“Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody.” Isaiah 51:3
If you have lived on this earth for any length of time - which I'm guessing you have since you are reading this - you have experienced the waste places Isaiah is talking about here. The places of lowness, tragedy, doubt, betrayal, loss. It is in these seasons that I find it increasingly hard to trust the Lord. The longer I am in the low, the more difficult it becomes to trust that God is in the low with me.
One of the most amazing verses of the bible is this : "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
Gosh, there are so many times I need to read that. But reading this scripture and deciding His Word is Truth are two completely separate things for me. Trusting that He will comfort as He promised, that He is with me as He promised and that He saves me when I feel crushed is hard, y'all. Encouragement is hard to receive when I feel low, in fact I often reject it. Sometimes it just seems easier to stay in the waste place than it is to trust that He will eventually bring me out.
Here's the thing though.
The waste places are necessary in this sinful world. Not only must we experience them simply because we live in a fallen place, but also because God, in all of His graciousness, allows the dark roads in our lives.
This is one of the hardest questions of the Christian life.
Why does a good God allow bad things to happen - and to good people?
The truth is that the only way for us to experience the vast magnitude of God’s extreme faithfulness is to be brought low into waste places. Whether this is through tragedy, consequences of our own making or circumstances of stepping out in faith, when we live in the waste places, we are giving God room to work miracles.
When we are empty, we are clinging to Him for our next breath. When we are brokenhearted, we are looking for every inch of comfort He gives us. When we are lonely, we start to live in expectant hope for Him to show up and come through for us because we have to.
One of my dearest friends has been living in one of these waste places. It is not a consequence, but a circumstance of obedience. She has been living sacrificially and uncomfortably all in an effort to say yes to the Lord's call on her life. But it has not been an easy road for her. Trial after trial, one defeating moment after another she continues to press forward until God tells her otherwise.
These are the kinds of moments when God shows up. The ones where we are in dire need for just a taste of His faithfulness.
A woman stopped my friend at work last week and told her she had been praying for her for several weeks. She was barely an acquaintance, but she shared with her that God had placed her on her heart for quite some time. She told her that God sees her, to keep going and that He rejoices over her with shouts of praise.
Not only is that not a coincidence, but it is a miracle straight from our loving Heavenly Father.
She told me, "Becky - this kind of thing doesn't happen to me" but maybe it's not that this stuff doesn't happen to her, but it's that she has never been in such crazy need for God's divine intervention.
When we live in the waste places - the dark, lonely and desperate times - we see evidence of His hand more. It's always been there, of course, but when we are seeking it out we see even the smallest of miracles in our day instead of just the crazy God stories like this sweet one.
When we instead live in high places, there is no desperation. There are no deep needs to be met, no comfort necessary and certainly no grasping for daily miracles of hope. High places are good - places of thanksgiving and celebration. But when we choose to stay there instead of walk in pursuit of obedience, knowing that the messy waste is inevitable, we eventually lose the reminder of God's faithful providence. We are, after all, all Israelites.
Are you in a waste place today, sweet friend? Are you feeling lonely, lost, confused, depressed, anxious, brokenhearted? Take a deep breath today and be comforted that God sees you just as He promises He does.
He will comfort you in this season. He will bring you joy and gladness again. He will cultivate thanksgiving and a new song in your life.
Today I am praying for a small miracle for each one of us living in the waste places. I am praying that we will be aware of His goodness and faithfulness today. If you are not in the waste place, could you reach out to someone who is and encourage them today? Could you perhaps meet someone in their lowliness and let them know that God will be seen in this?