A tourist named Ivan was swimming in the ocean at Myti Beach in Greece when he was carried away by a series of powerful currents. Friends alerted the nearby coast guard, but they couldn’t find him, and he along with a friend were eventually declared to be lost at sea.
Eighteen hours later, rescuers pulled Ivan out of the ocean, cold and shaken, but alive. That’s because shortly after his ocean ordeal began, he found an unexpected floatation device — a children’s ball. Just like Tom Hanks in the movie “Cast Away”, Ivan found himself clinging onto the ball for survival, except rather than a volleyball, it was a child-sized soccer ball.
Ivan’s recovery was covered extensively in Greek national media, and several newspapers carried the photo where he posed with his grateful father, the mayor of Kassandra, and the fateful ball. The ball in the photo caught the attention of a mom who recognized it as the toy her son lost at the beach 10 days prior. Not only had the sea currents pulled the ball over 80 miles before he was able to grab onto it, but Ivan testified that the ball was only half-inflated. In Ivan’s home region of northern Macedonia, people are rightfully calling it a miracle.
Lately, I have been meditating in Isaiah, Chapter 6. It is becoming one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. These 13 verses are truly one of the great passages of Scripture, and they seem to speak to situations just like this. Isaiah is grieving over the loss of his friend, his cousin King Uzziah, and so he is very vulnerable to all the stages of grief and the inherent issues and losses that arise from them. He is not depending upon an under-inflated soccer ball to get him through, but he is going through his own set of personal issues when he discovers that the Lord is right there with him (v. 1 – “In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord…”).
When life gives you lemons, you should look for the Lord. You will discover that the Lord is there (cf Ezekiel 48:13 – Jehovah-shammah = “The Lord is there”) right in the middle of life. And if you look real close, you will also discover that He is bigger than life, bigger than the problems you are facing, bigger than even you could ever ask or think.
Second, the next thing that was imperative for Isaiah here was not only to look for the Lord but also to listen for His voice. He heard the voices of the seraphim, proclaiming the holiness of the Lord, but it was not until the question of verse 8 (“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”) that the Lord actually spoke. Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord giving him instruction and seeking his service. When life gives us lemons, we need to make sure we are listening for the voice of the Lord. It may be a still, small voice in the night, but God will speak into our situation. For us today, that means that we need to constantly be looking into His Word for that voice, for that word that He is speaking to us.
Third, when Isaiah realized he was in the presence of the Lord, he then began to look in the mirror. There he saw himself and his own sinful condition (“Woe is me, for I am ruined” – v. 5). He realized how unworthy he was to even be in the presence of the Lord. Often, when we are down we try to figure out how we can get out of our situation. But God wants us to realize that we cannot get out of our situation without His help. We have to realize just how lost and undone we really are, how incapable we are to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps,” no matter how slight the problem we are facing may be, and how desperately we need a Savior.
Finally, Isaiah then came to the realization that the Lord wanted to use Him. He saw the need, and even though he felt unworthy, he came to the Lord and said, “Here am I, send me!” (v. 8). When life gives us lemons, God may want to use us to make or help to make the lemonade. We need to let Him use us. We do not know what that may entail, but we need to allow Him to do His thing in and through us so that His work is accomplished.
This is a powerful statement of what God wants to do in each of our lives. While I do not believe God wants each of us to become Isaiah, He wants us to know that no matter what we face in life, He is there. He wants to turn what the enemy of our souls has meant for evil into good as we trust Him. He does want to use us to reach to our neighbors, our co-workers and our friends for Christ. God is involved in a wonderful work, and He wants us to let Him use us in that work. He may use a half-inflated kid’s soccer ball, or some other means, but He wants us to simply allow Him to use us.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at [email protected].