, who made the ocean and the hills.
Sixteen times the Old Testament says to be not dismayed and gives reasons why it is possible, and those reasons have nothing to do with oceans or hills. Here are some of my favorites:
- “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
- “And David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 28:20).
- “Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).
- “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you” (2 Chronicles 20:17).
- “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him” (2 Chronicles 32:7).
- “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
When the Lord goes before us and is with us wherever we go; when He will not leave or forsake us; when He will strengthen, help, and uphold us with His righteous right hand; and when He fights our battles and sends angels to fight with us, we have no reason to be dismayed. Ultimately, when the Lord is our God, we certainly have no reason to be dismayed.
Instead, we can have peace. Peace is the opposite of dismay.
The Word expresses clearly about how we realize this peace: “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). When you are physically, mentally, or emotionally tired; when you have weird dreams; when you rehearse negative happenings or suspicions in your mind, combat them with thoughts of God, keeping your mind on Him. He promised peace if we just do this.
May I share with you an exercise I did with the words of the King James Version of Isaiah 26:3?
- Thou: God, Lord, Almighty, able, Creator of everything, completely trustworthy.
- Will: not can, not should, not might, not perhaps, not would consider, but guaranteed, promised, definite, truth, absolute, done.
- Keep: hold close, not let go, cause to continually stay and dwell in.
- Perfect: no slack, no extra space for anything else, no imperfections, all-in-all, encompassing, past understanding, better than self-fabricated, never-changing.
- Peace: rest, positive, full, faith, able to trust, calm, knowing, confidence.
- Whose: whoever, me, you, prodigals.
- Mind: thoughts, thought patterns.
- Stayed: chooses to stay there, takes thoughts captive, practices, turns thoughts around to God.
- Thee: God, Jehovah, able, trustworthy, God of the possible.
- Trust: completely trusts, knows God can and will, learning who He is so I can know.
So, if we put this all together, a very familiar verse becomes personal, applicable, real:
The almighty, able, completely trustworthy Creator loves me so much that He holds me close and will never let me go outside of this restful, knowing, confident peace and calm that leaves no space for panic or negativity when I choose to trust that He can and will take care of me and what matters to me; when I take my thoughts captive and practice turning my thoughts around to my able, completely trustworthy God, Who He is, and His all-encompassing love for me; never allowing my trust to waver or weaken, but strengthening it through praise, worship, prayer, and memorizing Scripture about Him; because I find never-ending, forever-lasting strength in Him, a strength that will not forsake me no matter the circumstances of the moment or day or week or month or year or years!
Would you read it again? I know I had to so I could absorb the magnificence of this verse and of our God’s love for me. We are so loved by the Father, and peace belongs to us because we are His. We simply rest and trust in Him.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). It’s a promise!