UA Ukraine Crisis Church Fund
Project # 90965
Unsplash: Yura Khomitskyi

Broken Reeds and Smoldering Wicks: Isaiah Provides a Perspective on the War in Ukraine

By David Stoddard, Mar 22, 2022

In Isaiah 40, Israel is on the brink of war with Babylon and Isaiah is told to comfort his people by telling them: God is in control, He will sustain His people and His purposes will be fulfilled. I’m sure God’s people then, like we now, are wondering, “How can that possibly happen?” God’s answer is surprising, “Here is my servant” (Isaiah 42:1). We know from the New Testament that this servant is ultimately Jesus (Matthew 12:17-21), but God’s words to Isaiah give a pattern and calling—not just for Jesus, but for all who follow Him. It’s how God gets His will done in dark places, and it’s what many of our MTW Europe missionaries are doing right now.

First, God gets His will done through those “bringing justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1). His servants put things in order and make them as they ought to be. Right now, much of our focus is trying to counter the evil of Putin’s war. Many are countering the brokenness of war through offering food, housing, counseling, and transportation. The needs change daily, and daily I see people finding new and creative ways to counter the brokenness.

Second, God’s will is done by quiet people doing quiet things. “He will not shout or cry out or raise his voice in the streets” (42:2). I can’t tell you how many people are dedicating significant hours to keep the response to the crisis going: people building websites, transporting teams, writing donors, providing housing, establishing budgets, opening channels for donors to give, giving updates, putting together an on-the-ground response, providing trauma counseling, offering a bunk bed—and the list goes on. Every day I read our missionary newsletters and see on social media posts new and quiet ways our missionaries are joining to respond to this evil. They are displaying maximal ministry through minimal publicity.

Third, God’s will is done through the power of compassion. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (42:3). Nobody mends broken reeds. You just break it off and move on. No one pays attention to a smoldering wick. You snuff it out and get another. God’s will is not done through spectacular programs or personalities. It’s done through people who see and respond to the broken, bruised, and burned-out people around them. It’s done through the quiet ministry of those who touch the lives of the wounded with great compassion. It’s done through the lives of those who notice what no one else sees important nor expects you repair. That’s what our missionaries are already doing.

Fourth, God’s will is done through those sustained by His power. “In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged.” No one knows how long this war will go on nor its extent. If we are to have a long-term impact, we must be sustained by the staying power of the Spirit. This is one of the reasons we have developed a crisis care plan for all our missionaries—especially those closest to the war. We need ministers or counselors who untangle the knots caused by trauma, who help apply the power of the gospel to exhausted hearts, who train us to love the traumatized, in order that we can serve faithfully longer.

I hope you hear and realize the words spoken to Isaiah are true of everyone who belongs to Christ: “You are my servant” (49:3). He’s calling us to cultivate humility, compassion, and faithfulness. It seems like more than ever before we are called to show the power of the gospel through a ministry of compassion to bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. The Savior who was crushed for us, the Servant who healed our deepest wounds, the Son who restores all things said, “As the Father has sent me, I am now sending you” (John 20:21). We have great privilege and humbling responsibility to go into a proud world and show the humility of Christ; to go into a war-torn world and show the compassion of Christ; to go into a suffering world and proclaim the hope of Christ. We are called to go the nations, whatever the cost. As we go in His name, His will is done, His blessing demonstrated, His name magnified, and His glory seen.

Thank you for being His quiet, humble, and faithful ministers. Thank you for showing His compassion to broken and hurting world.

David Stoddard is MTW’s international director for Europe. 
UA Ukraine Crisis Church Fund
Project # 90965
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