The book of Isaiah can be difficult to understand, yet beautiful to read. Chapter after chapter of prophecy is often beyond my grasp, but there are certain passages that paint a very clear picture of the incredible promises to which we have to look forward.
I’m especially enthralled and encouraged by chapter 11, verse 9:
“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
What a beautiful future awaits us! In that day, no longer will people inflict pain upon one another. Why? Because “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
That’s such a powerful truth. Just as in the presence of pure light darkness ceases to exist, so too when the world is flooded with the truth and knowledge of God, sin will no longer reign in the hearts of mankind.
Can you imagine? “…as the waters cover the sea.” If there’s one thing in this world that both terrifies me and fills me with unparalleled awe, it’s the seemingly endless depth and expanse of the ocean.
If you’ve ever been in the midst of any large body of water, you know how overwhelming it can be. Set aside for the moment any fear of sharks or drowning – just think about the water. Now imagine that rather than water, the overwhelming presence is the knowledge of God.
My heart aches, my stomach hurts, and my tears flow for strangers I’ve never met. I’ve never been to Connecticut. I know no one from Newtown. I’m not yet a parent. But my heart is heavy with a grief shared by millions across our nation and our world.
I realize that much has already been said about Friday’s horrific tragedy. And I realize that in the midst of the grief, nothing really can be said that will truly make a difference.
We can talk about gun control. We can talk about mental illness. We can talk about school security. And yes, maybe those conversations are important and long overdue. But no words can cover up the reality of what happened on December 14th.
No words will wash away the pain. No words will reverse the bullets. No words will restore those precious little children into the arms of their parents.
No words we can ever say will heal our broken world.
So what do we say, then? What do we say when families are shattered and our hearts are breaking? What words can we offer that will soothe rather than sear such fresh wounds?
I have no words.
The words I have to offer are worth nothing in the light of such atrocity and such sorrow. I cannot offer words. And 1,637 miles away, I cannot even offer a supporting embrace, a listening ear, or a warm meal.
I have nothing to offer but a love that reaches across the miles. I have nothing to offer but my prayers to a God whose heart breaks too. I have nothing to offer but a reminder that there is hope, the hope that one day, our broken world will be healed. Healed not by our words, but by the word of our God. On that day,
“He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”
If you are at all familiar with Christian music from the last decade, then you’ve likely heard the popular worship song written by Darrell Evans called “Trading My Sorrows.” It’s been around for close to fifteen years now, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve probably heard and sang along to it at least a hundred times.
If you haven’t heard it or it’s been awhile, check it out via the YouTube video below.
Because of its familiarity and overuse, it’s easy to dismiss this song as outdated and to no longer pay much attention to the lyrics. But for whatever reason, the other day the refrain popped into my head: “Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes Lord… yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes Lord… yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes Lord, Amen!” This cry of surrender, this declaration of giving up our burdens in exchange for the boundless joy of the Lord truly is beautiful. But then I started thinking…
In reality, our declaration of surrender to the Lord often sounds more like: “Yes, no, yes, no, yes, yes, no… yes, no, yes, no, yes, yes, no… yes, no, yes, no, yes, yes, no… aww man.”
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had those moments in worship and in prayer where you’ve let go of your burdens – the pain, the sorrows, the mistakes, the disappointments – and you’ve accepted in exchange the healing, the peace and the joy that can only come from the Lord. But then, sometime after that, perhaps hours or days, or maybe months or years later, you realize in frustration that you’re carrying those exact same burdens again.
As human beings, we tend to cling to our baggage. We may come to that point where we finally pry our fingers off of it – or even fling it away from us – but somehow, for some reason, we so often snatch it back soon after. Our surrender to the Lord ends up not being just a one-time done-deal, it becomes an exhausting scenario we repeat over and over and over.
It’s not that God has stopped carrying our burdens for us. It’s not that he suddenly realized that it wasn’t a fair exchange and so he snatched back his free gift of grace and dumped our ugly baggage back into our arms. It’s not him. It’s us. God is fully faithful to take our burdens from us and bestow upon us completely beautiful and undeserved grace. The problem is us.
I’ve come to realize that our flawed nature doesn’t allow us to fully surrender to the Lord once and for all – at least not in this world. We’re not good at letting go. We like to be in control, and even as Christ followers, we so easily forget that we’re not the ones in control. We so quickly forget that we don’t have to carry our burdens.
If you find yourself struggling with heavy burdens that you thought you’d already surrendered, maybe you need to surrender them again. Take encouragement from a fellow blunderer who keeps snatching those same burdens back – you’re not alone. And the best news: God will never get tired of taking them away from you when you surrender them to him again and again.
Be reminded of the promise of Christ and accept the rest for your soul that only he can give:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Question: Can you relate? What has your experience been with this scenario of repeated surrender?
Office chairs, steering wheels, tripods, closet shelves, bike seats, helmet straps, and those pants that have the adjustable snaps along the waistline. And I’m especially fond of volume knobs and thermostats.
Adjustable products allow us to pick the setting that works best for us at that time. And if circumstances or personal preferences change, we can always adjust! Being flexible, adaptable and able to adjust to changing times is a celebrated characteristic not only among products, but also within individuals and organizations.
Unfortunately, adapting to change isn’t always a good thing.
If you’re at all familiar with Christian doctrine or “church speak,” then you’ve probably heard of “the fall of man,” or, “the fall.” The fall is a reference to the beginning of history when mankind fell away from the holy standards of God into what we call sin. I’ve no doubt you’re at least familiar with the story of Adam and Eve, and particularly that of Eve, the serpent, and the apple.
Most consider the fall of man to be a defined moment in biblical history. I tend to think of it as something that’s still happening. Mankind is still falling.
As Christians, we have been reconciled to God through repentance and acceptance of his saving grace through Jesus Christ. While good works aren’t required for salvation, they are evidence of it. And while God is merciful and forgiving, our obedience testifies to his unsurpassed wisdom, sovereignty and justice. We strive to lead lives built on a foundation of selflessness and morality, aiming for a higher standard than the world around us.
But maybe the standard we’re aiming at is the wrong one.
Maybe the standard we’re aiming at is one of comparison, not of truth.
Maybe without realizing it, we’ve slipped into a pattern of living lives that are more moral than that of the secular world. And while at first nothing seems wrong with that statement, upon reexamination you might see the problem.
If our measuring stick of morality is based upon whether or not we are more moral than the secular world around us, then I think we’ve missed the boat.
The whims and standards of the world fluctuate like the ocean’s lapping waves. The morality of the world can change quickly and easily, with circumstances and personal preference. The morality of the world is adjustable.
As Christians, our morality should not be adjustable. The standard we’re aiming at should not rise and fall in sync with that of the world. As Christians, the standard we are aiming at should be unshakeable. Because as Christians, the standard we should be aiming at is unshakeable.
It’s not about being “better than the secular world.” Because “better” is not quantifiable. “Better” is relative. Andthe standard we are pursuing should not be determined relative to that of the secular world.
The world changes. God never does.
Question: Do you think some Christians have slipped into a pattern of comparing their morality to the shifting standards of the world instead of to the unshakeable standard of God? What are some examples of this that you’ve noticed?