In my personal bible reading I’ve been working through the book of Isaiah, and whoooooo boy. It is rough. Compound that with the fact that the other day I happened to be listening to the soundtrack to Interstellar at the same time and let me tell you… That was a little too intense…
Isaiah is a tough read, not just for length or language but mostly for the content itself. We’re familiar with a lot of verses from Isaiah that sound light and happy in isolation, but that is by no means the overarching tone of the book. The simple fact of the matter is Isaiah is heartbreaking.
The vast majority of the book is a long, horrifying tale of choices gone horribly wrong. Isaiah had the tough job of speaking the most unpleasant of truths: that actions have consequences. For hundreds of years, people told God that he had no idea what was good for them and that they wanted to do everything on their terms. God had given people free will, and this was how they chose to use it, by distancing themselves from the best thing in the world for them. When the greatest gift in the world is twisted and distorted it becomes the single most horrifying disaster.
For far too long, people were chasing anything but God for their satisfaction and the consequences of those actions were coming due. But what do I mean when I talk about consequences? I’m not saying God was sitting high above waiting to smite someone the instant they screwed up. I’m not saying “neener neener! Heartbreak is what we deserve. You’re getting your comeuppance!”. What I mean by consequences is that God let us know that it was safest to stay with him, but time and time again throughout history people have wandered away thinking that’s a load of rubbish and have found that he was, in fact, telling the truth. As C.S. Lewis simply put it: “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
That’s exactly where we find people in the pages of Isaiah, and on a micro-scale where we very often find ourselves. Isaiah hurts to read because the anger and destruction of those consequences ring with truth that hits a little too close to home. Isaiah yells “We’ve messed everything up!” and I find myself nodding sadly and saying “I have too.”.
But that’s not the whole book of Isaiah. After all, those quotable verses have to come from some part of the book right? The text that could so easily end with proclamations of forever doom and hopelessness instead does no such thing. It begins as early as chapter nine, breathers where Isaiah takes time to promise something good on the horizon, sections dedicated to talk of rescue and deliverance from disaster, even if the disaster was in many ways self-inflicted. Isaiah starts relaying the promise of a savior, and a pretty good one too, until he builds to a roar. The end of the book is filled with hope and victory in a savior. One that will shake the foundations of a broken world and offer a kind of hope that everyone thought was long gone. A kind of hope that takes weary, beaten people and sets them on their feet again. A kind of hope that shows no matter the darkness, pain, and heartbreak a truth that is as real now as it was in the time of Isaiah.
God always has a plan.
That may sound like a broken record, but it’s true. It may be hard to see, but it’s there. It may be hard to believe, but it’s coming. The fact that it’s hard to accept or believe has absolutely no bearing on whether or not it’s true, and trust me, it is. God’s heart towards his creation is a loving one. Even we messed up humans know how to love. We know that if we love something we’re not going to leave it high and dry when it needs us most. We won’t leave it in peril when it needs to be rescued. As messed up as we are we understand how we act towards what we love. If we can love in our imperfect state, how much more vast, caring, and devoted is the God of the universe’s love?
So God most certainly has a plan for whatever is hurting you and keeping you hopeless. If God was willing to allow pain and suffering as a by-product of our opportunity for choice, you can be dang well sure he has a plan for how to end that pain and suffering. While the book of Isaiah may be full of it, the Lord is not a God of heartbreak. He loves you. He loves you and as with anything loved he doesn’t relish the idea of you in pain. Those plans to get us out of our individual hardship and pain may look different, but they share a common core of hope.
God is not giving up on you and he never will. You’re too important to him.
Isaiah may be hard to read, but it shouldn’t be avoided because it’s sadness. It is so much more than the misery of consequences and we are richly reminded of God’s heart towards us when we look at the whole story Isaiah lays out. Just as we should not manipulate Isaiah to be just positive, we also shouldn’t manipulate it to be just negative. There is always, always hope. Your story is not over when it reaches darkness.
The story does not end here.
The story, your story, was never meant to end in heartbreak, pain, and darkness. We may feel it in the present. It may make us ache with every breath, but it is not God’s heart to have your story end here. So hold on. God does not keep the ones he loves in their own pain and darkness, and let me tell you, he loves you very much.
Let’s find some joy,