An Invitation to Do Hard Things ~ Isaiah Series ~ Part 7
~ Isaiah Series ~
An Invitation to Do Hard Things
“You can do hard things,” I hear my best friend say to her kids all the time. It is an encouragement, a declaration of truth, and a reminder about the reality of daily life as a human.
There is no doubt: every one of us will face “hard things” throughout our lifetimes. And the honest truth is that we really can get through them.
This weekend one of our pastors taught us from Isaiah 58 wherein God told His kids that He wanted them to “loose the chains of injustice… to set the oppressed free and break every yoke… to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood” (Isaiah 58:6-7). He told them that if they did this, He would be with them, guide them, strengthen them, meet their needs, and that, eventually, they would get a new identity and reputation: they would become people who are known for bringing reparation and restoration.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression… and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday,” God said. “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame… you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings…” ~Isaiah 58:9-12~
You see, justice and freedom and helping the downtrodden, the broken, and those in need— this matters to God. A lot.
He sees those people, He knows their stories, He hears their groaning, He feels their aches, He cares about them, and He wants to bring wholeness and healing to their lives and their situations.
And also? God is very clearly telling “normal people” like you and I to step up and DO something about the injustice and wickedness of the world.
This is echoed again in Isaiah 1:16-17 when God tells His kids to “Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
And this isn’t just Old Testament stuff. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells His listeners that caring for the hungry and the thirsty and the poor and the marginalized— this is big-time stuff for Him. It matters. He even goes so far as to say “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” And, likewise, “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
What the Lord is telling us here is that we cannot just sit idly by and do nothing about the fact that people are being abused, misused, neglected, treated unfairly, and perhaps even systemically held down. Whether we are called to participate in the prevention of these acts, the intervention of these acts, the post-traumatic care or rehabilitation after rescue from these acts, or anywhere else in this process, each of us is necessary and important in this entire discussion.
God wants us— little old, jacked up, imperfect and struggling-with-my-own-junk ME and little old, jacked up, imperfect and struggling-with-your-own-junk YOU!— to join Him in bringing life and joy and wholeness and healing to these broken people and areas of society. Isn’t that amazing?
What an honor, right?
At church this weekend, Pastor Billy Reider stated that there are always three parties involved in any injustice happening around the world. Whether it is racism, slavery, sex trafficking, sexual abuse, neglect, bullying, or thievery, there is always:
- A Victim
- An Oppressor
- A Spectator
The way to break out of this cycle of injustice is for someone to rise up and, as Billy said, “bring flourishing” to one of these areas.
Some of us feel called to encourage, assist, or equip the Victim in some way. Some of us are led to dismantle and/or rehabilitate the Oppressor (or oppressive system, as the case may be) somehow. And some of us feel the need to wake up our fellow Spectators so that they can become part of the solution as well.
No matter how “big” or “small” it may seem, we are all called upon to bring truth and hope and justice and encouragement to the world around us. It will look different in each of our lives, because we are each wired in different ways, and we all have different talents and passions, but we are all capable of taking a look at our corner of the world, our sphere of influence, our resources, giftings and passions, and following God’s lead in whatever ways He urges each of us to make a positive impact in the world.
This is a big deal, you guys. It would do well for us to have a lengthy discussion about it. And… I can’t possibly tackle it all in one little blog post. (Obviously.) So in a couple days, I am going to write a bit more about this. I’m going to talk about some of the facets of (and tell a story or two about) what “following God into the hard places” really looks like in real life. I’m going to talk about the struggle involved in that journey. And I’m going to give a big fat THANK YOU to those who are already engaging in this.
In the meantime, however, I want you to ponder these questions:
- What need do you see around you? What injustice do you get mad about?
- When do you remember meeting a need and feeling very fulfilled? ((The book Captivating says it this way: “The longings God has written deep in your heart are telling you something essential about what it means to be [yourself], and the life he meant for you to live.”))
- What were some of the times in your childhood that you recall suffering? In adolescence? In adulthood? ((There is nothing shameful about having gone through challenging times. In fact, this is often where empathy, compassion and passion are born.))
Okay, my friends. That’s it for today. I look forward to hashing this out with you in more depth in a few days. Until then, let us recall God’s encouragement and promise to the warrior-leader Joshua so long ago:
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips,” God said, “meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)
God is with us, you guys. We can always take courage in that. No matter what “hard things” we are staring down. Remember: we can do hard things. 😉
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Over the last several weeks, as I have been diving into Isaiah, and as my church has been studying this book in depth during our weekend services (only one more week to go!), I’ve shared several thoughts here on the blog. If you missed any of it along the way, you can hop over to this page— it is serving as the home base for this Isaiah Series. And feel free to listen to the solid teaching that has been happening on the weekends, as well, if you feel so inclined. (Click here to listen to the sermon series.)
It has been a pleasure hashing out this incredible ancient book with you.
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What about you?
When has God called you to engage with something challenging? How did you see Him show up and what strength or other qualities did you see rise up inside yourself as you rose to the challenge and held His hand through it all?
Please share your journey in the comment section below.