What we’re going through now? This deep sorrow over oppression and grieving over evil, this weight of darkness that seeps even into those who should be windows to light, this distortion and twisting of good into evil and evil into good? It’s not new.
This may seem a strange thing to find comforting, but it does comfort me today.
From Isaiah chapter 5, written over 2,700 years ago:
“He expected a crop of justice,
but instead he found oppression.
He expected to find righteousness,
but instead he heard cries of violence.
…What sorrow for those who say
that evil is good and good is evil,
that dark is light and light is dark,
that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.
What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes
and think themselves so clever.
What sorrow for those who are heroes at drinking wine
and boast about all the alcohol they can hold.
They take bribes to let the wicked go free,
and they punish the innocent.
…For they have rejected the law of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies;
they have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.”
This is the state of us. This is the state of our sin-filled world. This is humanity at its core. We are given good things, and we twist and turn them, make idols out of them, make the bad good and the good bad. We look to ourselves for wisdom, when we have none.
God is not surprised by any of this. It’s not new to Him. And He doesn’t get tired, He doesn’t stop loving us despite our epic and repeated and widespread failures, He doesn’t run out of mercy. (Lamentations 3:22-26)
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
God was at work when He gave those words to Isaiah 2700 years ago, and He was at work when He gave those words to Paul almost 2000 years ago, and He is still at work today. God was pursuing people then, and He still pursues us, even now. God is not shocked at the awfulness, even when we are. He is with us through it, strengthening us, changing us. God is the source of all good things, and makes good possible even where there is no good, even in the hearts and minds of others, even in our own hearts and minds.
For more good to take hold, in our hearts and in our world, we need more of our attention on Him. Because HE’s the one who does the work. He’s the one who enables us to be better, to do better, to love better. As Paul says in his letter to the Thessalonians:
“To this end we always pray for you,
That our God may make you worthy of His calling
[notice: HE calls us, and HE makes us worthy — we’re not worthy in ourselves]
And may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power,
[notice: HE fulfills the good we resolve to do, HE accomplishes the works of our faith]
So that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you…”
[notice: this is for the purpose of HIS glory, not our own]
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12a)
If you’ve been weighed down recently, as I have, with the weight of the depth of sorrow and suffering in our world, with new understanding of what people live through and deal with, with the sounds of people berating and accusing and condemning and pouncing — in short, with all the sin and our lack of power to do anything about it — be encouraged with me today. God is still at work. God is not taken by surprise. None of this is new to Him. He is not discouraged. He does not get tired. He has been dealing with all of this from that day in Eden when His creation first chose self over Him. We’ve been doing it ever since, and He’s been working to bring us back to Him ever since.
So do we just sit back and disengage, since God is at work? No. He works through us. He has commanded us to spread the good news of His love and His work and His Word, to pursue justice and care for the oppressed, to be involved in the lives of those who need help. We are to work toward the good of the land we dwell in. We engage, we keep loving out loud, we join God in the work He’s doing…but we don’t work in our own power. We don’t accomplish any resolve for good ourselves; God accomplishes them in us. So we rely on Him for our courage, for our endurance, for our joy, for our hope. And when discouragement threatens to sap our energy and steal our hope, we fix our eyes back to Him. He will not fail. His Kingdom endures forever. And His mercies are new every morning.