13 Look, my servant will succeed.
He will be exalted and lifted very high.
14 Just as many were appalled by you,
he too appeared disfigured, inhuman,
his appearance unlike that of mortals.
53:2 He grew up like a young plant before us,
like a root from dry ground.
He possessed no splendid form for us to see,
no desirable appearance.
3 He was despised and avoided by others;
a man who suffered, who knew sickness well.
Like someone from whom people hid their faces,
he was despised, and we didn’t think about him.
4 It was certainly our sickness that he carried,
and our sufferings that he bore,
but we thought him afflicted,
struck down by God and tormented.
5 He was pierced because of our rebellions
and crushed because of our crimes.
He bore the punishment that made us whole;
by his wounds we are healed.
6 Like sheep we had all wandered away,
each going its own way,
but the LORD let fall on him all our crimes.
7 He was oppressed and tormented,
but didn’t open his mouth.
Like a lamb being brought to slaughter,
like a ewe silent before her shearers,
he didn’t open his mouth.
8 Due to an unjust ruling he was taken away,
and his fate—who will think about it?
He was eliminated from the land of the living,
struck dead because of my people’s rebellion.
9 His grave was among the wicked,
his tomb with evildoers,
though he had done no violence,
and had spoken nothing false.
10 But the LORD wanted to crush him
and to make him suffer.
If his life is offered as restitution,
he will see his offspring; he will enjoy long life.
The LORD’s plans will come to fruition through him.
11 After his deep anguish he will see light, and he will be satisfied.
Through his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant,
will make many righteous,
and will bear their guilt.
12 Therefore, I will give him a share with the great,
and he will divide the spoil with the strong,
in return for exposing his life to death
and being numbered with rebels,
though he carried the sin of many
and pleaded on behalf of those who rebelled.
Mrs. Donner looked at her reindeer son and said, sadly, “He’s got a shiny nose.” Almost prophetically, Donner replied, “Shiny? I’d even say it glows.” * The prophet Isaiah wrote about a divine servant who would “see light” and “make many righteous” in ways unthinkable to most humans. Scholar David Payne wrote that Christians “unconsciously fill in any ‘gaps’ in the account. The prophet himself never named the Servant, nor even identified him plainly as the Messiah.” **
Dear Jesus, thank you for being the ultimate suffering servant. Please teach me how to transform any suffering I endure into a creative, life-giving force as well. Amen.
* “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Quotes.” Quotes.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 21 Nov. 2022. https://www.quotes.net/movies/rudolph,_the_red-nosed_reindeer_quotes_9778.
** David F. Payne on Isaiah in F. F. Bruce, gen. ed. New International Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979, p. 756.
*** Yancey, Philip, The Jesus I Never Knew. Zondervan. Kindle Edition, p. 204.
**** John Goldingay, Isaiah for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, p. 206.
Aside from what I would consider to be mild bullying or teasing as a kid, I managed to escape the obstacle course that is childhood and adolescence mostly unscathed. There was, of course, a mean girl that wanted to fight me after school for some now long forgotten reason. My parents, who weren’t exactly small humans, showed up to school with me for a teacher conference to make sure students and teachers alike knew I had a support system that wouldn’t tolerate violence towards me.
Amidst the threats there was teasing. Some of it didn’t bother me and some of it left scars–we all know how mean children can be. In the first few decades of my life, I felt blessed that I had suffered very little.
Until my mom died when I was 28.
Our family fractured. We lost connections we’d built together. I had to travel back to my childhood room and clean out the place that I had been told would always be waiting for me. I had to hold not only my grief, but the grief of a community that was also reeling from the loss of my mother.
It was grief that introduced me to suffering. Enduring teasing as a child chipped away at me, but grief cracked me wide open.
But I learned that we serve a God who makes good use of whatever we give Him. Whether we surrender our joy and happiness or unburden our pain and suffering, He puts it all to good use.
That massive hole that suffering created became the space that allowed a shaft of God’s light to shine on and warm my broken heart. A light I didn’t know I’d ever see again. But through grief, that light shone until I remembered it was my job to share it with others.
Over time that hole of grief became a deep well of love, understanding, and grace that I could draw from to share with my fellow broken humans, those under my leadership in ministry, and my family members who were suffering too.
Only God can use the depths of our struggles to light our way forward because darkness is as light to Him.
There is an old choir anthem the church I grew up in used to sing. The lyrics are, “If you can use anything, Lord, you can use me.” God can indeed put anything and anyone to His good use. He can use you, your suffering, and your circumstances.
What do you have in your life that you can turn over to God for His use? Where there are holes, let Him shine light into the darkness. Let Him create deep wells of love and deep understanding for you to draw from. Where there is pain let Him provide purpose, where there are scars let Him create a testimony.