But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, My friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are My servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I AM with you; be not dismayed, for I AM your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I AM the One Who helps you.”
Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I AM the One Who helps you, declares the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff; you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the LORD; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.
When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
~from Isaiah 41
Oh beloved, it is true.
The battles of our lives are real. Physical, relational, spiritual, financial. They. Are. Real.
And… They matter.
For what we can forget is that everything matters, forever. The choices that we make have impacts FAR beyond what we predict. And while many of us formerly lost boys from The Colony of Mercy know the destruction we have wrought on our families and friends, we tend to forget that the impact of our failures may very well be visited on the 3rd and even 4th generation beyond us.
This fool of a writer is no different. I can quickly think about my own feelings and attitudes. Christmas is an exceedingly hard season for me, as four of my six kids are still quite distant – even though it has been over thirteen years since I was asked to leave my home. In all of these memories, it is so easy to get self-centered, and to groan and complain in my own sense of missing my now-grown kids.
There is a great line from the movie, “Gladiators.” Aelius Maximus Decimus Meridius said in his speech to the troops fighting Barbarians on the edge of the Roman empire – in the cold a dark woods of northern Europe – “Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium [Heaven], and you’re already dead! Brothers, what we do in life… echoes in eternity.”
So, while it is not wrong to feel my own loss, it is a terrible shame for me to miss the opportunity to enter into the pain of those who have experienced loss through my actions. It is a horrible thing to deny the power that comes from humbling myself in prayer for these kids who seem so far away. They ache. They miss. They are injured in ways that may not heal in this life. I may miss some prayer-battle opportunities that will echo in eternity.
Can we see it?
Read the passage above. Read it again. And maybe a third time if you have the time.
As noted in so many other places in His Word, G_d knows our manifold weakness. G_d knows quite clearly that we are a mess. G_d knows that our tendency will be to fold in on ourselves and to miss the infinite opportunities before us. In fact, He communicates just as clearly that this is the mindset we need to have of ourselves: Apart from Him, we can do NOTHING.
But here is where the news gets really very good.
This passage speaks of the fact that The Holy One of Israel; a Redeemer is going to emerge on the scene. And it is this reality that we now celebrate during Advent and Christmas! Jesus entered into the ‘dark woods’ of the world. He has visited us – and those we have hurt – in our combined misery.
Then it gets even better in our journey towards Easter. Since Jesus inhabits eternity, He thinks about everything in this context. He understood, understands, and will understand that every step and choice He made for our redemption needed the infinite power of the Love That He Is. And so, in entering our darkness, He did not just sample it. He went down all the way through it. He experienced the abuse we endured. He experienced the abuse we poured out on others. And He crushed it to death in His death.
Don’t forget though, the outcome of this war is better than we can begin to imagine. Jesus entered into our darkness and pain. Jesus swallowed it all up in His death. But then, Jesus made all things new through His resurrection. He fought – AND WON – the greatest enemy: death.
So, are you feeling the pain that can come with this season? Are you tempted to focus on your own pain, and your own power to get through it? We all know this is not going to work. However, if we keep on re-membering ourselves to the One Who has already fought the battle, and won, we will be able to do make an incredible and positive impact in all the fights we face. Forever.
Tonight is your night. Let The Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel, win His fight for YOU. And once that battle is won, may we join Him in the eternally significant battles HE will fight and win THROUGH us.
Temptations come so that hidden passions may be revealed and so that it will be possible to fight them, and so that the soul may be rid of them. They are also a sign of God’s mercy. So give yourself with trust into God’s hands and ask His help, so that He will strengthen you in your struggle. God knows how much each one can bear and allows temptations according to the measure of our strength. Remember that after temptation comes spiritual joy, and that the Lord protects them that endure temptations and suffering for the sake of His love.
~St. Nektarius of Aegina, The Path to Happiness, 4
Written by Makala Doulos: Makala Doulos is a child of G_d, a husband to his wife, a father to his children, and a teacher to his students. But mostly, he is a prisoner set free by Jesus. Love has invaded his life, crushed it, and made it new. Now, G_d’s Love is what constrains him to live in full surrender to the freedom The Father and Son and Holy Spirit have bought for us all. Grace and Peace to you all.
Think About This: “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.” – C. S. Lewis