Several weeks ago, a dear man in our church stood before our congregation. With passion in his voice and tears in his eyes, he shared that many years ago he paid for the woman he was dating to get an abortion. He stood before our body and confessed something for which he was deeply ashamed, something which caused him heart-wrenching pain, something which brought him into a personal hell.
This man made a terrible mistake. Not only was paying for an abortion a mistake, but it was a sin against God and against the young woman he was dating. Following the abortion, this man confessed his sin to the Lord. He asked God to do the unthinkable, to forgive him. And as only God can, God did. God forgave him. And even more, God did an Isaiah 61. God exchanged …
- his hell for healing,
- his pain for purpose,
- his shame for salvation.
After Jesus had been tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he returned to his hometown, to Nazareth. On the Sabbath, he went into the synagogue where the scroll of Isaiah was handed to him. His mother was there, the one who had given birth to him out of wedlock, the one who had provided fodder for fools and gossips in the early years. His brothers were there who had endured teasing and comparison and could never measure up, it seemed. The men in his village, oppressed by Roman rule, unable to keep their families safe from the tax collectors and henchmen of Herod, they were there. All longed for a king to rise up to throw off the brutality and save them from their suffering.
In this congregation Jesus turned to Isaiah and started reading…
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone, his mother, his brothers, the men and women of Nazareth, were riveted to Jesus. And Jesus quietly, authoritatively said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (From Luke 4:16-21)
Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah 61. He came that these oppressed ones, these ones who have shame and pain and hell in their lives, these ones like you and like me, may
receive beauty, and freedom, and sight, and healing.
He came that we may be called …
strong and steadfast oaks of righteousness
a planting of the Lord, perfectly placed
by streams of living water
with our roots reaching way down deep
and our limbs stretching upward toward the sun
for the display of his splendor. (From Isaiah 61, Psalm 1, and Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Like the precious man in our church, we all have shame, and pain, and hell in our lives, some in our past, and some in our present. But God wants to do an Isaiah 61 on all of us. He wants to bring freedom to our captivity, sight to our blindness, and healing for every single one of our wounds. He wants to plant us by streams of living water and quench our thirst and bring beauty and fruitfulness into and through our lives. He wants to use all the experiences of our lives for Kingdom purposes.
He wants to use the positive experiences as well as the negative ones, but quite frankly, it’s often through the painful experiences, that we see God work most powerfully.
Let me repeat that. It’s often through the painful experiences that we see God work most powerfully.
This week, I’m going to sit in this idea of the great exchange. I’m going to invite you to look at your experiences and risk asking God to take your pain, your shame, your hell and exchange it healing, and purpose, and salvation. I’m going to do this, not because it will be easy for you, but because it will be good.
This man, the one who stood before our church sharing his story of pain and shame and hell, he knows forgiveness. By freely sharing of the healing God has brought in his life, he opened the door for others to share of their own failings, and frailty, and fear. From his personal experience, a desire has been birthed in him to come alongside men who have also walked this path, who have paid for women to get abortions. Following the service that Sunday, this man couldn’t get out of the door for the number of people who wanted to hug his neck, thank him, and tell him their own stories of failure and frailty and loss. What a great exchange he has experienced! And this is the great exchange I want for you.
1. Divide your life into four quadrants. It may look like this
Childhood Adolescence Young Adulthood Adulthood
2. Beginning in your childhood list key events, particularly painful ones, that you consider to be shaping influences in your life.