When Success Requires a Mess
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
My interest in decorating may be amateur, but it’s avid. There’s little I love more than feathering my nest, and if you throw a can of spray paint into the mix … well, let’s just say my heart does a little flip.
Most of the furniture pieces in my house are hand-me-downs, and one of my favorites is an old secretary desk from my husband’s grandparents. I use it to store all sorts of odds and ends — stationery, left-over party decorations and office supplies of every description.
Recently, I decided this vintage beauty needed a face-lift, so I bought a can of peacock-blue paint and set to work, excited about the end product.
I’d forgotten how messy it is to paint a piece of furniture, however. First, I took everything out of the desk, creating stacks of all the materials it contained. Then, my husband and I removed all the drawers and doors, unscrewed the hardware and laid out each piece to be painted.
How could one activity create such a mess? Whereas the secretary held all that stuff in one small area, debris from my paint project was now spread over three rooms of my house!
Progress in my soul often begins like painting my secretary. To get to a promised space, I have to move through a messy place.
In Isaiah 43:19, God encourages His people the Israelites by saying, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
I love the first two sentences of this verse: “See, I am doing a new thing!” sounds like momentum and success. Who doesn’t love the thought of God making things “spring up”for us?
But in the context of the verse and the entire book of Isaiah, we see the Israelites are given this promise long before its fulfillment. About to be sent into exile because of their ancestors’ collective sin, they’ll face walking across a desert to return to a wasteland (decades later), which they’ll have to labor to restore.
Often, forward movement requires a mess.
There are some secret steps embedded in this verse to help us -- inside stories God gives His people for the “messy space” between promise and fulfillment.
All through chapter 43 of Isaiah, God prompts His people to remember the past. He whispers reminders of how He has come through for them, reminding them of the covenant He made with them and the parting of the Red Sea when they fled from Egypt. He recaps how He set them free from the bondage of another nation once before.
When we’re in the mess-stage of a future success, looking back at God’s past faithfulness helps us persevere until the “new thing” comes.
Interestingly, God’s promise in our key verse is given before the exile. The punishment for sin is on its way, but God urges them to focus beyond the coming pain to the promise.
Thankfully, Israel’s Redeemer is our Redeemer. When we’re in the messy middle, looking forward to God’s promise of future blessings helps us cling to Him through hard times.
In those days, proximity to a water source was necessary to survive, so the Israelites understood springs — places where existing (but hidden) water leapt from the darkness of underground. Under the surface, God was beginning a work in Israel, drawing them to repentance, even as Isaiah warned of impending disaster.
Even in messy, dark places, we can see signs that God is at work if we’ll just take a careful look around.
My house was a wreck for days before my mess became a success with the blue secretary standing proudly in my living room. Many of our successes require a period of messiness, but the process becomes less painful if we focus on His promises.
Lord, help me watch for You when I’m waiting in hard places for Your promises to come true. I trust You’re at work! In Jesus Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 78:35, “They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.” (NIV)
2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)
Don’t miss out on what God has for you in this very moment. Our newest devotional, Encouragement for Right Now, will get you started in the right direction. Wherever you are on your journey, Encouragement for Right Now will help you ask Him, the giver of all good gifts, for what your heart desires. It’s free with a donation of your choice. Click here to learn more!
Visit Amy Carroll’s blog today to access a beautiful, free download of today’s key verse to print as your reminder of God’s promise in your messy middle.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think about a time in the past when you’ve experienced a mess before a success.
Looking back, what lessons did you learn in the messy middle that you still carry with you today? We’d love to hear what sustained you, in our comments section.
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