Reading: Isaiah 45:3
Do you know what hopelessness feels like? Not momentary, it’s dark now but the sun will shine again discouragement, but true hopelessness? It feels like a bowling ball sitting in your chest. A heaviness that makes it hard to breathe sometimes. The fatigue of knowing that when you go to sleep you will experience dreams running through your mind all night tinged with anxiety and fear without any resolution, and you awaken with the thought, “How in the world am I going to make it through one more day?”
It feels like having a fear of the dark and then being placed in a locked closet, and you know that you could probably kick the door down or wiggle the knob or unscrew the hinges but you don’t even have the energy because you’re convinced that whatever you find on the other side of the door probably isn’t worth the effort, and so you wrap your arms around your knees and you put your head down and you wait for something, anything, to happen so that it will be over.
It feels like complete isolation, and the inability to see past the next 5 minutes. It feels like not caring what kinds of flooring you put in your house because you’re just going to be miserable anyway. It feels like watching the only parent you have left lose 50 pounds in the past year, and become so confused and disoriented that he can barely keep his eyes open, at least until he wakes up terrified of what is happening to him. It feels like despair.
If you have never known this feeling, I am glad for you. But if you have, I want to open wide both arms and invite you to be held, because you are a fierce and valiant warrior. You are David, crying out to ask why God has forsaken you (Psalm 22:1). You are Jeremiah the prophet, weeping and cursing the day you were born (Jeremiah 20:18). You are Elijah telling God you’ve had enough (1 Kings 19:4). You are Jesus, walking the earth, admitting to HIs Father that His soul is overwhelmed to the point of death (Mark 14:34). Because these are the people who expressed despair and hopelessness in the Bible at some point. These are the people who were sometimes frustrated by the plans of God when those plans demanded all they had to give. These are the survivors, redeemed by God, who brought glory to His name for His purposes.
Last week, in my hopelessness and anger, I went to stay with my dad. Earlier in the day I wrote God a note, and I told Him I was thinking about giving up because it hurt too much to hope anymore, and that I was sorry, But as I was getting ready for bed I saw a piece of notebook paper on the floor. It was folded in half, with my mom’s handwriting. It said, “#1 Promise 2019: Isaiah 45:3, I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places…”
It felt like she was with me, like she was telling me what she would if she were still here. It was a reminder that God was with me, caring enough about my mess to reach out in the most personal and compassionate way He could. The way He knew I was desperate for. The words of my mother. It was the words of the psalmist given life, that he was near to the brokenhearted and saving those crushed in spirit.
As I studied Isaiah 45:3 a little more, I saw 2 words which seemed more important than the rest. Darkness, and Know. The verse in entirety reads, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel who summons you by name.”
In this verse, God is talking to King Cyrus, his chosen king, who would enter into the gates of Babylon and take the treasures of hidden places. But He’s also talking to me.
Darkness here, in the original Hebrew, signifies misery, destruction, sorrow, wickedness, disorder, confusion, and uncertainty. The place of hopelessness. The place where I’ve been.
Know, in the Hebrew, means, “to ascertain by seeing; to know relationally and experientially.”
Taken with these specific phrases in mind, the verse means that God will show us the hidden treasures of the place of misery, sorrow, disorder, confusion, and uncertainty, and He will do it so that I will ascertain by seeing, or know relationally and experientially that He is the Lord, the God of Israel.
I have always thought that treasure would be found in a place abounding with light, but I forgot that based on every pirate movie I’ve ever seen, sometimes treasure is buried. We read in scripture that Jesus is the light of the world; that the darkness has not overcome it; that He Himself is the light. But these words in Isaiah promise that even when we have trouble seeing the light around us, whether because we have closed our eyes to it or because we are in a season of refining, there are treasures to be found that are specifically hidden in the darkness. This place which seems so forsaken, and purposeless, is the place that God can use to give treasures that He couldn’t give anywhere else, and that He will use these experiences to show His identity. To show who He is.
When I googled, “hopelessness,” one of the first things that came up was the question, “Is hopelessness a sin?” And I thought to myself, how sad. Somewhere, someone feeling like I have been feeling is looking for a way up and out, and instead they are finding information about how they are failing. About how they are sinning. About how they are wrong and not enough. Sometimes it’s not about right or wrong, it’s about letting people know that whatever they are feeling, they are not alone, because you have been there too. Religion says what you feel is wrong. The love of Jesus cries with you, draws you close, and whispers in your ear, “Those are lies. Those feelings you’re having aren’t the final word. I’m here, and I’m real, and I’m sovereign, and I’m enough,” and cleans up the sin problem later, in kindness and a still small voice free of condemnation and abounding in love.
I want you to know that however you are feeling is OK with me, and it’s OK with Jesus. He loves you as much as He loves me, and He loves me enough to take my anger and my hopelessness and send a note from my mom to encourage me. I’m praying He encourages you too. Hopeless is a feeling, not a fact. Hang in there friend. We’re both going to make it.