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A Bruised Reed


Sometimes I can convince myself that days I sleep all the way through are spent in my body healing- creating new neuropathways that will help me function healthily when this anxiety and major depression are through. Most of the time, though, I just feel useless. I recognize I haven’t done anything worthwhile for my family, my community, and my Lord because my body did not have the willpower to stay awake.

This might be the most shocking thing about depression. I, a woman who has always been doing lots of things pretty successfully, suddenly can’t get stuff done. Seriously, I even have to bribe myself to take a shower! Without the promise of some kind of dopamine reward, I do not have the energy to get things started, let alone done! And even the things I know will produce that feel-good neurotransmitter I have trouble engaging in because I lack the initial dopamine investment. The lack of motivation- the lack of ability to DO anything- has really rocked my world. It’s really challenged my self-worth. That lack of “doing” is what I am most likely to break into tears about. On those regular evenings when I look back on what I’ve accomplished and “getting kids to and from school” is all that’s on that list.

Called out of productivity

Besides the things that I do as a homemaker, I am usually very active in reaching out to lonely women around me. I reflect on times I’ve been God’s hand of love by going to someone who is grieving or inviting an isolated woman over for coffee. Listening to others and responding with love and insight is central to my identity as God’s servant. This is my passion and calling in life! This is who I see myself as!

And yet for this season, God has called me to something else. To ask for and accept help. To humbly feel relieved that women are bringing meals to me. To acknowledge that I don’t have the energy needed to brush and braid my daughter’s hair, so asking an understanding teacher to be in charge of it is best. To be gentle with myself when I would rather try to stir up activity by guilting myself into action. Accepting the fact that my depression means I have no bootstraps with which to pull myself up.

He’s called me out of my usefulness into something else.

God’s view on the non-productive

Thankfully, I’m not the first non-productive servant God has had, so He has a stance on people like me. And, un-shockingly for those who know Him, it is one of gentleness.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out (Isaiah 42:3).

In Timothy Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, he explains these metaphors. A bruised reed is one that has been damaged in such a way that it will no longer produce. Instead, it is simply drawing resources. Thus a smart farmer would break it to keep all of the water and nutrients going for the plants that will produce. Similarly, a smoldering wick does not produce light but instead sucks up fuel that could be used for later. It would be good stewardship to put it all the way out.

This is what is so different about our God! His resources are endless. He does not have to carefully manage them, so He can be gentle to those who are non-productive. He knows He has abundance enough to be generous.

This has been so encouraging to me as I see myself drawing on resources without giving anything in return. God has this promise for me, the bruised reed. He sees me as worth His investment. Even if I am never again able to be productive, I have worth to Him. Even writing that, I hope with all my heart He will choose something else for me! Yet I yield to His will being done- that I will be whoever He wills me to be. To say that means I must adjust my view of meaning to shift worth away from what I produce. But when the Lord of the universe says that I’m worthwhile, that has greater weight than how anyone else, including myself, sees me.

Jo Leggett works in women’s ministry by leading Bible Studies, speaking at conferences, mentoring, and speaking Christ into women’s lives. She has a firm grasp on her own brokenness and that of the world, stirring compassion for those hurting. Her deep walk with the Lord has provided her life experience to recognize God’s enduring goodness despite the circumstances. She lives with her husband and four kids on the Navajo reservation.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. This is a beautiful post! Such a good reminder that our value has nothing to do with what we bring to the table and everything to do with God’s love. Thanks for writing this. I’ve definitely been in seasons of depression and lack luster productivity and I’ll forward this to others who are struggling in those areas. You are being used as an unstrument of God’s Grace even in your own winter of the soul season.

  2. Jo ~
    I just wanted to thank you for your incredibly honest and insightful personal reflection today. I have read through your post several times. You have truly given me a new perspective for my own brokenness that I have been dealing with for the last 7 years in April. Plagued with multiple physical afflictions requiring 19 surgeries and endless physical therapy, I have been forced to adjust many of my expectations, accept help, and reevaluate everything, including myself. Thank you for reminding me that in God’s eyes and in His unexpected, radical love, I am wanted. I am worthwhile. I have been chosen no matter what I am able to do or not do. Thank you again. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. ~ Liz

    1. Thank you. God was so gracious to me by sending me a godly woman with a debilitating chronic illness before my own hit me. I was so able to see her worth to God. And then He gently reminded me to see that worth in myself as well. It’s hard when our self-expectations get altered. And I’m glad God is with us so sweetly in our valleys.

  3. Thank you so much mother Jo Leggett.. I‘m a young pastor from India. I was actually reading Isaiah 42 nd chapter.. I have come across the word ‘ a bruised Reed’.I have read it many times but never focused on it . But this time I felt like to go deeper to understand this.. When I tried to know about it in internet I found your blog unexpectedly.. But this testimony and explanation is comforted me a lot… I have been feeling for past many days that I‘m not being productive being a servant of God like a ’ bruised reed ‘. . After knowing about this verse Isaiah 42:3 I found myself in it as you had found yourself in this verse.. ‘ A bruised reed He will not break’ and a smoking flax He will not quench ‘.. Wow ! It fulfilled my thirst… Thank you mother for sharing your life with christ…🥰🥰

    1. Bless you Pastor James! Thank you for your comment, which I will pass along to Jo. I am so glad that her sharing blessed you in this way. May our Lord continue to quench your thirst for Him!

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