In the last week, I’ve noticed I’ve become agitated and anxious around the time that Finn would need to feed, have his nappy changed or need to be put to sleep. So really that’s any time he wasn’t smiling, being cute, or sleeping. I just wanted to get things done – for me! It is so hard to do when I never know when he will next need me – it could be 1 minute, it could be 1 hour. I began to feel exhausted because I was trying to work so hard on my blog, getting back into exercise and keeping a clean house. I was feeling distant from God, despite occasionally praying for help with all this. So in the quiet of 4am, I made myself tea and toast and sat down determined to hear what God had to say to my situation because I wasn’t enjoying Finn (the beautiful gift he’s given me) and I certainly wasn’t enjoying the things I was trying to work so hard on when I had a few minutes away from him.
I opened Isaiah 58 and read it over and over – meditating on it in my heart. Boy did God hit me with some big challenges about the way I was spending my time. It was just what I needed.
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
Who are you trying to please?
This is what I love about God’s character. He doesn’t care about fulfilling religious tradition (v 5) or simply working hard (v 3), but rather he cares about what’s in our hearts (v 3) and how that is played out in our actions (v 6-10). Are our works done with the purpose of building up ourselves or others? God makes clear that we please him by focusing on the things listed in verses 6-8 and 10. Not only that, he promises if we do these, he will answer prayers (v 9); guide us; give us strength; and leave us flourishing like a well-watered garden (v 11).
My experience this week
This week I am certainly not feeling like a well-watered garden. I am not feeling like God is near or quick to answer my halfhearted prayers. I don’t feel strong or like I’m being guided. So, chances are my heart is not focused on the things that matter to God. Verse 7 was like a megaphone from God to me ‘do not hide from relatives who need your help’ or as the Message translation reads ‘what I’m interested in seeing you do is…being available to your own families,’. I was trying to work so hard on myself – my body and building my business that I lost sight of what really matters – family, caring for Finn and being loving to Reis.
Questions to ask yourself
So if you’re feeling distant from God, meditate on Isaiah 58 and then ask yourself these questions:
- What am I doing with my time?
- Is this something that really pleases God? Or is it something that just pleases me?
- Does it leave me focused on being humble and serving others or acting in pride to serve myself?
- What do I need to change?
- What do I need to pray?
God has told us how to get our prayers off the ground, so what are you waiting for?