Sometimes I am tempted to be distressed, to succumb to the overwhelming weight of life. You know, times when I think about my financial needs vs. available resources, or the devastation in Haiti, or the difficulty of raising kids, or the pain in my own life, or the pain I cause others, or…well, you get the idea. There are a lot of options everyday for being totally distressed and overwhelmed.
But here are some words from God that I came across today. They have encouraged me to not give in.
Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and,looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. Isaiah 8:21-22
Well, that sounds way too familiar for me. Distressed, feeling like I am roaming…yep that makes me angry. You might even say enraged. That makes me want to curse God – or at least blame him and complain about the unfairness of it all! And I never seem to have trouble cursing the king as well (or any authority figures over me).
I hate feeling like I’m walking in darkness and to be honest, I feel like that often. I know God wants me to do something, but what? but when? But where? But how? I feel like I’ve been given a map (The Bible and the Spirit) and I’ve been sent on my way, but it’s dark so the map feels useless. But Isaiah goes on and that’s good news for me.
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as soldiers rejoice when dividing the plunder. Isaiah 9:1-3
I would like to rejoice. I would like to “see the light” as they do. (makes me think of that great Charlie Peacock song: “I Wanna Be in The Light”) And what this says is that I can. He has given me the light. Verse six just drives the point home:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
I know, I know. February is an odd time to be pulling out the Christmas verses. But it fits, it’s truth, it’s for today, I think. God gave us Jesus. And according to this he has very large shoulders for holding up very large burdens. Mine aren’t made for that. Why do I always try to leave it all on my own shoulders when his are obviously far better suited?
I know He has disappointed me sometimes: not making life as easy for I as we would have liked; not giving some things to me that it feels like he could have easily given. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me, isn’t in control, isn’t working for me everyday. I just don’t get it. I don’t see what he’s doing.
I don’t want to live in distress. I want to live in joy. I guess it’s like I’ve always heard and said about love before: Love is a choice. You have to choose to love, you can’t rely on always “feeling” it. I think joy is the same way. We have to choose it.
I remember a new parent I knew some time ago who always used to say the same thing to his son when his son was behaving badly. He would say, “Make a different choice.” The sentiment was brilliant. He was empowering the child to choose a new way of acting or engaging. He was inviting the child to be proactive in his own correction. The only problem was, the child was two years old. At two years old, “make a different choice” might as well have been a flat out “NO!” The two year old could not appreciate the power he was being given, couldn’t recognize that while he was being told, “No, you can’t do that.” he was also being invited into the process of what he could choose instead. It wasn’t being assigned to him.
I wonder how often God is saying to us, “Make a different choice.” But all we hear is “NO! You can’t do that!” Or maybe he is saying, “I’m working on that” or “You aren’t ready for that.” Or “Trust me, I have something better.” But all we hear is “No, NO, NOOOO!” And what we miss in all of it is that regardless of whether we feel like we’re walking in darkness or not, he has given us a great light. The Light. And he has very big, very strong shoulders.
What was it that Jesus said?
“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
But just like rejoicing, just like the light, we have to choose it. We have to decide that we won’t rollover and submit to distress. That there is something better. Someone better.
Am I in distress? Am I choosing joy? Am I choosing rest?