Introduction & A Word of Grace
The forty-sixth chapter of Isaiah is all about false gods and idols. But before we dig in, I feel it’s important to extend a word of grace. This devotion wasn’t born from a “do it right, no excuses” mentality, but from my own desperate struggles in creating.
You see, over the course of my writing career, from the time I began drafting scientific articles in graduate school to the present day, I’ve struggled off and on with anxiety and depression. My writing “failures” seem to be the main trigger for the acute onset of anxiety and the oppressive sense of hopelessness that lingers long afterward (without God’s help).
It is from this perspective—with my failures looming large—that I began contemplating Isaiah 46. As you read on, I hope you won’t judge yourself but instead allow God’s power and grace to sink in. Direct your focus toward Him. Not to bring judgment or guilt—but to receive the healing and wholeness only God can give.
Isaiah 46: The Problem with Idols
An idol is anything that takes the place of God…and idols are burdensome:
1 Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary.
I must confess, my writing at times is an idol. I place too much importance on it. When I give anything the place of God, expecting that idol to give me value and purpose—to satisfy the deep longings of my soul—I’m setting myself up to fail. Instead of giving us strength, idols drain us. Why? Because rather than lifting us up, idols must themselves be hefted and carried.
2 They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity.
If the truth sets us free, then lies are shackles. When anyone tries to make writing their end all be all, they become slaves to their goal. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t work hard, doing everything as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). I am saying we can’t count on our writing to sustain us. An apple tree might sustain us, but an apple plucked from the tree never will—not for long.
The search for meaning in “plucked apples” like wealth, work, and earthly pleasures is what led King Solomon to say, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 1). The pursuit of idols brings disillusionment…while the pursuit of God Himself provides fulfillment.
3 “Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. 4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
No idol will ever lighten our loads. Instead, they weigh us down with false hopes. Here is the truth that lofts the burdened soul from any idol’s deceit: Only God can sustain us. He is the Source of our creativity and all the beautiful gifts we might be tempted to seek in place of Him.
Listen to the folly of trusting idols instead of God:
5 “With whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? 6 Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. 7 They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Even though someone cries out to it, it cannot answer; it cannot save them from their troubles.
In this world we will have troubles. Writing a novel (or a book or a thesis) isn’t always a straight-line course from point A to point B. We start projects we never finish. We lose hope and give up (for a time). We discard flawed manuscripts only to torment ourselves over all that wasted effort (though it’s not). If progress is our god, every setback adds to the burden since idols can never move themselves. So long as we keep a tight grip on our desires, refusing to commit them to God, we alone must face the burden.
Here’s the takeaway: We need to hold our dreams loosely and, if need be, trade our plans for God’s. Not what anyone wants to hear, I know. But consider who God is:
9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ 11 From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.
Whenever we commit our work to God, He establishes our plans (Proverbs 16:3)…that is to say, He’ll show us what to do. And who better to guide us in our passion for creating stories than the Author of HisStory?
With God on our side, there’s nothing we can’t do (Philippians 4:13, etc).
Lara Storm Hitchcock spends at least half her life within the musty vaults of her brain, constructing new worlds and engaging fictional friends. Since winning the Illinois Young Authors Contest in middle school, she took a detour through graduate school and spent three years as an instructor of geology at the college level before completing her first unpublished novel in 2013.
Lara’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Realm Makers Consortium—when she’s not writing (or chasing an energetic toddler around the house)—she enjoys critiquing and mentoring other writers.