[NOTE:] We apologize, but the last few minutes of this message are cut off.
A message for those who feel crushed.
Scripture Text: Isaiah 42:1-4
1. Read Isaiah 42:1-4
2. In 2003, Kristen Milligan was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She was a bright, talented, married young adult in her 30’s, a mother of 3 children all under age 5.
a. As she underwent treatments she personally experienced the suffering of a family with a parent with a terminal illness. The healthy spouse goes through incredible stress trying to care for a husband or wife while keeping the family together day to day. Children often feel alone, struggling to understand and express their feelings. The person who’s dying carries great fear and guilt for creating burden and, ultimately, leaving their families way too early.
b. Kristen began the process of reconciling these problems by writing a book for her children called ‘A Train’s Rust, A Toymaker’s Love’ to help them grasp the frailty and transcience of human life.
i. That led to a book for adults called
“Consider It Pure Joy: A Mother’s Fears and God’s Gift of Peace.”
ii. That led to Kristen and her husband Deric founding a nonprofit called ‘Inheritance of Hope,’ which began providing resources, counseling, and all-expense paid ‘Legacy Retreats’ for families to come away to places like Disney World and New York City to spend time together and cement a dying family members’ legacy.
c. Kristen was told by doctors after her diagnosis that she would only have months to enjoy quality of life with her family.
i. Kristen died on October 26, 2012, enduring her disease for nearly ten years, including six surgeries, twenty-two months of chemotherapy, and two rounds of radiation.
ii. The mission of Inheritance of Hope is being carried on by Deric. As of this year 25 Legacy Retreats, averaging about 30 families per retreat, has served people from 39 states. It was recently ranked a top 10 children’s charity in the US.
d. I met Kristen through her parents who were members of the church I served in Florida. Lynn and Kristen became friends, and we volunteered at a Legacy Retreat in Orlando.
i. To this day, when I think of the power of God in the midst of great suffering, I first think of Kristen.
3. Today we begin a six-week conversation about suffering by not minimizing it. It’s hard. It’s brutal. It’s crushing.
a. Nor will we make anyone feel inferior or unspiritual if they experience suffering and struggle with frustration, doubt, depression and intense sadness or even anger. Suffering stinks. We know it shouldn’t exist and yet it does.
b. The prophet Isaiah describes a person enduring suffering as a ‘bruised reed.’
i. In the Hebrew language, the word here means to be broken into pieces, crushed. The same word shows up twice in this verse, the second time translated ‘discouraged.’
ii. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
iii. Proverbs 18:14 adds, “A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”
c. This part of Isaiah may have been written to describe the suffering of a whole nation in exile, held captive far away from their homes.
d. But for 2000 years, Christians have read this section of Isaiah and also seen Jesus Christ – a suffering servant.
4. It’s interesting that this verse shows up pretty much word for word in the New Testament’s story of Jesus, in Matthew 12:15-21.
a. Among great religious leaders, Jesus stands out from the pack because of the intensity of his suffering.
i. After all, our symbol is an instrument of his unjust conviction, torture, slow death, and public mockery.
b. But immediately after Jesus breathed
his last, the backdrop of the cross was beams of sunlight piercing the storm clouds.
i. It has been a beacon drawing the oppressed, wounded, discouraged, and crushed to a gospel message of redemption and hope for healing in Christ.
ii. Isaiah says a few chapters later, in 53:5,
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
iii. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
c. The wound of suffering is where the light of Christ gets in, overcomes the darkness, and then shines through us.
5. Over the next six weeks we’ll take an honest look at suffering in all its forms: woundedness, frustration, rejection, illness, grief, injustice and oppression.
a. With each form, we’ll discover how the suffering Jesus endured for us can begin to turn nouns into adjectives.
i. From I AM discouraged to I am discouraged.
ii. I AM grief to I am grieving, and so on.
b. We’ll see how the light comes in through our wounds as we identify with Christ’s suffering through our suffering.
c. We’ll see how the Light binds our wounds and overcomes darkness through Jesus’ Spirit’s continuous indwelling
d. We’ll see how the Light shines through our wounds into the world, like it did with Kristen Milligan: how Suffering can be redeemed by compassion and mercy to others.
6. You can begin this journey this week by taking some time to honestly assess the impact suffering has had in your life. Identify events, relationships, or ongoing struggles which have wounded you. Bring them into the light, even go public by naming the sufferings and asking for prayers, while you learn the sufferings of the rest of us and pray for us.
a. Let’s start that with prayers for each other right now.