2694. Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the child where he is. That this signifies the hope of help, is evident from the signification of "fear not," as being not to despair; for when fear is taken away, hope is present; and from the signification of "hearing the voice of the child," as being help (see above, n. 2691, where the words are similar). In the verses which precede, the state of desolation in which those are who are being reformed and are becoming spiritual, is treated of; now the subject is their being restored, and here their comfort and hope of help.
 That they who are being reformed are reduced into ignorance of truth, or desolation, even to grief and despair, and that they then for the first time have comfort and help from the Lord, is unknown at this day, for the reason that few are reformed. They who are such that they can be reformed are brought into this state, if not in the life of the body, nevertheless in the other life, where this state is well known, and is called vastation or desolation, concerning which there has been some mention in volume 1 (where also see n. 1109). They who are in such vastation or desolation are reduced even to despair; and when they are in this state they then receive comfort and help from the Lord, and are at length taken away into heaven, where they are instructed among the angels as it were anew in the goods and truths of faith. The reason of this vastation and desolation is chiefly that the persuasive which they have conceived from what is their own may be broken (see n. 2682); and that they may also receive the perception of good and truth, which they cannot receive until the persuasive which is from their own has been as it were softened.
This is effected by the state of anxiety and grief even to despair. What is good, nay, what is blessed and happy, no one can perceive with an exquisite sense unless he has been in a state of what is not good, not blessed, and not happy. From this he acquires a sphere of perception, and this in the degree in which he has been in the opposite state. The sphere of perception and the extension of its limits arise from the realizing of contrasts. These are causes of vastation or desolation, besides many others.
 But take examples for illustration. If to those who ascribe all things to their own prudence and little or nothing to Divine Providence, it be proved by thousands of reasons that the Divine Providence is universal, and this because it is in the most minute particulars; and that not even a hair falls from the head (that is, nothing happens however small) which is not foreseen and provided accordingly, nevertheless their state of thought about their own prudence is not changed by it, except at the very moment when they find themselves convinced by the reasons. Nay, if the same thing were attested to them by living experiences; just at the moment when they see the experiences, or are in them, they may confess that it is so; but after the lapse of a few moments they return to their former state of opinion. Such things have some momentary effect upon the thought, but not upon the affection; and unless the affection is broken, the thought remains in its own state; for the thought has its belief and its life from the affection. But when anxiety and grief are induced upon them by the fact of their own helplessness, and this even to despair, their persuasive is broken, and their state is changed; and then they can be led into the belief that they can do nothing of themselves, but that all power, prudence, intelligence, and wisdom are from the Lord. The case is similar with those who believe that faith is from themselves, and that good is from themselves.
 Take another example for illustration: If to those who have conceived the persuasion that when justified there is no longer any evil in them, but it is completely wiped away and blotted out, and thus they are pure-if to these it be made clear by thousands of reasons that nothing is wiped away or blotted out, but that they are kept back from evil and held in good by the Lord (that is to say those who are of such a character that from the life of good in which they had been in the world this is possible to them); and if moreover they be convinced by experience that of themselves they are nothing but evil, and indeed are most impure heaps of evils-after all they will not recede from the belief of their opinion. But when they are reduced to such a state that they perceive hell in themselves, and this to such a degree as to despair of ever being able to be saved, then for the first time that persuasive is broken, and with it their pride, and their contempt of others in comparison with themselves, and also the arrogance that they are the only ones who are saved; and they can be led into the true confession of faith, not only that all good is from the Lord, but also that all things are of His mercy; and at length into humiliation of heart before the Lord, which is not possible without the acknowledgment of the true character of self. Hence now it is manifest why they who are being reformed, or are becoming spiritual, are reduced into the state of vastation or desolation treated of in the verses which precede; and that when they are in that state even to despair, they then for the first time receive comfort and help from the Lord.