“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.”
Isaiah 53:10 is a well-known messianic prophecy and picture of Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead hundreds of years before it happened. The bruising is the crucifixion and death of Jesus, making Himself an offering for sin. Verse 10 says it was the Father’s pleasure to do this. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him.
In the early days of my Christian walk, I used to have trouble reconciling how the Heavenly Father could find delight in bruising and hurting His own Son. Jesus told Peter in John 13:7, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later on.” I’m beginning to understand.
Does God really do as He pleases and call it good? Well, the short answer is yes – God does what He wants, whenever He so chooses. However, something did not sit well with me as I pondered and meditated. Upon further examination of my questions and short answer, was it truly right for me to say that the goodness to God is whatever He wants it to be?
I, too, can honestly say that the more I know about God, the less I know about Him. Remember Who we’re dealing with here: God is immanent (so close) and yet transcendent (so utterly above and far from us). He is knowable, and yet unknowable. God is inside us and beside us, yet He’s wholly different from us. For this reason, Augustine wrote, “If you understand, it’s not God you understand.”
Yet our God is not capricious and His ways are not arbitrary. Perhaps brokenness is God’s way of bringing His children to maturity and glory. A great quote from AW Tozer, “Whom God would use greatly, He will hurt deeply.”
Every follower of Jesus at some point will confront these painful moments, or, as the ancients called it, “The dark night of the soul.” The moment our ‘good feelings’ of God’s Presence evaporates, we feel the door of heaven has been shut as we pray. Darkness, helplessness, weariness, a sense of failure or defeat, barrenness, emptiness, dryness descend upon us. The Christian disciplines that have served us up to this time ‘no longer work’. We can’t see what God’s doing and we see little visible fruit in our lives.
This is God’s way of rewiring and ‘purging our affections and passions’ that we might delight in His love and enter into a richer, fuller communion with Him. God wants to communicate to us His true sweetness and love. He longs that we might know His true peace and rest. He works to free us from unhealthy attachments and idolatries of the world. He longs for an intimate, passionate love relationship with us. For this reason, John of the Cross wrote that God sends us “the dark night of loving fire” to free us. (Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)
Therefore, for in so much as I’m capable, I’m asking in this season for those who are struggling to trust in His goodness when it seems arbitrary, to not give way to cynicism and offences. And be encouraged by the amazingly wonderful ends like in the stories of Joseph who turned from a jailbird to ruler of all of Egypt. Like Queen Esther and Mordecai – who, through a strange turn of events, went from being wanted dead as Jews to being given the estate of the man who wanted them dead. And, most aptly, Jesus – Who laid His life down at the Cross only to rise again three days later.
How many of us will be able to endure the dark night of our souls? In this life, it’s inevitable for us to be hurt, but we can be healed.
“Come, and let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight.” Hosea 6:1
If you’re in the season of the ‘dark night of the soul’, I’d like to pray with you:
“Heavenly Father, teach me to trust You even when I do not know where You’re going. Help me to surrender and not turn inward into myself out of fear. The storms and winds of life blow strongly all around me. I cannot see in front of me. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to drown. Lord, You’re centred, utterly at rest and at peace. Open my eyes that I might see You with me on the boat. I’m safe.
“Awaken me, Jesus, to Your Presence within me, around me, above me, and below me. Grant me grace to follow You into the unknown, into the next place in my journey with You. In your Name, amen.”
Ps. Timothy Chong