Bruised Reeds, Smoldering Wicks and Undermining Fear – Oh, My!

I had never considered encouragement to serve as a tool in spiritual warfare until this month.

Have you?

In my course “God’s Design for Community,” the author and facilitator brought forth this concept in my reading on encouragement:

Encouragement is a major part of spiritual warfare.

Yet, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

A compassionate word, a caring, silent presence, a discerning prayer, a helpful meal, and a warm hug are often the most effective ways to minister to the disheartened, the discouraged and the weary.

Are you disheartened today?

Are you feeling discouraged?

Are you weary and bone-tired?

Are you feeling hopeless?

Honestly, this is the impression I have of many of my friends and family right now. Many are very, very concerned about the future and what the future may hold for their lives and the lives of their families. Yet, the truth of the matter is that we have no true conception of what the next day, the next month, the next year or even the next decade will present us.

In the midst of this uncertainty, we may not feel particularly strong or resolute. We are living our lives, but the flame of hope in our hearts has begun to smolder. In fact, some of us may feel bruised and wounded. Our lives are not going as we envisioned; failure, rejection, disappointment, worries, offenses, betrayal, and more weigh upon our hearts and minds like at no other time. In fact, we may feel more unsettled than ever.

Is this true of you?

Even a little bit?

Friends, the gentle assurance and care of our Heavenly Father speaks into the heart of our worries and fears.

Because honestly, we are not the first, and we certainly will not be the last people to fear the future.

Undermining fear and insecurity has gripped the hearts of man ever since that fateful bite of fruit in the Garden of Eden. In fact, the cry for help in the face of significant and anticipated crises of fear have been hailed through the centuries. We possess an earnest longing and deeply-seeded need for hope, redemption and security.

So what do we do when we fear?

Whom do we seek?

What do we look for?

For me, I turn to the Word of God and seek its encouragement. There is nothing like the heartening word of the Lord to lift me and set me on a new course of thought and action – especially in times of fear and uncertainty.

My hope verses truly speak to this age-old need of redemption for today:

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.

New International Version, Isaiah 42: 3-4

Metaphorically speaking, have you ever described yourself as a bruised reed or a smoldering candlewick?

I haven’t.

reed_swamp_water_234326

 

Yet, Isaiah’s inspired word likens the people of his time – and you and me – to a bruised and worn reed. Think on that. A reed in Isaiah’s context grew in an unattractive, malodorous, swamp environment. Although it can grow to 12-16 feet in height, its stems are narrow and hollow. This plant is not known for its strength, nor its beauty. Most reed plants grow in thick, branching colonies. Thus, if this aqueous plant stands alone, it is especially at risk. Its fragility is no match for the challenges of its environment. And the fact that it is an unattractive and unremarkable plant life, few would ever care to take notice if something traumatic happened to the inconsequential reed.

And yet.

Look what the Lord says through the words of Isaiah about such a plant:

A bruised reed he will not break

This bruised reed is symbolic of a life that is fragile and broken which is in need of tender, encouraging care. Crushed in spirit, lacking strength, flawed and impaired, and displaying little beauty, the Lord is not dismissive of the shattered life.

Just the opposite.

Jesus Christ sees into the heart and soul of the broken, fearful, and despairing and offers hope and redemption.

blownout_candle

To delve even further, in the smoldering candlewick, which is indicative of a life that has lost all hope, Jesus gently blows His Spirit into the weakening heart, to ignite its flame, fan, and restore its purpose.

How is this possible?

It is through the faithful, attentive care of Jesus Christ.

It is through His justice and His righteousness.

It is through His resolute strength and determination to never falter or be discouraged by circumstance, challenge, or foe.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.

Friends, Jesus Christ experienced many of the challenges that face humankind while He walked this earth. He faced unwarranted attacks upon His position, upon His character, upon His identity, and upon His very life. His hope never wavered. At the end of his physical life on earth, Jesus withstood the weight of every man and woman’s sin by enduring its shame-filled wrath and due punishment of death by Divine Authority. He endured with invincible courage, resolute mind and compassionate soul. Then, he arose after three days’ time, and defeated the constraints of death for us all. His resurrected life brought us resurrection.

Jesus Christ never stumbled or faltered in His pursuit to establish justice on earth to set all things in order for every man, woman, and child to enter the Kingdom of God through belief and trust in Him.

Salvation is offered to all even –

the islands will put their hope –

in Christ.

Isaiah foresaw that the people of the Mediterranean islands, where most Gentiles would be living after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, would be offered and would accept life in Christ. These would be people that the Jewish would dismiss as unattractive, weak, and irredeemable – like the swampy, bruised reed plant. And yet, eternal hope and faith would be offered to even them! Ultimately, the Christian Church would be birthed from this region – a place where broken, shattered, dismissed lives would receive the hope of Christ to ignite and fan the flame of faith in Christ for all people and for all nations.

Amazing!

Has your life been shattered?

Are you feeling weighted down by circumstance?

Is your hope smoldering?

Have you been bruised and battered by fear and uncertainty?

Take heart!

Be encouraged!

The Lord is not dismissive of you nor the hurt, betrayal, worry, fear, or challenges which have wounded and weakened you.

Just the opposite!

He is near and is gently and lovingly caring for you.

You may not feel His Presence. Yet, your lack of feeling does not deny His awareness of you or His nearness. In my experience, it is during such times – when we are at our weakest – that Jesus Christ is nearest of all. He is speaking, helping, strengthening, guiding, nurturing, and empowering us. Helping us stand tall – just like the swampy reed plant. Helping us live strong – just like fanning the flame of the candle. The fact that we have risen today and are facing whatever is ahead with courage and resolve is truly breath-taking!  For we are looking ahead by the strength and power of Christ and if we can do that today – then the fears and worries we face – can be given and entrusted to Christ. For even now, He establishes His cause and aligns His purposes, whether we look to Him or not.

Be encouraged.

Look to Christ.

Trust Him.

Hope in Him.

You are not alone.

The challenges and spiritual warfare we face, day in and day out, are powerfully addressed through the encouraging, transformative Word of God.

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.

New International Version, Isaiah 42: 3-4

I am encouraged by His word today – are you?

Bruised reed image retrieved from This and That

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