2694. 'Do not be afraid, for God has heard the boy's voice where he is' means the hope of help. This is clear from the meaning of 'do not be afraid' as not despairing, for once fear is removed hope is at hand; and from the meaning of 'hearing the boy's voice' as help, dealt with above in 2691, where similar words occur. The subject in previous verses has been the state of desolation which those people experience who are being reformed and becoming spiritual. But now the subject is the restoration of them, and here their comfort and hope of help.
 The fact that those who are being reformed are brought into a state of not knowing any truth, that is, into a state of desolation, insomuch that they experience grief and despair, and that at this point for the first time they receive comfort and help from the Lord, is something that is not known at the present day for the reason that few are being reformed. Those who are such that they are able to be reformed are brought into this state, if not during this life then in the next, where that state is very well known and is called vastation or desolation, regarding which something has been said in Volume One, where also see 1109. Those who experience such vastation or desolation are brought to the point of despair, and when in that state they receive comfort and help from the Lord, and at length are taken away out of that state into heaven, where in the presence of angels they are taught so to speak anew the goods and truths of faith. The primary reason why they undergo vastation or desolation is so that the things of which they are firmly persuaded, originating in what is properly their own, may crumble, see 2682, and also that they may receive the perception of good and truth, which perception they are not able to receive until those false persuasions originating in what is their own are so to speak softened. And it is the state of distress and grief even to the point of despair that effects this change. What good is, and indeed what blessedness and happiness are, nobody with even the sharpest mind is able to perceive unless he has experienced the state of being deprived of good, blessedness, and happiness. It is from this experience that he acquires a sphere of perception; and he acquires it to the same degree that he has experienced the contrary state, for the sphere of perception and how far it extends are determined by his experience of the two contrary states. These, in addition to many others, are the reasons for vastation or desolation. Let the following examples illustrate the matter.
 Take those people who attribute everything to their own prudence, and little or nothing to Divine Providence. Even if thousands of reasons are produced to prove that Divine Providence is universal, but universal because it exists in every least thing, and that not even a hair falls from the head - that is, nothing however small exists that has not been foreseen and that has not been provided accordingly - their state of thought regarding their own prudence would remain unaltered, except for the brief moment when they feel convinced by such arguments. Indeed if the same matter were proved to them by actual experiences, they would while witnessing or taking part in such experiences acknowledge the truth of it, but after a short while they would revert to their previous outlook. Such experiences have a fleeting effect on people's thought but not on their affection, and unless the affection is broken down the thought remains in its same state as before; for the thought receives its conviction and its life from the affection. But when the feelings of distress and grief enter into them because they have no power at all that is their own to do anything, and those feelings reach the point of despair, their firm persuasion is broken down and their state altered. In this case they can be brought to a conviction that they have no power that is their own to do anything, and that all power, prudence, intelligence and wisdom originate in the Lord. The same is true of people who believe that their faith is self-derived and their good self-derived.
 Let a further example illustrate the matter. Take those who have become firmly persuaded that once they have been made righteous no evil resides with them any longer, but has been completely wiped away and destroyed, and thus that they are pure. Thousands of arguments could be used to make it clear to them that nothing is wiped away or destroyed, but that those people are withheld from evil and maintained in good by the Lord who from the life of good which they have led in the world are such that they can be withheld from evil and maintained in good by Him. In addition to these arguments they could be convinced from experiences that they are of themselves nothing but evil, indeed that they are nothing but utterly filthy masses of evil. But in spite of all those arguments and experiences they would still not depart from their opinion and belief. But when they are brought into a particular state in order that they may perceive hell within themselves, and perceiving this so clearly as to despair of the possibility of their own salvation, that firm persuasion is for the first time broken down and with it their pride and their contempt for all others in comparison with themselves, and also their arrogant assumption that they are the only ones who are saved. They can now be brought into a true confession of faith, not merely to the confession that all good comes from the Lord but also that all things exist because of His mercy; and at length they can be brought into humility of heart before the Lord, the existence of which is impossible without acknowledgement of what they are in themselves. From this it is now evident why those who are being reformed or becoming spiritual are brought into the state of vastation or desolation dealt with in the verses previous to this, and how, when experiencing this state even to the point of despair, they for the first time receive comfort and help from the Lord.
(References: Genesis 21:17)