Has there ever been a phrase that once you hear it you can literally feel your whole self cringe at the sound of it?
I do. It’s been repeated over and over and over to me for so many years by well-meaning and God-loving people.
“It will be ok.”
These 4 words always left me speechless. Even if that wasn’t their goal, it would leave me feeling broken, discouraged and unheard. I wondered if they really thought this, or maybe it was just a habitual response of not knowing anything else to say.
Usually, accompanied by patronizing look or a side-ways hug and they were gone…done… moved on. And all the while, I was breaking. What felt like their finality of faith was interpreted as carelessness to my immediacy.
And the instant someone said, “It’s going to be ok.” I felt myself recoil, waiting for the tolerable to occur, expecting the incomplete grace that always seemed to follow. And somehow it seemed that love had nothing to do with what was said, that no one really ever listened to what a heart was revealing with those words.
Because I felt like a solitary space, deserted and dry and alone in a wilderness that no one understood. Parched and longing for that cup of water Mark 9:41 reminds us to give in His name. This platitude my heart misunderstood, just didn’t refresh my aching soul.
Yet, like a lot of things I am learning, I was wrong…so very wrong.
I was hanging onto their faith, their hope, their assurance… wanting someone, anyone, to just tell me it was going to be ok, but not in those words. I wanted to know that there were oceans of grace in the desert spaces and gardens of hope in the lonely caverns we sometimes dwell within. I wanted them to tell me what to look for specifically, in my feeble and growing faith, instead of how it would work out.
Because they knew something in their wandering that I had to find.
They trusted that God doesn’t change.(Hebrews 13:8) They remembered He is exactly who He says He is. (Hebrews 11:6) They demonstrated that faith is evidence of the unseen being made real.(Hebrews 11:1)
Even when their words left me wandering, God met me in the midst. It is how He heals us in our humanity but loving us through our misunderstanding. He didn’t take me out of the journey, I still wandered… but when we wander with God, grace takes our hand and leads us into His love as well.
Of my favorite spaces in His Word, Isaiah’s have often been the most familiar. I am pulled back over and over by the imagery and the wisdom of one who looked for and spoke about the Messiah so much. Verses and passages that stay close become the echoes on replay in my mind.
There is a verse in the 34th chapter of Isaiah that reminds us to seek and read and consider the book of the Lord, to remember that every single weighted word will be fulfilled, because God said it was so. And I wonder just what would change for us if we really believed what God said.
Seek out the book of the Lord and read; not one of these [details of prophecy] shall fail, none shall want and lack her mate [in fulfillment]. For the out of the Lord has commanded, and His Spirit has gathered them. – Isaiah 34:1
If we look.
If we are careful to consider.
If we seek.
If we are diligent to discover.
If we read.
If we are faithful to find.
Then we will see how God redeems with joy reclaimed by hope. We will discover how He not only plants, but roots, the seeds of His kingdom so deep in our soul that even the desolation of what has been lost can’t compare to the renewing beauty of our inheritance In Christ.
Even in our wilderness places and our dry patches of solitude that threaten to spill all the joy we have held close to get us through…. even there in the less than and the seeming lack and the emptied caverns where hope feels untouchable… God will meet us.
He will always meet us.
Isaiah goes on to write in the next chapter about the product of our wilderness journeys. In so many ways, my view of the wilderness was focused on the wasted wandering that occurs. But it is so much more… because all the wandering we do in Jesus is never wasted. All the routes we take around the mountains we should have spoken faith to can be redeemed.
They will be.
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing. -Isaiah 35:1
I am drawn to these passages on hope in the desert spaces and joy in spite of sorrow. I long to see the redemption of God resurrect hope where the world has brought death and decay. Because He has resurrected hope deep in the recess my own soul where I allowed fear to root instead of faith.
The wilderness and solitude are glad places. Isaiah writes that the desert will cultivate the rose. The breaking seemingly arid climate of our wandering with God is different than the physical deserts we currently understand, absent of water and susceptible to half-truths. Because He is the living water that quenches our thirsting and our yearning. And He is the whole truth that leads us in every way always to the Father.
Every time we let our hearts give in to the faithfulness of His promises, seeds of hope are buried within. Your heart is the garden of God, it is the storehouse of His Spirit… the habitation He makes within us when we invite Him in. When Christ makes His home in our hearts, when by our repentance and our confession and our believing we step out of our spiritual wilderness into the renewing redeeming grace of God’s Salvation, He waters us with His Spirit.
Grace blossoms, even in the wilderness…maybe in spite it.
Because Christ always comes with redemption for us. He always comes to save.
“Converting grace makes the soul that was a wilderness, to rejoice with Joy and singing and to blossom abundantly…it is the design of the gospel.”- Matthew Henry.
What if we saw the value of the wilderness as God sees it? What if we saw the seeds He has been planting? What if we recognized that the streams of salvation are accessible, especially when we feel brittle and ready to break?
Be Strengthened. Be Confirmed. Behold God.
He is the One who opened deaf ears and blind eyes…and He still does.
He is the One who heals the broken and the cast out and the hopeless…and he still does.
He is the One who rescues the wanderer with a promise land of hope…and He still does.
Because it is in the wilderness where streams originate. It is in the desert where waters are not restricted to flow once the flood appears.
The parched will be a pool. The thirsty will be a spring. The caves will be a resting place.
And a highway will be made to lead the wanderer out of the wilderness, a holy way for the walkers of The Way, The Truth and The Life. Because this is where the redeemed walk freely, where the ransomed returns with joy, gladness and the absence of sorrow.
Water shall break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water:…And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The Holy Way.- Isaiah 35:6,7,8
Recently while I was driving home from a very draining appointment with the girl who made me a momma, the song, “Reckless Love’, came on the radio. This appointment was one of many to come that will culminate in some necessary help for our girl. They are not easy appointments and we have spent a year recovering from the setbacks that a similar appointment created. It has been a long year, friends. A very dry and solitary year of prayer and looking for God in the midst of situations that did not feel ok.
In fact, there was very little that felt ok, very little that felt right. It felt like we were going through motions and checking off boxes and digging deep into the well of our faith to find just a drop of hydrating hope.
As we both listened to that song, the weight began to lift. We both felt it. No words where needed.
It was like an exhale filled our space and we let go of the burdens that had been holding us under. I have always felt that this was her story, not mine to share, and I had to keep it sacred and keep it safe. It is her journey. But it is mine, too… one of redemption and resurrecting hope and offering that cup of water to a thirsty soul.
And in a moment I heard so clearly in my heart an immediate answer to prayer, and without a doubt the affirmation that it really is going to be ok.
I am still hesitant to just respond with those 4 words. I still wonder if we ought to reserve them with, it may not be ok now… it may not be what you wanted… but I am willing to walk with you, to love you and to pray with you. It may not be ok, but it has such potential to be good… as long as it is with God.
Friends, wherever you are, whatever you are going through know that with God we are ok. With Him we are safe to wander and wait in the grace that He gives each of us, the mountain-moving, wanderer-redeeming, hope-filling grace that makes it possible to believe that it really will be ok.
I am praying specifically for every heart that wanders here today. May the miracle of His grace cover your heart and resurrect hope in the dry spaces of your journey.
And the ransomed of the Lord…shall obtain joy and gladness… – Isaiah 35:10
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