Recently I have compared my life to a Veggie Tales movie, Larry Boy and the Rumor weed. The weed, much like a dandelion, has a tremendous tap root that must be removed completely or it can come back incessantly. If you are a reader of my blog then you know that I am an advocate of Celebrate Recovery, and that I have gained a tremendous amount of help by participating in a 12-step group. Do not be deceived, attending Celebrate Recovery does not cure anything, but it does direct you to Jesus Christ and it is in him where we find hope and healing.
Recently I was reading Isaiah and this got my attention.
Isaiah 42:3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
This passage took on a deep meaning for me one day as I heard a speaker describing how they took a pastor friend to the mall with the intent of diverting his thoughts from some deep emotional pain he was suffering. As the two walked, they came across a card store and went in. The struggling pastor was shown a card that had this verse on it. He looked at it, paused, and said, the problem is, in most cases, we cannot tell when the reed is bruised. More was said, but my mind was locked onto this last sentence.
If you have spent anytime in the Word, you should realize that the “he” in this verse is Jesus as he comes to heal and comfort you. Jesus will not break you in your wounded state.
This verse is a sharp contrast to an analogy given by a pastor whose teaching I once sat under (He is no longer my pastor, nor anyone else’s’ anymore.) This pastor spoke about how the shepherd would train a sheep that continued to stray by intentionally breaking its leg. The look on my pastors’ face, his body language, and the sound associated with the imagery as he made the motions with his hands drove me back in my seat in revilement and disgust. I can remember thinking I would not serve a God like that, nor would I ever tell someone that this was even remotely how God operated, because it is not.
You may not be able to see the bruises that I carry, and have for years, but they are there, and no, even though I have been in recovery for a while they are not all gone. Over the years, I tried to gain some degree of relief by talking to people about the hurt I was feeling. I lost count of how many times people turned their backs to me and found someone more entertaining to talk to, it just happened the other day.
You see, there-in lies the problem, for you cannot see emotional bruises and some physical bruises can be well hidden, therefore we often dismiss the claims of others. I believe that to be fair I must consider that not every incident I perceived as rejection was intentional. I have to give this kind of grace, because it is what I wish to receive as I stand before Jesus to account for my inappropriate responses, and I have one person in particular that jumps into my mind. Look, I have not even been able to fix myself, and find myself overwhelmed by the internal damage this person describes.
I decided to see how many times the Holy Spirit makes mention of bruising in the bible. What I was led to was the Hebrew definition of the word bruised: “ratsats” – and it means to crush or oppress. Because I have a horticulture background, my mind envisions a long flower stem that I may have wanted as part of a floral display, but somewhere along the way that stem may have been crushed, and if severe enough, the stem could be completely folded-over. I suppose all this has to do with the severity of the damage. If the damage affects the plant’s ability to move essential moisture and nutrients up through the plant, then a bent stem could restrict life from continuing up through the stem and at minimum, would die. Since we cannot typically see how broken a person is, how do we know how much damage they have sustained; we cannot, and therefore must rely on the Holy Spirit.
If I look at the word from the other angle, “to oppress”, then it takes on an entirely new meaning because there is intentionality in oppression.
Webster’s dictionary: 1. To load or burden with unreasonable impositions; to treat with unjust severity, rigor or hardship; as, to oppress a nation with taxes or contributions; to oppress one by compelling him to perform unreasonable service. 2. To overpower; to overburden; as, to be oppressed with grief.
The world seems to be focused on bullying lately, and oppressing people is exactly what bullies do. I will let you in on a dirty, little, secret. Bullies are everywhere, even in church. Do not misunderstand me, that does not make them bad (at least as far as a relationship with God is concerned), but being at church does not make them safe, and they, like most of us that are damaged, had bad role models and are merely emulating their teachers. I can assure you that there are people at that church that would give their lives for you to protect you if they saw someone hurting you, but they are rare, and most people are into self-preservation.
The Hebrew word “ratsats” shows up only 19 times. Not much if you are trying to establish a pattern of usage or interpretation. Of those nineteen times, only two are translated as bruised, the majority lean toward oppressed or broken. That tends to force us to look at this passage in terms of oppression or brokenness.
