The theme for 2019 Joni and Friends Family Retreats was “One Way,” based on John 14:6. Chantal Huinink, Coordinator of Organizational and Spiritual Life with Christian Horizons, delivered a series of devotions based around this theme for the 2019 Christian Horizons Family Camp, and we wanted to share them with you through this forum. To learn more about Christian Horizons Family Camps, visit our website.
Isaiah 40 refers to “preparing the way of the Lord.” It can be read as an encouraging prophecy about Jesus coming. It would have been especially encouraging to people of Jerusalem who were suffering at the hands of unjust rulers, waiting for the Messiah to rescue them from oppression. Then as now, in an attempt to distance ourselves from the suffering of others, we may be inclined to blame someone for the circumstances they are in rather than comfort them; voice trite comments, rather than speak tender words of encouragement; or act begrudgingly rather than exercise forgiveness. All such tendencies can contribute to the oppression of others and this passage shows that God is not in favor of that.
The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John the Baptist when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!” Like John the Baptist, the primary motivation of our lives should be to represent Christ and serve others through Him. To do this well we need to refrain from drawing attention to ourselves, or taking credit for the good work that we do, and instead point others to Christ, and give Him the glory.
Isaiah 40:4 says, “Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.” (NLT) The author likely was not specifically thinking of accessibility. However, doing what we can to remove structural and attitudinal barriers helps all people to feel valued and respected regardless of the challenges they may experience, allowing Jesus to enter their hearts and journey with them more easily than if they felt forsaken by God or his church.
We can look forward to Jesus returning and the glory of the Lord being revealed when the playing field is leveled for the oppressed. Then all people will have equal opportunity to serve God and enjoy the abundant life that He offers. Removing a barrier is not just about helping someone else to enjoy full participation: it is about demonstrating how God loves all people and wants everyone to live life to the fullest.
What barriers do you notice in your church, school, workplace or wider community, how can you work toward leveling the playing field so that everyone can enjoy full participation?
In Isaiah 40 God provides valuable instructions for ‘the way’ that we are to truly help others. First He stresses comfort: next, speak tenderly and offer words of encouragement: and share God’s forgiveness, rather than proclaim His wrath. It is also evident that rather than ignore the inconvenient voices of those who share their suffering with us, we should ensure that we are inclined to listen and act with them or on their behalf.