There are people whom I can’t help because they are not able to receive or believe words of encouragement or hope spoken to them.
But I was no different. Deep down I didn’t feel that I was worthy of the attention or the possible good that could happen.
An underlying root of unbelief grew deep into my heart. Because of fear of what the unearthing might expose, I stubbornly stood in the way and for a long time prevented this root from being pulled up.
I felt safe in the damp, dark dirt of the past. I allowed some digging and uprooting but when the tangled roots got close to the surface I shrunk back. The light revealed too much.
The fear of unearthing and acknowledging the past in order to heal can be difficult to handle. There has been too much trauma and any further emotional upheaval in the present is almost unbearable.
I so appreciate this verse in Isaiah that helps me take a gracious and loving approach to those like myself who have been wounded by life.
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice [victory].” (Isaiah 42:3)
In this verse, the prophet gives us two metaphors of people who have been hurt by the cruelty and injustices of this world.
The bruised reed being blown by the wind, bending and ready to break. It has been battered by life’s adversity and is on the verge of breaking at the next sign of confrontation or struggle.
The smoldering lamp wick that has lost its light and now just sends up smoke, exposes the doubts and fears that cause a person to waiver, lose their strength and their faith. The flickering flame of unbelief has lost its connection to the oil that allows it to burn brightly.
But God treats those who are at their weakest with tenderness and love.
Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th century preacher, describes the ‘bruised reed” as a person broken by the weight of sorrow or care or sin who are often disregarded and trampled down by others.
That is truly how we feel about ourselves, trampled upon and ignored by the world.
Yet, Christ treats those who are weakest and least alive with long-suffering and gentleness. He does not view us as useless but sees the possibilities that lay within each one of us.
Tenderly and patiently the Lord cuts away the burned edges of the wick blocking the free flow of oil and pours in fresh oil to ignite the flame again.
God does not give up on us!
The prophet Isaiah writes again, this time speaking of how God cared for Jesus:
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. (Isaiah 53:2 NASV)
The idea expressed here is that Jehovah was watching this humble and lowly growth, as a mother watches over her weakest and most sickly child.
We must perceive those who struggle under the weight of trauma and injustice in the same way a mother cares for a sickly child.
We need to embrace our struggling friends with a love and energy that supports them. Hopefully, one day they will gain the strength to hold their own and push upward towards the light.
The heavy hammer of trauma that forces us to bow in the storm of life is likened to Christ (the tender plant) in His weakened and vulnerable state on the cross. In the end Jesus was not uprooted by evil. He survived and rose again in three days displaying a power that many thought had been snuffed out.
Though the tender reed has been bent under the trauma and injustices of the world, Satan does not have the power to break it as spoken in the last part of Isaiah 43:2; “until He brings forth victory.”
Spurgeon, in his sermon, ‘Christ the Tender Plant”, encourages us to liken ourselves and others to the tender plant bending and bowing in the storms of life. Yet there remains in each one of us the vitality to spring back. Upon each stem rest clusters of hope with the power to blossom and open up to the light of God’s love and healing presence.