On Bruised Reeds

By John David Clark, Sr. - February, 1988

Have you ever strolled in a field of wheat straw and noticed the stalks of straw that were bent as you walked through them? Not completely broken, they are what we would call "bruised." Now, have you ever tried to fix that bruised reed? Impossible. In the effort to help it stand straight again, we further weaker it's fibers. Our most tender attention is too much of a burden for it's already weakened condition, and inadvertent as it may be, we only hasten it's inevitable collapse.

Have you ever made a fire of flax-like straw, and watched it burst brightly into life, then fade quickly to smoking ashes? Those thin strings of smoke, I learned as a boy, meant that the straw was beyond being rekindled. Smoking remains of a wood fire might be brought back to flame, but if you attempt to blow the flax back to life, you only scatter the light-weight ashes. Efforts to help rekindle smoking flax only hasten it's end.

Some people are like a bruised reed and like smoking flax. They've been run over by life, or have burned out on it's pleasures, and though not altogether gone, they are deeply and irreparably bruised in spirit. Discouraged and bitter about their lot in life, these precious souls may attempt to hide their deep hurt and helpless confusion behind a facade of self-confidence, or even turn to alcohol, drugs, or uninhibited lusts, for a distraction.

They have experienced the truth of Solomon's observation that sometimes "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all" (Eccl. 9:11). They watch other individuals receive honor and prosperity. They know that, had life's vicissitudes moved differently, they could have been the successful business man, or athlete, or doctor, or teacher. These are the ones who have lost a child, who despite trying to live a good life have been afflicted with a debilitating disease. These are the ones who, having just begun to get out of debt, are suddenly confronted with an unexpected, financially crushing, burden. These are the bruised reeds of this life, the smoking flax of humanity. Not yet broken, not yet cold, but helplessly on the way there.

There is a depth of hurt so great that typical human efforts to help and comfort merely chase the pain deeper into the secret places of the heart. There is a sorrow and a bitterness so enveloping that it swallows up all hope of encouragement. Especially is this true in those cases wherein a sacred trust has been violated. Where the minister or counselor takes advantage of a distraught, trusting young girl. Where the husband is unfaithful to his wife. Where friend abuses the confidentiality of friend.

It is to these, who have made an effort and have been abused, who have had the ability but not an equal chance - and now are growing old - these who have been forsaken, misunderstood, ignored, hurt, it is to these whose bruised spirits are being bent ever farther down by the weight of the world's relentless winds, that Jesus was first of all sent.

In his first opportunity to speak in the synagogue of his hometown of Nazareth, the Lord Jesus quoted Isaiah's ancient prophecy and said that those words applied to himself, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Lk. 4:18).

It is the anointing of God which breaks the yoke of despair (Isa. 10:28). It is only the anointing that knows how to touch the hurt without making it worse. Of Jesus again the prophet spoke, "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word to him that is weary" (Isa. 50:4).

Jesus's great anointing with the holy Ghost (Acts 10:38) wasn't only for physical disorders. It was also an anointing of indescribable gentleness and wisdom. As the prophet said, "Thy gentleness hath made me great." Nobody but Jesus could have reached the Samaritan woman who had suffered through five failed marriages. No one else could have reached the despised Zacchaeus, who had been given a diminutive human body to match the very low esteem shown to him by his fellow Jews. No one else could have rekindled Peter's joy for living and lifted him from the horrible pit of self-condemnation after he had cursed and denied knowing his Lord.

The simple and eloquent phrases from an old and wonderful hymn rises to my memory now:

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore.
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more.

"Because he lives," says one of the Church's favorite songs, "I can face tomorrow. Because he lives, all fear is gone. Because I know he holds the future. And life is worth the living just because he lives."

Let some pride themselves for succeeding in this life -- Jesus came for the sake of those who have failed. He came as a friend to the friendless, a mender of broken hearts, a comforter of downtrodden people, the Hero of the helpless. We were told, centuries before his coming, of his gentleness, mercy, and grace. But in no other terms was the depth of his tender lovingkindness better described than in these now easily understood words from the Father through the prophet Isaiah:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold;
mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth:
I have put my spirit upon him...A bruised
reed shall he not break, and the smoking
flax shall he not quench....



If you can know all the hidden things about me,
If you can throw away the past, Lord,
and make me clean again,
If you can love me, then I can love another.
If I'm forgiven, then Lord, I forgive.

If you can love me then I can love another.
If you can want me that's more than many dared.
If you can care though you've seen me in the gutter.
Then I can care, I can care, 'cause Jesus cared.

If I can rest in your arms when I am burdened,
Then when I see someone hurting,
I can lend a helping hand.
If you can love me then I can love another.
If God forgives those who fail I know I can

If you can care enough to pull me from my darkness,
My heart will not let me be happy
To ever pass another by.
If you can love me then I can love another,
If God can love any man then so will I.

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