Thursday, June 25, 2015

Broken Bootstraps and the Spirit of Despair

I went through a period earlier this year when I was scared to read the Bible. I know that sounds silly, but I was. I was so afraid that I would open the Bible and not find God to be what I so desperately need him to be. I was terrified that the condemnation and rules and shoulds and musts and the demands and finger pointing and posturing that I experience out there, in the world at large and, unfortunately, in the Christian community in particular, was in the Bible. I was convinced that I would be met face to face with the fact that God is disappointed in my performance and lack of theological prowess and really wishing he hadn't wasted his time on me.

One night, in complete despair, I flung open the Bible (a la Bible bingo, I suppose) and started reading and found this:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives
 and release from darkness for the prisoners,to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor   and the day of vengeance of our God,to comfort all who mourn,

 I didn't get any farther than verse 3.

   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty   instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

When I got to the word despair I stopped dead in my tracks. I am no stranger to despair. No stranger at all. It seems to be my common mode of operation. So I backed up. Something about a garment of praise. Yeah, yeah. I hear that. You must praise God. You must thank him. You must, must rejoice. I could hear their words. Their commands. You must. You MUST. You must DO this.

But that isn't what it said. I backed up further. To bestow. This is talking about Jesus, the Messiah. He is the one doing this. What is he doing? He will comfort all who mourn. He will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. He will bestow on them the oil of joy instead of mourning. And he, HE will bestow on them a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

This is something HE will do.

What I found in Isaiah wasn't an army general commanding me to discipline myself, get with the program, and pull myself out of the pit with my own bootstraps. I found a God of good news. And compassion. And strength. I found a God who knows that the pit is deep, the gravity is strong, and my bootstraps are broken. I found a God who knows I cannot perform my way out of despair on my own. So he provides. He provides healing and freedom and vengeance and beauty and joy and praise.

He is, after all, exactly who I need him to be.

1 comment:

  1. Your honesty challenges me to discover His grace in my life. Thank you, Ginny.