Hope in Times of Despair
But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. (Luke 23:49)
Those who knew and loved Jesus stood at a distance trying to assimilate what they were seeing. However, what appears to be the worst they could have imagined, is in actuality the very best that can possibly be! Is not this life for many of us? We stand in a bereaved silence, stunned, staring at a particular circumstance that has crossed the path of our lives and quite literally taken our breath away. How can something so devastating turn out to be good? Though we know God has good plans, the “why’s?” of life often echo loudly in our minds, drowning out any thoughts of a higher purpose for good, oftentimes leaving us bereft of hope. Paul’s words shout out to us:
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
“Now” we suffer from incomplete knowledge. It will only be when “now” becomes “then” that we shall understand fully and have all of our questions completely answered. The “in part” that we can comprehend and hold on to is His faithfulness to us, love for us, and intentions toward us. God always has our best interest at heart! The message of the Old Testament reminds us:
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Throughout our seeming devastation, God is in the business of making beauty from our ashes. Indeed, Jesus’ “job description” covers that very issue. We are told by the prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach 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, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Jesus Himself reads these very words from a scroll handed to Him in the synagogue, proclaiming to His hearers that this words have been fulfilled in their hearing:
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
Jesus came to bring good news, bind up the brokenhearted, free the captive, proclaim God’s favor, comfort the mourning, bring beauty out of ashes, and restore gladness.–all of this coming our way by way of the cross.
What appeared as devastation to the onlookers mentioned in today’s verses all actuality become life to the full.
Take It to Heart
Sometimes it is hard for us to understand the God’s higher purposes for good when calamities occur. We must hold on to the promise of God’s Word that He will use these things for our good and for His glory. God has a plan and it is for always for our good!
“Faith raises the soul above the difficulty, straight to God Himself, and enables one to stand still. We gain nothing by our restless and anxious efforts … It is therefore true wisdom, in all times of difficulty and perplexity, to stand still–to wait only upon God, and He will assuredly open a way for us.” (C.H. Mackintosh)
“To the child of God, there is no such thing as an accident. He travels an appointed way … Accidents may indeed appear to befall him and misfortune stalk his way; but these evils will be so in appearance only and will seem evils only because we cannot read the secret script of God’s hidden providence.” (A.W. Tozer)