“A bruised reed He will not crush and a smoking flax He will not quench.” – (Matthew 12:20)
The world is filled with bruised reeds and smoking flaxes - Lives that are broken and lamps that have lost their light. Maybe you are one of them? I have been both at several points in my life. There are so many who have been beaten down and bruised by the cares of this life, by others and by circumstances. Often these have quenched the flame that once burned bright and bent the reed that once stood straight.
The world is littered with broken people, wounded people, hurting people, victimized people, abandoned people and neglected people who have been physically abused, emotionally abused, mentally abused, and sexually abused. What is more, the world is filled with legions of people who have been spiritually abused and systematically crushed and broken under the weight of religious systems. They’ve been used up, manipulated and “burned out” by abusive leaders who always demanded “more”. They’ve been battered and bruised by religious taskmasters and ambitious leaders with their self-serving agendas, performance-driven church life and legalistic demands.
Too often, the wounded are shunned, rejected, discarded and even condemned for being a bruised reed or a smoking flax. Tragically, rather than tender care, compassion and understanding they are told to shape up or ship out, get a grip or pull yourself together. Instead of fanning the flame back to life or mending the break, they are too often scorned, branded and ostracized instead. But Jesus doesn’t break the broken reed further. He doesn’t quench our spirit further. Instead, He weeps for our pain; He heals the brokenhearted; He gives strength to the weak, He goes after the strayed sheep; He comforts those that need comforting; He encourages the discouraged and He restores the empty soul.
God is in the business of reviving and restoring. He is not standing over us with a critical eye or a demanding list of “should haves” and “should dos”. He is not there to shame us, criticize us or condemn us. He doesn’t chide us for not being on fire, as zealous as we should be or for not being strong enough or committed enough or spiritual enough. He does not walk away in disgust and disapproval but beckons us; “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take up My yoke and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” - (Matthew 11:28-30) His hand upon our shoulder is gentle. His voice is encouraging and not demanding. He is our helper and not our taskmaster. He loves us rather than lord over us.
This is the master we serve. This is the example He has set for us to do to others. He says come to Me and I will take your burden; I will heal your hurt; I will answer your prayer; I will direct your steps; I will comfort you and will give you rest for your soul.”
My advice to you if you are in a performance driven church that always stresses work or under a leadership that always seems to imply that you need to run faster, jump higher and shout louder is: “Run for your life and don’t lookback!” If you are part of a spiritual system that always seems to leave you feeling like you’re not doing enough, falling short and not quite measuring up to God’s expectations then get out! If you are part of a Christian ministry that continually stresses the Martha lifestyle rather than a Mary style relationship with Jesus look for the nearest exit! The former will inevitably produce burn out, disillusionment and defeat while the later will inevitably produce fruitfulness, joy and a life of good works which are spontaneously birthed from faith working by love.