Pain is a soul fog.

We stand in the center and see nothing beyond the swallowing haze. The roads we knew were there — that our mind knows are still there – are invisible to the heart. 

At the end of Isaiah 8, Israel is distressed, hungry, angry, and blinded by such pain. They have looked everywhere for help — experts and best-sellers and conspiracies and community. 

Nothing. Thick darkness.

I have stood with them, paralyzed by the unknown outside of my suffocating cloud of uncertainty and fear. I have had questions and anxieties and doubts that have seemed like they would forever go unanswered. 

And then. 

For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian (Isaiah 9:4).

Isaiah 9 sweeps in with the light of God and the wind of His grace. The blinding burdens and the oppressions weighing the people down are not just broken and blown away, they end as on the day of Midian.

This phrase meant something to Israel — recalling the old story of the hero Gideon, and his defeat of thousands of mighty Midianites with only 300 men (Judges 6-7). Each of Gideon’s warriors carried only a trumpet, a jar, and a torch. But when they surrounded the camp of Midian, blew the horns, smashed the pottery, and lit the fires in the night, the enemy army fled, believing they were surrounded by thousands of men.

These Midianites had oppressed Israel for seven years, taking their food, their possessions, and their will to go on. When Israel finally cried out to the Lord to be saved, God directed Gideon – the least of his family from the least of the tribes with the least resources possible — to drive out their enemy in this unconventional way. God did this so that the people would know that the Lord was the one who won the battle (Judges 7:2)

Seven years of misery, ended in one night. Suddenly. Surprisingly. And with the strangest of weapons.

So it will be for Israel again in Isaiah 9, and so it will be for us. 

I am old enough now to have seen the pains which once defined me be swept away into a powerless memory with a single breath from His lips.

I am old enough to have said a thousand times with Gideon, Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? (Judges 6:13), only to see God work to make my pitiful trumpets and jars and doubts become more than I am and more than I have. 

I am old enough, too, to know that God uses every day of battle and every drop of soul fog for His glory.

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire (Isaiah 9:5).

Hang on, dear friend. Cry out to Him. The end will come suddenly, swiftly, surprisingly. And God will not waste our pain. 

Every moment of sorrow will be fuel for the fires of joy to come.