“The bruised reed is a man (or woman) that for the most part is in some misery, as those were that came to Christ for help, and by misery he is brought to see sin as the cause of it…This is such as our Saviour Christ terms `poor in spirit’ (Matt. 5:3), who sees his wants, and also sees himself indebted to divine justice.” (page 3 and 4)
To be bruised is to be in some form of misery, seeing your sin and knowing that only Christ can quench any thirst. Sibbes goes on to say: “He has no means of supply from himself or the creature, and thereupon mourns, and, upon some hope of mercy from the promise and examples of those that have obtained mercy, is stirred up to hunger and thirst after it.”
As we are bruised and in some misery or heartache, we find no comfort in anything of this world. It is true that some things in this world can comfort such as family, love, chocolate but in the end they soon fade and they soon fail. So we hunger for more, we hunger for an ever-lasting comfort that will soothe our misery and bind our wounds.
And so we hunger and thirst for Christ because in the darkness and in misery, Christ is the only one you can cling to. And therefore there are always great hopes when being and feeling like a bruised child of God because the Gospel can appear very soothing when we grasp it and remind ourselves of it in times of heartache.
So Sibbes then shows us how being in a season of misery, of being a bruised reed and yearning for Christ can bring about good things in our lives:
1. The Gospel becomes sweet to us! Sibbs says: “Again, this bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig leaves of morality will do us no good.” As we look to Christ in our pain and suffering we see our suffering servant and his words become sweet.
2. It makes us more thankful to God – “and, from thankfulness, more fruitful in our lives” As we look upon the face of Christ, we cannot help but be full of thankfulness as we endure and after we endure such bruising which will result in more fruit in our lives.
3. Aligns us with Gods ways - “Likewise this dealing of God establishes us the more in his ways, having had knocks and bruisings in our own ways.” With such misery, it can remind us of Christ our suffering God and remind us that he knows what we are going through and sometimes he uses our suffering to remind us that his ways of working in us can be different to what we expect.
4. To humble us – “After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks. Even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy.” We are often very proud, I know my heart is and I know when you meet someone who is going through a great suffering or misery that there can be a humilty about them that may not have been there before.
5. To encourage us – “Such bruising may help weaker Christians not to be too much discouraged, when they see stronger ones shaken and bruised.” Christianity isn’t about being strong, but it is about the weak and the poor and the poor in spirit and Christ ministers to these people.
Do you find that encouraging? I think with suffering it can be so difficult to understand and many answers are trite and perhaps you disliked what Sibbes is saying.
But I hope you can see two things:
1. Our God is a suffering God. Jesus is our suffering God, who has gone through suffering and knows what misery and darkness there is in that pit. It gives me comfort that Jesus knows what is in the darkness and he can shine a light through it.
2. God never wastes the season we are in, he enriches us and shapes us for our good! We hear that often and it isn’t satisfying when you may be going through a long period of darkness. I don’t have all the answers, but I think what Sibbes is saying that this isn’t wasted time, it isnt worthless and Christ is always your comfort through it.
So I want to end this post with one more encouraging thing Sibbes says when we encounter people who may judge us as we struggle like a bruised reed –
“Ungodly spirits, ignorant of God’s ways in bringing his children to heaven, censure broken-hearted Christians as miserable persons, whereas God is doing a gracious, good work with them. It is no easy matter to bring a man from nature to grace, and from grace to glory, so unyielding and intractable are our hearts.”