Tenderness isn’t exactly a word we are quick to associate with someone who is all-powerful and the King of Kings. Or the One Who can drive out demons and perform miracles. Yet that is exactly who Christians throughout history have experienced God to be, and who God is described as in Isaiah 42:1-3.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;”
God is described in these verses as One Who will not break a bruised reed or extinguish a smoldering wick. Both of the items described in these verses are incredibly fragile. A reed is a tall, slender piece of grass. For it to be bruised means that it is on the verge of dying as it has lost its strength and is no longer stable. Similarly, a smoldering wick is in danger of being extinguished by the tiniest breeze or touch.
But God is described as being able to care for these items with so much tenderness and care that both will survive.
I have been fortunate to experience and be reminded of God’s tenderness in a fresh way these last few years through some unresolved health issues. I have been seeking answers to some complicated health issues since the end of 2020 when I gained over 20 pounds within a couple of month span despite making no changes to my diet or exercise regimen. This even resulted in me taking a 3-month sabbatical at the start of 2021. I was hopeful that some time away from work after an intense 8 years since starting our ministry would be all I would need to recover from my various health issues.
Unfortunately, the sabbatical nor dozens of doctors appointments and endless labs, scans, x-rays, and treatments of various kinds have resulted in the improvement I have been searching for. Even since returning from my sabbatical and cutting back on almost all of my evening commitments I have continued to have episodes that force me to miss work or other commitments on an almost weekly basis. While I am certainly hopeful that I will soon find some answers, I am reminded that even greater hope is found in these verses from Isaiah.
As I have been forced to reach the end of my “own” strength and accept how fragile my health is right now, I have been incredibly blessed to be reminded of how tenderly God cares for me. God has continuously given me the strength I have needed exactly when I have needed it. As I am sure many can empathize with, it has not been often that it seems as if I’ve received more than the strength I needed. This has allowed me however to grow in my awe of God’s faithfulness in allowing me to be the broken reed that does not break. There have been many moments where I was afraid that I would have to cancel an important meeting or trip or even consider an unpaid leave from work because of how I had been feeling physically, only to suddenly be feeling nearly 100% moments later or right before the event.
In reflecting upon the smoldering wick Pastor Sam Allbery explains, “Jesus is able to deploy his care with such surgical, forensic precision that the most delicate and fragile of things can be taken and nurtured with utter care and protection.”
I know there are many people with far more serious or complicated health issues than myself in addition to many others feeling crushed by other circumstances or trials. I certainly do not want to minimize the incredible pain and heartbreak many throughout the world are experiencing. Nor can I ever pretend to understand or explain the “why” of these many things that seem to make no earthly sense. In fact, I would say it is biblical and wise to understand there will continue to be various trials emerging all throughout our time on earth that may lead us to feel nearly crushed.
But I do want to encourage us that it is often in these reminders of how delicate and fragile we truly are, that we can experience the beauty of God’s unfathomable tenderness and faithfulness as described in Isaiah 42:3. And for those in Christ, there is nothing that can ever separate us from His care (Romans 8:38-39).