I’m always blown away by the story of God calling Isaiah. He sees a vision of the Lord on his throne, surrounded by angels covering their faces and calling to one another:“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their singing the whole place shakes and the temple is filled with smoke.
And what happens to Isaiah? He is so overwhelmed by his inadequacy and his sin that he cries out. “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Isaiah sees a vision of God exalted on his throne in his glory and his only reaction is complete terror. He is sure he is a dead man. But rather than strike Isaiah dead right there, God instead sends out a seraph who flies to him with a live coal from the altar. With it, he touches Isaiah’s lips and declares that by doing so his guilt is taken away and his sin is atoned for.
Wow. Can you imagine experiencing what Isaiah just did? Seeing God in his glory. Having the reality of your sin slam you in the face, then be atoned for only because of the grace of God. It makes complete sense that when God asks immediately after this “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us.” That Isaiah now filled with complete gratitude and awe of God shouts out “Here am I. Send me!”
Isn’t that our same reaction? When the truth of the Gospel and the beauty and weight of the extent of God's love breaks through our sinfulness, the only reaction is one of complete gratitude and willingness to go wherever God sends us.
Don’t we all want to stand up and shout, “Here I am Lord! Send me!”?
But a favorite pastor of mine pointed out the very next passage of this section and how it is often overlooked.
[God] said, “Go and tell this people: Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.
Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”
And he answered:
“Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken.” - Isaiah 6:9-13
Yeiks. God gives Isaiah his calling: Go preach a message of destruction and judgment to a people who will NEVER listen to you. And how long is Isaiah supposed to do it? Until everything is destroyed, forsaken and lies in ruins.
I don’t know about you, but that sure doesn’t sound like the kind of call I would like to get. I wonder if Isaiah wished he'd asked what the job description was before committing so whole-heartedly to the position. Then again, he had just seen God in his glory and majesty and at that point, I’m guessing he realized that nothing could ever compete or compare to the glory he had just seen.
My husband and I are both passionate, visionary people. So when God calls us to things, we're in. But the reality of service is often much different than the idea of service. Foster care, youth ministry and parenting all sound heroic. They sound noble and exciting.
But the reality?
The reality feels far from noble. The rose-colored glasses of “saving” a child soon fall off to tantrums, speech therapy and behavioral issues. Adoption gets much more complicated once you have to navigate visits with the biological parents, court hearings, lawyers, case workers and other really tough situations. Youth ministry sounds fun until year after year you battle the same struggles, just with different teens. And anyone who has been a parent knows that it is far from a life of sweet cuddles and snuggles all day long.
The truth is that I’m a person who isn’t afraid of hard work… as long as I know there is a payoff at the end.
But what if there is no visible payoff at the end? What if our calling would be one like Isaiah's? What if after a year in our home, our daughter is reunited with her biological parent? What if I never see the redemption we’ve been hoping and praying for? What if we never see the results of working with our church's teens each week? What if despite my best efforts as a parent, my children still struggle?
It's all to easy to place my satisfaction in the outcome, rather than Jesus himself.
I’ve been forced to ask myself: is Jesus enough? Do I worship the redemption God is working out in this world or do I worship the REDEEMER HIMSELF? Do I love Jesus or just the awesome things he is doing in my life?
God knit me together for 9 months in my mother's womb. God knew all the days ordained for me before one of them happened. God created our entire universe in just 6 days by the words of his mouth. That same God came to earth, and lived a perfect life, then walked up a hill, beaten broken and forsaken in order to die for me.
He lived the most challenging call of all.
He was forsaken by GOD for me, and for you. I don't even know how to comprehend that kind of love. But I know that God says I will find all I need in him. Nothing I will ever experience in my life will ever compare to the amazing joy of worshiping at the feet of my Savior for all eternity. Even if the road God calls me to walk is one of hardship, challenge and struggle, it won’t matter.
Does serving God mean we will see earthly success, softened hearts, and the salvation of souls? Many times it will. Living for God allows you to see so many amazing things God is working out in this world. However, God doesn’t necessarily promise us that. Isaiah lived a very challenging life, but in the end, he joined that holy God he had seen at his calling. And the same is true for us. God promises that when we finally stand before him, when we see him for the first time in all his glory and majesty, when everything else fades away, that Jesus himself is worth it.
I most certainly do not want this post to discourage you from stepping out to the challenging things God is calling you to. In fact, I hope that it does just the opposite. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the only true, lasting source of joy and you will find you are able to stand firm through struggles and trial. Why? Because they get easier? No, because you will find a joy that stays constant no matter what the outcome in this earthy world.
Because Jesus alone is enough.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. - Philippians 3: 7-11