Unspeakable Joy – Isaiah 35:9-10 (NRSV)
9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come upon it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
This passage begs the question: Where are the wildernesses, wastelands, and deserts in today’s world? In many of our urban environments, we encounter regions of wasteland where the social and economic soil has become barren for certain groups of people. And the soil’s potential to nurture hope has been choked by an overgrowth of political corruption and apathy. Some of us inhabit urban deserts – areas that could very possibly contain quicksand that sucks the life out of aspiration and sharp rocks that cut down the cultural and intellectual potential of our youth.
In spite of everything, God is preparing us for unspeakable joy in the future. But we have to wait for it. Some of us have heard that things will get worse before they get better. The sky is darkest before the dawn. You have to hit rock bottom before you can look up. They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). In today’s scripture, and elsewhere, we are given a message of hope, a prerequisite for joy. Joy is the fulfillment of hope and is made possible when we remember our former circumstances and see the evil vanquished, the tears dried, and the unstable made stable. Joy is the deep sense of being brought back home after enduring what seems to be endless trials.
We pray that God will give us strength as we go through the wilderness and the wastelands and the deserts in our lives. We pray that God will fortify our hope as we anticipate relief from sorrow. And while we are waiting, we pray that God will grant us peace and help us to experience that joy, unspeakable joy, that comes with knowing that it is already done, in the name of Jesus. Amen.