Fourth Sunday Of Advent: Preparing A Path For God

Fourth Sunday Of Advent: Preparing A Path For God


Chapter 40 of Isaiah begins with a prophecy of the ministry of John the Baptist: "A voice of one crying in the wilderness saying : The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken." (Isa.40:3-5). This message has an application for us. The Lord is coming back a second time. And just as John the Baptist prepared the people for His first coming, the church must prepare people for His second coming. So our message must essentially be the same as John the Baptist's:

First of all, "the valleys must be exalted" (Isa 40:4). There is no place for discouragement and depression under the new covenant.

We are never to say, "I am good for nothing, I am useless." God is a God of encouragement. He has lifted us up in Christ and given us dignity. We don't have to live in the dumps - in the valleys - any more. We are children of the King and He lifts our heads up.

On the subject of depression, there is a danger for those of us who have never experienced the deep dark side of depression to dismiss its reality, but that would be a mistake. Depression is real and in fact some great Christians in history have battled depression for portions of their lives and some for their entire lives.

The fourteenth-century virgin St. Flora of Beaulieu (Boo-you), after a normal childhood, refused to cooperate with her parents’ attempts to find her a husband; instead, she announced that she was dedicating herself to God and entered a convent. This, however — even though it was her calling — precipitated an intense and prolonged period of depression, affecting her behavior in a way that greatly irritated the other sisters. Eventually, with the help of an understanding confessor, Flora weathered this period and made great spiritual progress because of it.

Keeping busy also proved to be a lifeline amid the seas of depression for St. Augustine, one of the greatest figures of the Church — and, indeed, of Western Civilization. His mother, St. Monica, no doubt merited great graces simply by patiently bearing her brilliant son’s moodiness and unpredictability. Augustine was searching for truth, but on his own terms, and it was many years before — assisted by his mother’s innumerable prayers and his admiration for the great bishop St. Ambrose — he finally surrendered to God and accepted Baptism. Soon afterward his mother died and then his own son, and during the more than forty years that followed, his powerful personality—sanctified but not erased by divine grace — often manifested itself in a tendency toward both intense anger and severe depression. St. Augustine rose above these shackles through prayer, sacrifice, and work. Indeed, his responsibilities as bishop and his writings in defense of the Church kept him very busy.

While I do not have a great deal of expertise on the subject I truly believe there are some things a person can do to deal with their depression. Most depression lasts for a period of time and must run its course. The mistake some people make is to think that there is an instant cure for depression. As I have already said before, like the flu, most depression is going to have to run its course but during that time there are things that one can do for themselves during their time of struggling.

Don't overthink. Sometimes this is an actual cause of depression. Becoming introspective can be hurtful and prolong the depression. Dwell on thoughts you know to fit the description of how we should think as taught in Philippians 4:8.

whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are holy,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue,
if there be any praise,
think on these things.

Make certain your thoughts follow this pattern.

Be constructive rather than destructive. This is a very important point. Some of the greatest hymns have been written by those who were suffering from depression. Look for ways to channel your depression into something productive. Write poetry, journal your thoughts, do anything that brings out the constructive part of you. You may be amazed at how God uses you in your lowest moments. That said...

Believe that there is a reason God has allowed you to be in this condition. There are those who think the Apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh was depression. Whatever it was it was something that afflicted him and it was in his weakest moments that he became strongest. God can use your depression. I will repeat it. GOD CAN USE YOUR DEPRESSION.

Guard your relationships. Do you overreact to people during these times and permanently damage a friendship or deeply hurt a loved one. It is easy to lash out at others and expect them to understand what you are going through They probably can't so be patient with them.

Do not beat yourself up. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not a bad person for this condition. Do not accept shame or guilt for being depressed. You are not lesser of a Christian because you face this condition.

Journal. I personally have found that during my greatest times of grief journaling helps me to cope and then to learn from the experience. The same is true with depression. Journal what you are experiencing and then when the cloud has lifted go back and study what lessons you can learn from the time.

Cry aloud to God. I believe David fought depression. The Psalms show a man with extreme emotional swings and that is often a sign of someone who battles with depression. Do what David did and cry unto the Lord and tell him everything you are thinking and feeling. What a merciful God we have and he cares about these struggles.

Wait it out with patience. You know this is true. It will run its course because it always has before. Sometimes in the midst of depression however it feels like it will never go away. People who suffer with extreme depression are like those who suffer with auto-immune diseases. The pain comes for a season and then they experience a time of remission. Enjoy that time, but when you are in the midst of depression, remain aware that relief is ahead.

Implement these simple remedies into your regiment when you feel a bout of depression coming on and see if they might offer you not only some relief but also some purpose in the midst of your suffering.

Secondly, Isaiah 40:4 says "the mountains and hills must be made low"( Isa 40:4). All pride in us must be brought down.

In the book of James 4:6 we read “God resisteth the proud…”

When there is pride in my life....

I always focus on the failures of others.

