And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. – Isaiah 58:10
It’s easy to think of Isaiah 58:10 and verses like it as commands. Do this, do that. Be good, try your hardest, do the right thing. But if we read the Bible as a set of reprimands for when we misbehave, we will miss the entire point of God’s story. Isaiah 58:10 is an “if/then” statement, or, in other words, a promise. If we spend ourselves for the sake of others, then we will see our light shine through the darkness of the world.
But Isaiah doesn’t say that spending ourselves will be easy. It requires giving up—allowing God to take over all the things we’re used to having under our own control. We have to be willing to step into unfamiliar and uncomfortable places. We have to give God room to open our eyes to the pain and needs of others. We have to get out of the way.
When we allow God to awaken our compassion and empathy, we are introduced to a world that needs us to spend ourselves—our time, resources, and energy—for the sake of others, just like Jesus modeled with his whole life and death on the cross. Only when our wants and desires are totally out of the spotlight can we see our place in the bigger story God is telling. Only when we are engaged with the needs in our world can we understand God’s love for all of us and our total reliance on Him.
This week we will be focusing on the theme of Letting Go: letting go of our place at the center of our lives, letting go of our comfort, letting go of everything that keeps us from engaging with God and others. And as we pray and learn and work and grow, God will honor us with his presence, and give us the wisdom to know His will and walk in His ways to the glory of His name.
Research: Where’s the Need?
At the end of this week, we’re going to encourage you to do something that makes a tangible difference in your community. Today, as preparation for that, do an internet search together as a family to find statistics about needs in your city, state, country, or the world––anything from information about local homelessness to global sex trafficking. Begin thinking about what pulls at your heart; what need are you most passionate about helping to meet? Make a list of five issues you want to get involved with, starting with what you feel most strongly about.
(Note: Each week has different spiritual content and activities, but the invitation to research and make a difference in your community remains the same. If you’ve already connected with a service opportunity through one of our other weeks, we encourage you to find ways to continue investing there.)
Activity: Be Comfortable with Discomfort
Tonight we’re going to do something that will get us in the headspace of giving up something for the sake of understanding others: we’re going to sleep on the floor instead of our beds. This will help us immediately and intimately understand something that most of the world has to do; it will remind us of our privilege and get us thinking about the discomfort that comes with spending ourselves, but it will also help us realize that to understand the people around us we sometimes need to lean into that discomfort. As you spend a night sleeping a little less cozily than you normally would, think about the things that keep you in a “bubble” of security and comfort. What can you do to step into discomfort for the sake of others?