Flourishing Wilderness – Isaiah 51:3

“For the LORD comforts Zion;
He comforts all her waste places
and makes her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the LORD;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.”

Isaiah 51:3

If I will allow the Lord to comfort me, this is what He will do. The wilderness, the struggle, the pain will be transformed.

Not wasted. Not endless. Not a despondent circumstance.

Flourishing.

Beautiful.

Good.

Inspiring joy and gladness, thanksgiving and song.

And like my pastor shared a couple of weeks ago, our thanksgiving results in joy. We are not to wait until we feel joy to give thanks; we give thanks always and our gracious God brings joy out of that act of faith and obedience.

Perhaps that’s part of the mystery in how we allow the Lord to comfort us. Choosing to focus on those things to be thankful for. Looking for them, looking for Him, looking to promises to which we can cling. Building our faith out of that.

Writing this, my eyes were drawn to a verse further up on the page: “Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10b).

For me to allow the Lord’s comfort, I have to trust Him. I have to trust Him in the darkness. When I can’t see any light at the end of this particular tunnel. When I don’t understand.

The truth is, in this moment, I don’t want comfort in the dark. I want relief. I want light. I want the darkness gone.

Goodness, that frustration rises fast.

When I give voice to what I’ve been feeling and why I’ve been fighting the Lord’s comfort here.

I don’t want comfort; I want the waiting to end.

…And with that statement comes a new perspective on this verse I haven’t seen before. Because you don’t need comfort when things are good. When the waiting is over. When light breaks through. When you understand.

The flourishing, the Eden, the joy, the gladness, the thanksgiving, the song – perhaps they don’t only come after the waiting.

Perhaps they are experienced within the waiting. While you’re still in the wilderness. Still in need of comfort because things still aren’t clear.

Without the waiting, we miss out.

I feel compelled to say that again, to try and let it sink in more deeply: Without the waiting, we miss out. Without this waiting, I will miss out. In the context of my situation, honestly that statement feels ridiculous.

But that feeling reveals that I’m not trusting here. I’m resisting. All I see is desert. Because in my resistance, I’m not accepting comfort from the Lord. So I can’t see what He sees. And I can’t experience the beauty He wants to create.

So the question comes: will I accept His comfort? Will I accept it, here and now and continuing? Will I accept it, laying down my resistance and hurt and lack of understanding in order to clear the path for Him to enter into my experience and transform it – from barren pain and frustration into a beautiful, life-giving season that increases my joy because it is grounded in a closer relationship with this God who is mine?

Phrased like that, why in the world would I choose the pain and frustration? Not that all the pain will leave, because certain things still hurt…but I get beauty. And I get life and freedom and joy. I get Christ when I allow Him in.

Laying down resistance means accepting what is happening. Trusting God enough to accept this path that He has allowed. To accept His comfort requires me to accept this circumstance, as it is, as He has allowed. Because if I don’t accept it, that means I either don’t believe He is good or I don’t believe He is in control. And neither of those perspectives is true.

The truth is that what the enemy intends to use for evil, my God has already purposed for good and for salvation (Genesis 50:20). For flourishing and abundance. Those purposes extend far beyond me. They will reach further than I can imagine, because that’s how He does things. That’s how amazing our God is and how thorough He is at ensuring our good and His glory in everything.

I am His and He has good for me, even in this. I can trust Him, walking in the darkness. In truth, He is my light in the darkness, if I will allow Him to be. Because this is not purposeless, nor is it outside of the control of my God who is good, who is light and in whom is no darkness (1 John 1:5).

And no matter how long the wilderness lasts, even 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10), this promise still holds because our God never changes: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away…
‘I am the LORD your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the LORD of hosts is His name.
And I have put My words in your mouth
and covered you in the shadow of My hand,
establishing the heavens
and laying the foundations of the earth,
and saying to Zion, “You are my people.”’”
Isaiah 51:11, 15-16

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