“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 brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— 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.”
Have you ever been sick while traveling? It is my least favorite. I was on a radio tour up north when I started writing this song. We were visiting 3-4 stations a day in different cities to connect with radio stations and the incredible people who run them, and about halfway through our trip, I started feeling TERRIBLE. My throat was killing me & I tried to shake the feeling of fever creeping across my whole body by downing Advil every few hours. I rarely go to the doctor, but finally, on the third day, I told my husband and our radio promoter, Matt Ingle, “I need y’all to take me to a clinic.” It was a bad case strep throat. I cried. I was so bummed. My job was to talk and sing over the next few days and interact with incredible radio people, and it literally hurt to breathe and swallow. ( I’m starting to feel sick again just writing about this! Sheesh. ) I wanted to continue with the radio tour, but man…I also just wanted to fly home and crawl into my own bed.
I fell into the back seat of our car after our last meeting of the day, honestly feeling sorry for myself and very pitiful in general, and that’s when it came to me. I had been meditating on & trying to memorize Isaiah 61—“He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners…to comfort all who mourn…to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes”— and all of the sudden, instead of focusing on how bad I felt, I started focusing in on God’s promises. I sounded like a man with gravel in his throat, but the pre-chorus fell out of me and I sang it into my phone:
Whether I’m in want or plenty
Whether I’m in health or ill
Our God promises His children He will, He will
It turned into such a beautiful trip. One of my pastors used to say, “For every one look you take at yourself, take ten looks at Jesus.” This process has been so powerful for me over the years. And here I was again, in the middle of a busy schedule, sick as a dog, in a car somewhere up north. I felt so bad, but as I shifted my perspective from my circumstances to God’s promises, I ended up seeing God carry and support me in a way I never would have, had I simply stayed focused on myself.
This passage of scripture in Isaiah 61 is one of my very favorites. It is a prophecy about the ministry of Jesus, and it’s the same passage that Jesus later reads in the synagogue in Luke, 4. He reads:
“‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fasted on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” - Luke 4:18-21
Drop the mic, Jesus!
He is the fulfillment of these beautiful promises. He IS the good news, the Living Word of God. He is our chain-breaker, our healer, our rescuer, or burden-bearer, and our bridge from death to life. This whole record has been a process of God reminding me that He’s faithful even when we’re sick. Even when things don’t turn out like we thought they would, He will bring healing and hope. He WILL be who He says He is.
I got to finish writing this song with my brother, Ben Bannister, and it was so fun meditating on and singing out the promises of God, the very ministry of Jesus. We have a reason to “sing through our sadness” because Jesus has fulfilled this prophecy. He gives us beauty for our ashes. He restores the oil of gladness. He covers us with garments of praise instead of a spirit of despair, and as we remember who He is and all that He’s done for us, we are transformed into “a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor” (Is.61:3).