Last week I connected again with a friend who is a quadriplegic. Trevor Brown is an amazing guy. A botched surgical procedure almost a decade ago left him with what many would consider a blown future. His indomitable spirit has been an inspiration to many. His wife Charlene is just as remarkable as she has stood with Trevor through the thick and thin of discouragements as they sought help to regain movement in his limbs.
I first got to know Trevor and Charlene when I served as associate pastor in their church in Winkler. They were a vivacious couple with an expanding carpentry business operated out of their home place on a farm yard. Charlene continued to manage the business after Trevor became a quadriplegic. In spite of the very difficult circumstances they faced, their faith in Jesus Christ remained strong.
We talked about circumstances that come into our lives unexpectedly and that threaten to “do us in”. I shared how the mental illness of our son, Josh, and his suicide 13 years ago had been one of the most painful things that my wife and I and our family had experienced. Yet I also shared how the experience of Josh’s illness and death had also given me a greater empathy and courage to come alongside people struggling with mental health issues or families devastated by the loss of a loved one through suicide. I find joy in what I once feared – visiting and sharing with those who are experiencing painful circumstances.
Trevor’s response was: “I love how Jesus Christ redeems the most painful things in our lives and brings beauty and joy where there was only darkness and despair!” He went on to say, “I can now truly identify with life as a quadriplegic here on earth...... With that being what it is, it is In Christ alone I find my hope! It is never here but in the life to come, by His grace through faith in Him. So, in that I will never give up!”
That got me thinking of the Great Exchange that Jesus offers us. In Isaiah 61:1-3: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
This past Sunday we viewed the film Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, a hard-hitting documentary that exposes the disturbing trends of modern day sex slavery – the human trafficking industry. It was a disturbing film to see as it exposed the nightmare of sex slavery experienced by hundreds of thousands daily. Benjamin Nolot, the director, writer and producer of the film, founded Exodus Cry, an international anti-trafficking organization committed to abolishing sex slavery through Christ-centered prevention, intervention and holistic restoration of trafficking victims. The film carried the testimonies of several of the women who had been hopelessly embroiled in the sex slavery industry as well as a former pimp and former “john”. Their lives had been redeemed from the hopelessness, darkness and despair of a painful past with the new life and hope offered in Jesus Christ. Their story is a powerful witness to the life-changing effect that Jesus Christ offers to all who accept His gracious gift.
As we enter the Easter season we are reminded again of the One alone who can redeem us from our past and give us a glorious future. His offer still stands! His invitation is clear: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:29, The Message)