All Our Waste Places

For the Lord comforts Zion;
    he comforts all her waste places
and makes her wilderness like Eden,
    her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens vanish like smoke,
    the earth will wear out like a garment…
but my salvation will be forever,
    and my righteousness will never be dismayed.

“Listen to me, you who know righteousness,
    the people in whose heart is my law;
fear not the reproach of man,
    nor be dismayed at their revilings.
My righteousness will be forever,
    and my salvation to all generations.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

“I, I am he who comforts you;
    who are you that you are afraid of man…
 and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker,
    who stretched out the heavens
    and laid the foundations of the earth?”
 Isaiah 51:3,6-8,11-13

Waste places are varied: loss of dreams, livelihood, time never to be retrieved; grief; unseized opportunities; broken relationships; failure; loneliness; destitution. Different shapes and sizes that pierce, gnarl, squeeze, twist, and suffocate. Visible or invisible, eating at lives and homes, cultures and the human heart. But God knows all waste places, and enters them to comfort and redeem. Our every waste place magnifies His astounding haste to grace on our behalf.

Dramatic gloaming after June sunset

“Break forth, shout joyfully together,
You waste places..;
For the Lord has comforted His people,
He has redeemed.” Isaiah 52:9

Waste as a verb: to use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose; squander. Verb waste places are often regretted, as there is no turning back or starting over when we have wasted a resource now depleted, or time now past. But waste as a verb is restored by salvation. The Lord says, I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” (Joel 2:25-26)

Waste as an adjective: not used, cultivated, or built on; eliminated or discarded as no longer useful or required. Adjective waste places describe any talent or chance that lies fallow, void of vitality, is never honed to make a difference, or developed to fruition; any trial that is never learned from, or lesson not implemented or applied. But adjective waste places, by God’s Spirit, can be transformed and rejuvenated. God says, “The Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field… I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.” (Isaiah 32:15; 42:16)

Waste as a noun: material that is not wanted; unusable remains or byproducts. We might feel insignificant, unessential, insecure, without purpose or direction. We might own a heritage, a past, an education or experience that seems meaningless. But whether cast off, kicked out, eliminated, or apparently senseless, our noun waste places are redeemed by Jesus. “As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs.” (Psalm 84:6)

Lord, plant Your garden of joy and hope in my wildernesses. Bloom for all the world to see!

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