Friday, October 12, 2012

The Equivalent Joy of Isaiah 61: Day 2 of 31 Days of Falling by Faith

I am about halfway through a book I bought earlier this week in a little Catholic bookstore-coffee shop in Emmitsburg, Maryland. A Greater Vision, by Joan Ulicny, is her memoir about her recovery from a car accident at age 29 that left her suffering the effects of numerous closed-head brain injuries, including greatly impaired vision. I expect I will be writing more about, and in response to, this book in the coming days, but for now I just want to share most of a quote from "Writer Unknown" that sits between the last page of Part One and the first page of Part Two:
"No matter what is taken away from you, if you keep your eyes on Jesus and praise Him, He will restore it to you. You will be joyful to the exact same degree you have hurt. What you have lost will be replaced . . . joy for mourning . . . beauty for ashes . . . God, I don't see how it could possibly work now. I don't see how you will ever come to me again in any shape or form. But . . . if, and when, you restore the years that the locusts have eaten, I will tell people about it, and write about it. I am committing to you to remember this agony, and if you can come up with some kind of joy to the equivalent that I have hurt, you are truly a God of miracles."
Joy for mourning: those words come from the same chapter of scripture that Jesus read from in the Temple when he launched his public ministry: Isaiah 61. Jesus read (see Luke 4:18-19) from verses 1 and 2: "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, and to announce a year of favor from the Lord." The Isaiah chapter continues with additional statements of God's intentions for "all who mourn": to comfort us, to replace our ashes with a crown, to give us "oil of gladness instead of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit."

And why will he do this? Will it be just to make us feel better? No, it seems, making us feel better is not the goal but, rather, a means. "They will be called oaks of justice," he says. "They shall rebuild" and they shall "restore"—and they will give all the glory to God.

So, first God turns sorrow into joy. Then, because we feel better and our spirits are no longer "faint," we are able to do what is right and just, for others and ourselves. Finally, we praise and thank God and give Him all the credit.

Why that last part? Because God is a glutton for glory?

How many times have you asked someone to recommend a good doctor, a trustworthy car mechanic, a fair plumber? God wants us to praise and thank Him because he wants other afflicted, brokenhearted, captive mourners to know who to turn to for healing and freedom.

Like "Writer Unknown," I often "don't see how it could possibly work now. I don't see how" God "will ever" restore my own personal Locust-eaten years. But "if, and when," God does "restore the years that the locusts have eaten, I will tell people about it, and write about it." To a great degree, the fact that I am writing, publicly, at all is a kind of "first fruit" of restoration, and to all those who have played a part in nurturing that fruit, I am deeply grateful. But most of all, I "rejoice heartily in the Lord, my being exults in my God" (Isaiah 61:10).

Amen.

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