But now, Leah and Rachel and Jacob,

hear the word of YHWH –

the One who created you,

the One who fashioned you, Israel:

Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the seas, I will be with you;

When you pass over the rivers, you will not drown.

Walk through fire, and you will not be singed;

Walk through flames and you will not be burned.

I am YHWH, your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your deliverer.

Isaiah 43:1-3a, The Inclusive Bible

God’s but is bigger than anyone else’s. I mean this in a good way. 

In most translations, Isaiah 43:1 starts with the words, “But now…” That big But plops itself smack into the middle of a miserable situation. The people of God are far from home. Their exile, the author of Isaiah 42 tells us, is the direct result of not following the ways of God. And so, the author says, God poured out blazing anger in the form of violent war. “It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, and still they didn’t take it seriously!”

War, flood, fire, exile! The absolute worst has happened to these people!!

Yet no one is turning back to God!!! Can you imagine?

What a tough spot for everyone, God included.

Well, heck, God said, if THEIR hearts will not be changed, then I will change mine.

And God did. “But now,” God said with this changed heart, “since you have not turned back to me, I will just have to come to you. For you are mine, and I will not let myself be apart from you anymore. I will be with you through it all, no matter what.”

And so, it came to be one day that God’s “But now…” became flesh and dwelt among us, spreading the good news of God’s love and forgiveness to all peoples. Jesus is God’s “But NOW” promise fulfilled. That’s why Emmanuel is one of the names for Jesus. It means God-With-Us.

When I forget whose I am,

   because I do –

When I am overwhelmed by miserable situations and so, so, so afraid of what will happen next,   

   because that happens a lot of late too –

I play this song to remind me of God’s big BUTYou Are Mine by David Haas.

It reminds me that God’s big “But NOW…” promise still holds.

It has accompanied me, and all my hopes and fears, through long dark nights.

I hope it will be a good traveling companion for your journey, too. 

But nowright now – whether you know it or not, take it seriously or not –  

But NOWeven as our own failings and the sins of the world push us farther apart –

But NOW and EVERMORE – God is with us. God chooses to plop that big “But NOW…” smack into the middle of our miserable situations and, if you can make room in yourself for that big but (which actually was able to fit into a tiny manger once), God will cover up everything – everything – that has you feeling so alone and afraid.

God, you know exactly where I need your “But now…” in my life today. Be present – be Emmanuel – in the middle of my mess, my fearfulness, my long dark nights. Yes, I feel alone. Yes, I am afraid. But NOW… Amen.

Reflect on this:
What are some of the ways you can “make room” within yourself for the “But now” work of God? How might God be calling you to be part of this work for others?

Sheri Brown lives in Dewey, AZ

I am an avid DIY-er, walking enthusiast, and recovering overachiever.

6 replies
  1. Rena Armstrong
    Rena Armstrong says:

    It is a struggle to know the right thing to do in certain situations. I have long believed in gathering information, assessing the facts, making informed decisions, and advocating for myself and loved ones.
    Now I’m doubting my methods. Maybe I just need to be still and wait for thr right answer to appear.

  2. Leeta Mackey
    Leeta Mackey says:

    Sometimes when faced with dark times and seemingly impossible challenges, it seems hard to fathom that God calls me by name and I am his. Thank you, Sheri, for pointing out just how much he loves each one of us no matter how we struggle in life. And the lyrics of the song express it so well.

  3. Debbie Nahodil
    Debbie Nahodil says:

    Thank you so much for your reminder that God is right in the middle of everything new are going through. I feel like I need to constantly bring my thoughts back to that fact and remember how much God loves and cares about me. I love your unique way of talking about God’s “but now.”

  4. judymikes
    judymikes says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful devotional. Those “Buts” in scripture have always sent me back to see “but what” or “but why.” So has the word “therefore.” You have reminded me of God’s incredible, amazing love!


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