I took a job recently, after being out of work for eight months, that though described as seasonal, I had hoped would become permanent. I survived two months. Now do not get me wrong, even though I am sixty years old, I still run circles around most of the younger ones. The secret to that is a work ethic that says, there is no free lunch and so you work not play. I quickly found out that my manager took delight in dishing out mental oppression as a motivator. His dad did it to him and so it must be appropriate for everyone else. Let me assure you, it is not. Although I got injured there, I truly enjoyed and valued many of the people I interacted with, but I came to the conclusion that I value myself enough to not subject myself to a daily regimen of inappropriate threats. I had recently commented to my girlfriend, I cannot believe that I let that guy get into my head like that, and yet, it makes all the sense in the world because of how I was raised.
I have come to realize that the damage inside me goes very deep, and I am not sure how to extract the root so that it dies and never bothers me again. The problem is, I cannot do it (I tried for years), and I am not even sure what I am looking for, but Jesus does.
In the midst of emotional trauma, it is easy to feel unloved and unwanted. What you need to know at times like that, more than anything else is that no matter what your relationship status with God is, He (God) loves you. He loved you so much that He allowed his own Son to die in your place, purchasing your life back from an enemy that cares nothing about you, hates you, and is making every effort to destroy you. God has tattooed your face in the palms of His hands, that is how much he cares about you. You are ever before his face.
Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
If you have heard of the term apologetics, then you must know that you are not apologizing for anything, but on the contrary, you are defending, with vigor and intelligence, what you know from scripture to be right. One of the dominant aspects of scripture that has convinced many is the fact that God / Jesus did exactly what they said they would do. Jesus told his disciples that he would die and raise again in new life, and he did it. He told his disciples that he would appear again to them, and he did it. His body was real, and encouraged them to touch it. He sat and ate fish with them, and appeared to over 400 people. Why point any of this out? Because, even I find myself needing to be reminded that this life in Christ is real, and that God, more than anything else in this world loves me. We all need to know that we are loved, and longed for; he proved that by sending His Son Jesus Christ.
If you do not have a relationship with the Father, you can by sincerely asking Jesus Christ to come into your broken life and make his home there. He will, and if you will allow him, he will begin to heal the aspects you will open to him there.
If Jesus Christ has been a part of your life for years, and yet you are tormented by the brokenness you feel, you are not alone. Scripture tells us that the enemy accuses us constantly before the Father, probably hoping that God would reject us. You need to know that God will not and does not change his mind about you and I. To do something like that would be contrary to God’s nature and established patterns of doing things, and it is not going to happen. He did not reject Jesus, and Jesus had to become sin, not merely have some in him. Yet, in spite of the sin (taken care of by the spilling of the blood of the Lamb upon the altar, just as Israel had done all those years) God received him back, and crowned him with glory, and seated Him upon an everlasting throne, where He now reigns.
Continue reading in Isaiah 42 you will find a statement that ought to be directed at Jesus, and yet, because of our relationship with him, can easily apply to us as well.
“I Jehovah have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand, and will keep You, and give You for a covenant of the people, for a Light of the nations; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness out of the prison house.” (Isaiah 42:6-7 MKJV)
Since we came to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we too have been called in righteousness, and God, the Father, will hold our hand and keep us.
There is no doubt that Jesus was given as a covenant of the people. The people initially being the Jews, but since God expanded that to include anyone that would come, we too are the people. Take this a step further, for Paul the Apostle wrote: “as he is, so are we, in this world.” Therefore, we too are a covenant or sign to the world, and that includes the crushed reeds that stand before us daily.
As lights that have been called, we have the right, duty, and ability in Christ, to: open the blind eyes, bring out the prisoners from prison, and bring light to those who sit in darkness. I believe passages, such as the one in Isaiah 42, give me the freedom and right to act, as Jesus would have. Should you have questions about how Jesus would have acted then consider Acts 10:38 for a moment.
“.. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38 KJV)
If you do nothing else, as a believer, empowered by the Holy Spirit, place your hand on them and ask the Father, in Jesus name, to touch their lives, and then allow Him to do his work.