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Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks


“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. And his name will be the hope of all the world” (Matthew 12:18-21, NLT).

Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus spoke of the kind of servant leader he would be. He would be Spirit filled and directed, pursuing justice in the world. He would be characterized by deep humility as well. I love the imagery of how Jesus would relate to humanity.

The weakest reed, having reached its breaking point, would not be snapped off, and the flickering candle, barely holding on to life, would not be snuffed out. These word pictures describe those who are at the end of their rope, barely clinging to hope. I don’t know if you can relate to either of those images, but I can. The preacher in Ecclesiastes warned that those who move boulders are in danger of being crushed by them (10:10). And those of us who pursue life to its fullest are in danger of being damaged by the same.

We have two basic options. One, we can live in fear, hoping that no one or no thing will pass by and cause further damage to our bruised reed or smoldering wick. To live in fear is to live with harsh limitations, for fear establishes the limits of our lives. If I’m afraid of heights, I stay low. If I’m afraid of water, I stay dry. If I’m afraid of change, I stay the same.

Option two is to live in faith. C. S. Lewis describes faith as “the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” Fear brings into question the security we once held because it has been disrupted by circumstances often beyond our control. Faith, on the other hand, reminds us that even though we are broken, God has not changed.

Even though the reed is bruised and bent, it is not broken. And even though the flickering candle is close to being extinguished, it still holds life. Fear interprets those images as near the end. Faith sees them as opportunities to stand again and be reignited. Our comebacks can be greater than our setbacks. Therein lies our hope.


  1. Anne Manning Boal says:

    “Our comebacks can be greater than our setbacks. Therein lies our hope.”
    To find strength to make a comeback…and know our comebacks will be different than we expected. And to accept that circumstances are beyond our control. Hope.

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