“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do a new thing. Do you not see it? I will make a way through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Years ago, the Holy Spirit showed me this verse to give me hope during a time of great despair and discouragement. Since then, God has used it as a continual reminder of the hope that comes from knowing God is actively working for my good (Romans 8:28).
At some point, I also learned the historical context surrounding Isaiah 43:18-19. God’s people were in captivity in Babylon, and Isaiah not only reminded them of how God had previously rescued them from Egyptian captivity via the Red Sea but also proclaimed an even more amazing deliverance was coming. In other words, God would again outdo himself.
As with God’s people, Isaiah’s words give me hope and remind me of what God has done in my life. They also focus me on the reality that he is always working for my good and that he has a habit of outdoing himself. These two verses have also now become a compass point as I navigate not only a change of seasons in my life but also a stop and restart.
The start of my second half of life came with deteriorating physical health. At a time when I expected to be more physically active than ever before and with more variety, my body gave me a gut punch. Numb legs. Sore back. No amount of rest, stretching, or yoga helped. Surgery became my only option, a reality I gradually accepted. At the same time, client work dried up to, my husband believes, give me the time and space I need to recover.
Now, post-surgery, recovery is my focus. Part of that recovery has been realizing that God is again “doing a new thing.” Up to this point, Isaiah 43:18-19 has simply reminded me of what God has already done as well as given me hope for what was still to come. Now, though, it also exists as a descriptor of my present reality.
Whether reminding me of what he’s done, is doing, or will do, these verses in Isaiah always spoke about how God does what seems impossible to me. He’s constantly working an impossible reality in my life. I just don’t always see it, and I’m usually expecting it to look like it did before.
Aslan: “Why didn’t you come to me for help?”
Lucy: “I’m sorry, why didn’t you come in to save us like last time?”
Aslan: “Things never happen the same way twice.”
From Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, this quote usually accompanies my repeated meditations on Isaiah 43:18-19. Both remind me that God never does things the same way twice, but he does act in my life even when I forget to ask for his help.
Why do I forget? Sometimes, like Lucy, I listen to those whom I think know what they’re doing because of experience or age. Sometimes, I just forget to ask. I’m expecting what he’s done before instead of looking for what he’s doing now.
Also, at times, I only think about what he will do, not a bad focus and certainly to be a main one. But, I neglect seeing his activity – and it’s there in abundance – right now.
Yes, Isaiah 43:18-19 still gives me hope for what God will do. It still reminds me that whatever he does won’t look like it did before. It also now helps me realize that God is working a new thing in my life, not going to but is in the process.
Some versions of these verses even reflect this reality, reminding me of the need to study the Bible in multiple versions and interpretations.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up!” (NIV)
The reality of God in my life exists in my past (what he has done), in my future (what he will do), and in my present (what he is doing). He’s not hiding it from me. I only need to look for it to see it.
This means I must look beyond the trees and not let the journey through them overwhelm and distract me. It means I cannot let times when life feels dry and fallow – when I’ve let myself get dehydrated – cause me to miss out on the refreshing waters God is placing in my path (John 7:38).
God’s living word meets me in every moment of every season of my life. Even a couple of verses (and certainly all of it) leads me to remembrance, awareness, and expectation of his mercy and grace in my life.