“How’d you keep from quitting?”

That’s the question that I would love to ask the prophet Isaiah. I’ve always wondered how he kept from being bitter and jaded. Deep discouragement has to accompany years of seemingly fruitless ministry.

I’ve had seasons which felt like nobody is listening but I’ve never been there. I’ve also wondered how in the world did Isaiah remain faithful to the message. Did he ever flirt with the idea of tweaking it a bit to make it more palatable to his countrymen? Did he ever think that maybe a different tone would turn the burnt stump into a mighty oak of ministry? I bet this guy had to hate going to the monthly meeting with area pastors…”how many did you baptize this month, Isaiah?”

But Isaiah remained a faithful prophet of God for a very lengthy ministry. And he wasn’t just really good at one thing. He wasn’t only one of those preachers that was amazing at beating you up and bringing a flood of conviction. He was also one of those preachers who helped you heal. Likewise, he wasn’t just filled with syrup and sugar. His words could lay you bare and have you snot-crying without a moments notice. That’s really what the gospel does, though. It breaks when we need broken and heals when we need healed. Isaiah was that type of gospel minister.
And that blows me away. Because it had to have been tempting for Isaiah to either compromise the message in order to at least gain a couple friends. Or perhaps to go all 2pac and take a me against the world posture. But he doesn’t do that. He’s balanced. And he does this for 50 plus years. How?

I’ve long thought that something is happening in Isaiah’s vision of God in chapter six which answers our question. So, I was encouraged to read a little section in Diane Langberg’s Suffering and the Heart of God, where she makes a similar connection.

How Can We Keep Going?

She refers to advocacy work to walking among the catacombs and then asks, “How can you and I persevere, living and working among the tombs, in the places of death?”

Her answer is that worship is the fuel that keeps us going. And it is what causes us to respond with compassion instead of bitterness. I love how she says this:

We cannot walk among the traumatized and the suffering with humility, patience, compassion, and comfort in a way that honors the Man of Sorrows until we have truly seen ourselves before him. (Langberg, 72)

Langberg goes on to say that without the Isaiah 6 experience of life-changing worship, “we will respond with pride and superiority, impatient that people are not better yet, intolerant of their repetitions and prolonged fear.”

The task of working with the traumatized isn’t an easy one. It’s in the category of raising the dead to life and so our only hope is the resurrection. This is the picture:

The traumatized are buried under layers of fear, self-protection, previous traumas, depression, layers of their own sin, and the litter of others’ sins against them. (Langberg, 73)

If we don’t begin this work, repentant and on our knees, we’ll bring our shovels and thrust even more piles of dirt upon the traumatized. But worship opens us up to being involved in the process of sprinkling beauty over ashes and slowly but certainly unraveling grave clothes.

It’s good work, but it’s tough work. Worship alone will sustain us and give us the strength to help rather than hurt.

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