Recently, two pygmy sperm whales lay stranded near a New Zealand beach. Though volunteers, led by conversation officer Malcolm Smith, worked tirelessly, they couldn't coax the beached whales back out into the open water. Just as they were about to surrender hope, a local bottlenose dolphin named Moko arrived, made a few shrill noises toward the whales, and immediately led them into the sea. "I don't speak whale, and I don't speak dolphin," Malcolm said, "but there was obviously something that went on . . . [Moko] did what we had failed to do."
Each of us responds to our anxiety and distress uniquely. Some of us go into feverish activity, attempting to scratch a way forward. Some of us turn silent or depressed, overwhelmed with a sense that our efforts will all be futile. However, each of us share the same core need: for someone to approach us where we are and to know how to help us.
Since we are helpless on our own, the prophet Isaiah's instruction may seem cold. "Say to those with fearful hearts, â€˜Be strong, and do not fear' " (v.4). Don't these words strike you as something odd to say to a person rung out with fear? Don't be afraid. Or to a worrier: Don't worry. Or to one overcome with loneliness: Don't be lonely. Far from flat admonitions to buck up and change their behavior, however, Isaiah was calling them to look forward, to look up and see that they were in no way alone. A divine rescue was on its way. "Be strong and do not fear," Isaiah said, "for your God is coming . . . to save you" (v.4). The prophet invites us out of our fear (and out of our worry and loneliness and everything gripping us) because God is here, ready and able to lead us out of our prisons. Will we follow? , Winn Collier
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