Heaviness

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3

When Jesus started His ministry in the synagogue of His own hometown of Nazareth, this is the passage that He read from in the scroll of Isaiah. This passage is the prophetic mission statement for the Messiah. After Jesus read this passage, He told the congregation, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). In other words, Jesus said, “I am the fulfillment of this passage, and I will do all that it says I will do.”

There are so many profound and important truths buried in this passage, but the one I want to highlight today is one from the very last line. Jesus, through the Spirit, is able to give us a “garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” The Modern English Version of the Bible calls it a “spirit of heaviness.”

Have you ever been in a season that felt heavy?

A season of heaviness is often a season of loss. We experience the loss of a loved one, a death in the family, a friend who moves away, a co-worker moves on, a job falls through, a marriage breaks down, an offer gets turned down. In a season of heaviness there is often a combination of losses that begin to pile up. When this happens a spirit of despair–a spirit of heaviness–can weigh down our soul.

Have you ever been there? Are you there now?

The Bible tells us that the antidote to this heaviness is a garment of praise. When we feel the heaviness set in, we need to praise the Lord. We need to worship even when it feels like the opposite of what we want to do. We need to praise Him, not for the circumstances we face, but for who He is despite the circumstances. We need to praise Him for His goodness, His kindness and His love for us. He is worthy! He is worthy!

Praising God in the midst of heaviness is like taking off in a rocket in the midst of a thick, dark, cloudy sky. In order to punch through the clouds we have to keep going. A garment is something you wear. It’s something that stays on you. In order for it to be a garment of praise, it has to be more than just once. It has to be a continual offering of praise. It has to be something we wear.

When we ask the Lord to clothe us in a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, and when we begin to wear this garment of praise all day long, we will eventually punch through the clouds. The funny thing about clouds is that it is always sunny on the top side. Always. The sun never stops shining. Clouds only conceal the truth that the sun is shining, but the sun never stops shining. Praising God because He is worthy helps us bust through to the top side and see the sunshine that has been there all along.

If you are feeling the heaviness today, here is a song that will help you get to that place of praise. It’s a beautiful rendition of the Doxology.

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