My heart would bleed every time I turned on the television or opened a social media app. Hearing and seeing devastating news of loss, our country being plagued by a novel virus, lives of black and brown men and women taken with no regard for life, protests, riots, political wars of words, children separated from their families living in cages, and the church? The very bride of Christ seemingly leading the charge on either side of the controversies, even doing so in the name of Jesus?
To me, it seemed simple. There is a truth, and it’s a Jesus-approved truth that ascribes value and worth to the life of everyone. Believer. Non-believer. Male. Female. Boy. Girl. Young. Old. I can think of countless adjectives and nouns that describe every beautiful face who matters. I matter. You matter. Your life matters. His life matters. Her life matters. Their lives matter. Our lives matter. Until, this general and simple truth became… complicated. Even perceived to be divisive and ungodly. But how is this possible? Then, I found myself completely detaching from social media in an effort to “steal away” and hear the voice of God. Yet, instead of having my heart be consoled, it was broken into even more pieces as I allowed my heart to sit in the Word for comfort.
Comfort of Isaiah 61
I’ve been sitting in Isaiah 61 for some time now. It’s the place in Scripture where we find the prophet Isaiah revealing that Jesus would be our Salvation and Hope. Specifically, Isaiah 61 is where we find the Scripture that says;
“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3 KJV)
This place in Scripture has often been sought out to encourage a weary soul in the midst of trials, suffering, lament, and just plain hard times. Thus, I found myself seeking out these words from Scripture during this season of 2020 that has been marred with a global spiritual, emotional, and physical pandemic, a time that for me has been the most difficult time to be Black, female, Christian, and a mother and wife.
Attempting to navigate conversations about race, justice, and righteousness has caused me to experience many days and nights filled with tears, anxiety, anger, hurt, and despair. Yet, on those same days and nights, I also experienced a growing hope, grace, love, and unending faith that the Word of God would come alive in the people of God. All of the people of God. But how could we, the Body of Christ, disagree about truth that seems so simple? So simple to me… Black lives matter. My life matters. Right? Doesn’t it? Don’t we matter? To me, it’s simple. Couldn’t we just agree that this is fundamentally true? That black lives matter. Which does not subtract from other lives that matter? Why is this so complicated?
These were some of my questions I have prayed and cried and grieved. But I have realized this: we are living in the exchange.
Sitting in Isaiah 61, I’ve discovered the sobering reality that there MUST be ashes..and there MUST be mourning…and there MUST be a spirit of heaviness that exists before we can realize the exchange that Jesus offers. The exchange Jesus offers gives us beauty, joy, and a garment of praise. As we continue through the verses in Isaiah 61, we find that we must also have ruin, devastation, desolated generations, shame, and even humiliation. Wait, what? More heartache? Devastation? Yes. However, this is not meant to belong to us. We hold devastation and we hold loss, but we are meant to exchange them.
The deeper truth is that these were already exchanged at the cross. Every single one of them.
Ashes, mourning, the spirit of heaviness? Exchanged.
Ruin, devastation, desolated generations, shame, and even humiliation? Exchanged.
When Jesus died once for all, He took the weight of all sin and His Resurrection has given us Hope, hope that is only found in Him. We, as believers of Christ, live in the exchange. Through Christ, we have been made trees of righteousness for His glory. Thus, we already have comfort. We already have beauty, joy, and a garment of praise.
This is the place where my heart broke into even more pieces. I had a realization that I think we should all consider. I realized living in the exchange and being a tree of righteousness carries a responsibility – one of stewardship. The comfort, beauty, joy, and garment of praise from Jesus when I accepted Him in my life is meant to glorify God. I must steward these beautiful adornments by taking the Good News to those who don’t know this hope in Christ. Though life feels heavy now for many of us, there is no heavier existence of misery than a life outside of a relationship with Christ.
So, friends, how are we stewarding our comfort, beauty, joy, and garment of praise? When we engage in conversations, are we sharing and showing the love of God? Are we proclaiming liberty and loving all of our brothers, as ourselves? Are we stewarding our comfort, beauty, joy, and garment of praise by being light and salt? Or… are we engaging in wars of words? Or as Albert Tate would say, “are we looking more like elephants and donkeys than the lamb?”
No matter how heavy this season is for us – we must remember: we live in the exchange. We must also remember that there are souls who need to know there is an exchange in Christ.
By Betsy Spring, Bloom Community Member and Stadia Blog Contributor
Betsy lives for moments she can have alone with a piano, pencil and paper, and Jesus. She and her husband Keino have been married 20 years and they have 3 children, Keilese, Kylah, and Kaleb. Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Betsy doesn’t meet strangers; her infectious laugh and loving heart invites all to fast friendship!