A weekend retreat I went to, brought home to me the immense sufferings there are in the world. There were about 20 attendees, many of whom I knew well, others casually, and I knew their stories. There was enough pain in their lives to sink the Titanic; a single mum with a special needs child whose husband left her at his birth, another mother who had lost a son in his twenties, one with a child who had a drug problem, one had been delivered from a demonic religious cult, one in a court battle with a psychotic manipulative spouse, others with business partners who swindled them, near death encounters with illness and so on. I reflected on how much more there was when you weigh in the 7 billion people on earth right now but could not quantify it. And the reason for our woes- one lousy apple!
It was tempting to point the finger at Adam for being a complete ‘jerk’ but I realized that too was a trick I inherited from him. He blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. And in the end Jesus (the only one who is blameless) took the rap and dealt with the whole rotten mess. In doing so He offered a great deal more than is generally mentioned.
We think primarily of the forgiveness of sins, and this is already fantastic news, which we should grab immediately but there is so much more on offer. When Jesus announces His mission He quotes from Isaiah 61 ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;..’
Often we underestimate God’s goodness. We are happy to be forgiven but then try to push on ahead with all the wounds we have taken in a lifetime, ‘dragging our guts behind us dutifully up the next hill and taking another hit’. Going it alone. The offer in Isaiah is real and available though. Many at the retreat I mentioned have taken the journey of surrender, deliverance, counseling and healing and emerged, at least in some measure restored and thus enabled to reach out to others in similar predicaments.
This begins really with prayer of the heart, laying down our problems at His feet honestly and acknowledging our inability to fix things in our own strength. As the Russian mystic Theopan put it “prayer bursting from the heart is like a streak of lightning, which takes but a moment to cross the heavens and appear before the throne of God”
The Lord longs for our restoration; he has already paid for it after all but we need to be open to enter into the (often slow) process to receive it, to enter into intimacy with our God and it is there that miracles happen. ‘The glory of God is man fully alive’ St Ireneus said and that means fully restored.