Suffering and Hope

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December 8, 2019

Isaiah 64:1-9 (NLT)

Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
    How the mountains would quake in your presence!
As fire causes wood to burn
    and water to boil,
your coming would make the nations tremble.
    Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame!
When you came down long ago,
    you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.
    And oh, how the mountains quaked!
For since the world began,
    no ear has heard
and no eye has seen a God like you,
    who works for those who wait for him!
You welcome those who gladly do good,
    who follow godly ways.
But you have been very angry with us,
    for we are not godly.
We are constant sinners;
    how can people like us be saved?
We are all infected and impure with sin.
    When we display our righteous deeds,
    they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
    and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
Yet no one calls on your name
    or pleads with you for mercy.
Therefore, you have turned away from us
    and turned us over to our sins.

And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
    We are the clay, and you are the potter.
    We all are formed by your hand.
Don’t be so angry with us, Lord.
    Please don’t remember our sins forever.
Look at us, we pray,
    and see that we are all your people.

Luke 5:12-13 (NLT)

In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.

CONSIDER THIS

My dad has dementia. My family found out about it three years ago and we have been walking together through the progression of this disease ever since. I’m an only child and my biggest fear has always been losing my parents. I’m watching my greatest fear come true with my dad, little bit by little bit.

This past year we had to have a conversation with dad about the need for him not to drive anymore. I was surprised to find myself leading the conversation. I was the one to ask my father, my authority, to give away the last vestige of his independence.

I tried to be positive throughout the conversation and dad was also trying to handle it with grace. The only one crying was my mother. But afterwards, when I said goodbye and hit the end button (we were talking on Skype since I live far away), this numb mix of sadness, anger, and disbelief came over me. I walked like a zombie to my bedroom and got ready for bed.

It wasn’t until later, as I was trying to go to sleep, that the tears came. I began to heave deep groans that I couldn’t stop. I started to yell at the empty room, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”

In that moment, I desperately needed to feel God’s presence. I needed to hear him tell me that he was here, that there was hope for my dad and for my family. But I felt nothing and heard nothing. The lack of that felt assurance that my Abba was with me hurt just as much as the reality of slowly losing my father.

Our sufferings bend us low with our faces hard pressed toward the ground.

We all have leprous sores somewhere that give us such pain.

We cry out to God with the Israelites,

Oh that you would burst from the heavens and come down!

These kinds of cries are Advent cries. Advent is the season to allow ourselves to heave, to scream, to cry over our own lives and in solidarity with the screams and cries of the world.

The leper in the Gospel of Luke was near death, simply existing in the last stages of his disease. Perhaps he had lost the assurance that God was with him like I had as I cried over my father.

But that wasn’t the end of his story . . . and it’s not the end of mine…and it’s not the end of yours.

God did come down…and he walked with his own dusty feet into this man’s valley of death.

Oh, that you would burst through the heavens and come down!

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”

I don’t always feel that God is with me. I can often despair that perhaps he is not. At the same time, there are moments when I encounter such sparks of unexpected beauty. In these moments, exultant joy overflows within me as I remember that I am the beloved and that God is truly here.

Advent is a time of both suffering and hope.

The leper bows with his face to the ground in sorrow.

But he also bows in hopeful reverence, trusting that his Lord can save.

May we hear Jesus’ words for us during this Advent season.

May they stir joyous anticipation within us for the day when we will be completely healed by our Savior.

On that glorious day, our Lord will declare these words of victory over every suffering that has bent us low:

I am willing.

Be healed!

God is here.

THE PRAYER

Lord, I bow to the ground in sorrow, but because you are here, I also bow in hope.Spirit of God, breathe upon me.

THE QUESTION

  • What sufferings have bent, or are bending, you low to the ground?
  • What are your Advent cries this year?
  • When has God reminded you in the past that he loves you and is with you?
  • What do Jesus’ words, “I am willing,” mean to you during this season?

Casey Culbreth

Song for Meditation:

Remember Me. Words by Casey Culbreth and Anne Steele

Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells
Spotify Playlist for Advent Daily Text

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Casey Page Culbreth is a worship pastor at Grace Church in Cape Coral, Florida. She loves exploring different countries, gardening, hanging out at bookstores and movie theaters, and enjoying coffee with friends. You can follow Casey on Instagram @caseypageculbreth, visit her blog at ByCloudandFire.com, or learn about her worship ministry at caseypage.com.

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