A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
Isaiah 11: 1-3
Jesse was the father of King David (as in the David who killed Goliath), and it was through David’s line that the prophet Isaiah, among others, foretold a Messiah would be born. The generations from David to Jesus are listed in Matthew’s gospel. Isaiah was bang on the money.
I have struggled with depression since I was thirteen years old. The last few years things have been much better thanks to a combination of talk therapy, medication, the support of family and friends and some gritty self-discipline. But if I try- and I don’t need to try hard- I can summon a vivid memory of the darkness and despair that depression throws over your head like a hessian sack, before throwing you into the rapids. Depression robs you of perspective and it robs you of hope.
Those to whom Isaiah spoke of this man, this man Christians believe was to be Jesus of Nazareth, had no perspective. They could not see the hope that was being held out to them, because they were running at full pelt away from God. It tells us earlier on in the book of Isaiah that the Israelites had taken on the superstitions, practices and idols of the nations around them. They were putting their trust in wealth and home-made gods.
There are a lot of things we can put hope in – wealth being one of the obvious ones. Even in my worst times of depression, I held onto the belief that Jesus was real, that he was full of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, that he was stronger than I could ever imagine. I often didn’t feel any hope in anything except the thought that one day I would die. But Jesus, the Messiah spoken about centuries before his birth, still spoken about centuries after, was my lifeline. And he never lost hope in me.
Jesse was David’s father. David was Solomon’s. Solomon had a son called Rehoboam, and he had a son who had a son and so on. From this unlikely stump, a shoot grew; a shoot that still bears fruit. May you take hold of the hope that will never let you go this Christmas.
Jo is an author, speaker and editor of Preach Magazine. She lives in South West London with her American Vicar husband and their two funny little girls.
‘Depression robs you of perspective and it robs you of hope’ – sobering words from Jo today. Mental illness and depression affects far more people than you probably realise. Statistics show that in one year around a quarter of the population will experience a mental health problem. Chances are, someone you know is suffering. It is hard to support someone with a mental illness but staying in touch with them is so important and can make all the difference. Today, can you send an encouraging word to someone you know who is suffering in this way. It might be all you can do, but it will probably mean more than you can ever imagine.