When there is pride in my life.....

I’ve got a very self-righteous spirit, I’ve got a critical spirit, I have a fault finding spirit, and I look at everyone else’s faults through the microscope, but I always look at my own faults through the telescope and I always look down upon the lives of other people.

When there is pride in my life.....

I have an independent and a self-sufficient spirit. I’m protective of my time. I try to protect my reputation and my rights, and I focus on the deficiencies of others.

When there is pride in my life....

I want to be served by others. I’ve got a desire to be successful. I want to advance the self-life.

When there is the sin of pride in my life....

I’ve got this drive, I want to be appreciated, I want to be recognized. I’m offended and I’m wounded when others are promoted, and I have been overlooked, because of what I have done.

When there is pride in my life.....

I’ve got this inner attitude, and this is what I say: “This parish is very privileged to have me and my gifts.” And all I think about is what I can do for God.

When there is pride in my life.....

I’m confident, about how much I’ve learned of the Scriptures and the Church, and how far I have gone in my relationship with God.

When there is pride in my life.....

I always keep people at a distance.

When there is pride in my life....

I want to blame other people.

When there is pride in my life....

I’m unapproachable.

When there is pride in my life....

I’m defensive when I’m criticized by others.

When there is the sin of pride in my life.....

I’m so concerned to be respectable, I’m concerned about what other people think of me, and I try to protect my image and my reputation.

When there is pride in my life....

I find it very difficult to share my spiritual needs.

When there is the sin of pride.....

I wanna be sure that no one else finds out that I have sinned. And I try to cover up sin. And I have this instinct to try not to reveal it.

When there is pride in my life.....

I always want to make sure that no one else finds out when I have sinned, and I try to cover it up. And I find it very, very difficult to say, “You know, I'm wrong, will you please forgive me?”

When there is pride in my life.....

I’m concerned about the consequences of my sin, I’m remorseful over my sin, simply because I’ve been caught, that I have sinned before God and sinned before man.

When there is pride in my life.....

I always wait for others to come and ask for forgiveness, when there is a misunderstanding or a conflict, in my relationship with God.

When there is pride in my life.....

I try to compare myself with other Christians, and other believers and other fellowships. And I always think that I’m better than them.

When there is pride in my life.....

I’m blind. I become blind to my own heart condition.

When there is pride in my life....

I don’t think that there is anything in my life that I need to repent of. I don’t think that I need to be revived in the heart. Oh but I’m so sure that everyone else needs to get there relationship right with God.

What a challenging list to keep close by so that you can review it and see where the mountains and hills need to be made low in your life.

Thirdly, the rough places must become smooth.

There is a lot of coarseness, rudeness and roughness in our lives and in our speech. These have to be smoothened out and we have to become gracious and gentle. Don’t be brash and abrasive in your communication; choose your words carefully.

The Spirit of God through the Apostle Paul tells us not to engage in distasteful, or corrupt communication. “Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth; but that which is good, to the edification of faith, that it may administer grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29). This infers that the words that come out of our lips should be words that minister healing to a broken heart, courage to the one who’s discouraged, and comfort to the one who’s in despair.

The Lord wants you to carefully choose the words you communicate with. Colossians 4:6 says, to choose your words carefully. “Let your speech be always in grace seasoned with salt: that you may know how you ought to answer every man.” When you speak, let those who hear you get blessed, uplifted and inspired to be like you, because your words are garnished with grace. Don’t be like some people who are used to only criticizing others. Choose to bless and pray for others instead.

Damaging words are more destructive than a weapon in the hands of a robber. So as a Christian, choose to communicate like your heavenly Father. Let your words be kind and affectionate. Refuse to have itching ears for gossip, and don’t accompany those who are fond of discussing the affairs of everybody else. Let your words concerning people be graceful, inspiring, motivating and encouraging. Let us make smooth the rough places in our lives and in our speech.

Fourthly, the crooked paths must become straight (This is how this verse is quoted in Luke 3:5).

There are many areas in our lives. That need straightening.

1. We must make straight our marriages. When a couple is having marital problems, if you can get them to center their life around the Lord Jesus Christ, their problems will lessen and lessen until they are gone.

2. We must make straight our finances. When you get your heart right with God your wallet will also get right with God, and you will see what God can do with an empty wallet.

There are many other areas we could mention in our lives that need to be made straight.

But the gospel for today is showing us what true repentance involves - “Preparing the way of the Lord...our hearts, making straight his paths...not living in discouragement and depression. Every valley needs to be filled...with humility; and every mountain and hill needs to be brought low...eradicating pride; and the crooked needs to be made straight...our marriages our finances etc.; and the rough ways plain...coarseness, rudeness and roughness in our lives and in our speech.;

It is then then that the glory of the Lord will be revealed in our flesh. In our flesh, others will see the glory of Jesus Christ. That is how we are to prepare people for the coming of the Lord. "All flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken...all flesh shall see the salvation of God. " (Isaiah 40:5, John 3:6)