Dr. Jacobs preached from Isaiah 41 at All-Seminary Chapel
"The way we choose to cope with our fears reveals our thoughts about the source of our strength and the source of our help," said Dr. Mignon Jacobs, associate provost for accreditation and educational effectiveness, and associate professor of Hebrew Bible.
Preaching from Isaiah 41 in All-Seminary Chapel on Wednesday, October 16, 2013, Jacobs explained that the circumstances in which the passage was written was one in which a torn community is comforted after calamity. The prophet addresses the situations in which people have fear and doubt, God's presence, and his ability to help.
The passage from Isaiah 41:1-10 reveals not only comfort that God holds all things in his hands, but that the people of that time looked to idols as tangible sources of relief.
"The heart of the matter is what do you do when you are afraid?" Jacobs asked. "What do you do with the fears about circumstances over which you have little or no control? Or what do you do when all the remedies and self-help have not erased the fears or when the words of people who share your experience are of no comfort to you? Or your very belief about God is challenged by circumstances, what do you do?"
We, like the ancient community, are faced with daunting circumstances, Jacobs told the students, staff, and faculty gathered in chapel. But there are different ways in which people cope with those fears. One way to cope is to join with others in similar situations, and relying on our intellectual and psychological tools.
"Some of these may work for a moment," Jacobs said, but it is not a lasting solution. There may also be times in which there are no solutions to life's problems. This leads people to another coping method: detours, which help them avoid challenging paths. Detours also include strategies like intellectualizing situations, trusting in people, trusting in work, and trying to "help God out."
"But there is yet another way," Jacobs said. While acknowledging that there are legitimate reasons and things for people to fear, another way of addressing fears is a renewed reliance on God.
"This is not a cop-out," she said. "The reality is that there are circumstances that no amount of pretense can cover." Reliance on God and faith involves understanding who we are, and whose we are.
Just as God told the ancient community in Isaiah, he also tells us that he knows us and participates in our story, Jacobs said. God is not confined and is able and willing to hold all things in his hand, and orchestrate our matters.
The comfort from God comes from one who knows us and is with us, Jacobs noted, and the commitment that God has for us is lasting and eternal.
"The comfort is that in the midst of fear God is there to help, to uphold, and in some cases, to help us to endure," she said.