People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”
He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted. (New International Version)
Better days are ahead.
In this time of year, there are many people who simply don’t have to think twice about purchasing and giving gifts for Christmas. They have blessings, both material and spiritual. And they can always identify other persons who are in much more need than them. Some of them may even believe that those in need are in that position because of unwise individual choices.
But we must maintain a focus on our own lives. We need to recognize the maladies of our hearts. The state of our lives is as important, and is just as real and needy, as someone else’s life who is in more humble circumstances.
There are specific conditions in our lives that leave us in bondage and in need of restoration, renewal, and revitalization, just like all kinds of other people.
Being a vital part of a local church does not automatically immune one from having serious needs. And having a good steady income doesn’t inoculate one from need or privation.
We must not suppress those realities and needs, but instead, name the conditions which are packed away in a closet of our heart deep inside us – such things as the love of possessions and money; broken relationships; old grudges; hidden addictions; domestic violence; denial of depression; secret affairs; cutting; fear; anger; greed; hatred; and much more.
Outward smiles and small talk conversations may hide the truth from others, but they do nothing to hide from a God for whom everything is laid bare.
The good news is not just something for someone else who has “obvious” needs; the gospel must touch our lives and bring us freedom.
Only then can we pass on the good news to the legion of social ills that make our world sick. There are people all around us who need spiritual, emotional, and material help. Yet, we will not have eyes to see them, or have hearts to help, if we are stuffing our own burdens so deep within that we are blind to others.
Far too many Christians, especially the church-going kind, have become expert emotional stuffers and deniers of need.
We may believe “those other people” need ministries of justice and help. But the truth is: Many of us are one paycheck, one prodigal kid, one mental health diagnosis, one serious illness, one drink, one affair, or one bad decision away from being one of “those people” – the people we typically identify as in need – the ones that bad things happen to – the ones we do not want next door to us.
We may not yet be vulnerable enough to admit our situation; and so, we keep practicing the denial of our spiritual poverty.
What to do? Turn from the things that have caused us to be in poverty and be prisoners (not just secretly!) and hope in the Lord’s restorative grace. God takes all sorts of seemingly impossible situations of destruction and death, creating fresh new growth in the form of a little green sprout.
It begins with you and me allowing the justice of God to work within us, not just others.
If we want comfort, we need to mourn. If we desire joy, then there needs to be some lamenting of a dire situation. If we hope for an oak of righteousness, there must be a confession of despair. For there to be a resurrection, there has to be a death.
What is your real situation and the true realities of your life that need to be named?
Where will you go to address those needs and truths?
Will you keep stuffing them, or will you become able to voice your inner personal needs?
How might you be vulnerable enough to allow others to minister grace to your needy soul?
Let us have a vision of Jesus coming into our lives and replacing a tattered hat of grief with a crown of beauty.
Let us picture the Lord placing on us a garment of praise to replace our stinky clothes of grumbling.
Let us allow our lives to display the grace of God in Christ because we have been profoundly touched by the justice of God.
Let us herald the coming of the Christ child as the hope of us all.
Soli Deo Gloria