"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:10).
This verse — often said during Advent — comes from the Book of Isaiah, one of the latter prophets in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament.
Isaiah, whose name means "the Lord saves," is sometimes referred to as the "prince of prophets," according to the website Bible Study Tools. It is unclear if he wrote the entirety of the Book of Isaiah — but the events in it are believed to have occurred about seven centuries prior to the birth of Christ.
The message in this verse is especially relevant given the seemingly bleak state of the world right now, said Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., of California.
Spitzer is a Jesuit priest, president of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith, host of "Father Spitzer’s Universe" on EWTN and an author.
With wars and ongoing violence in several countries, "the unraveling of moral teaching" and cultural divides, "we might think that our world is coming apart at the seams," said Spitzer.
"It's so easy to fall into a sense of gloom and even hopelessness," he said.
A person may even wonder, "Is there any warrant for resisting or even fighting this urge?"
"Isaiah thought so," said Spitzer.
At the time the verse was written, "Israel and Judah were overshadowed by Assyrian domination, Judah was rife with internal political conflicts, and to make matters worse, Syria and Israel invaded Judah," noted Spitzer.
Despite all the chaos and destruction, Isaiah "paradoxically prophesied consolation for God's people near the near term and in a future Messianic age," said Spitzer.
This prophecy was not because he was "naively optimistic" — but "because he trusted in the Lord," he said.
The trust that Isaiah had in God, said Spitzer, was "certainly" warranted.
"God saved His people not only from Assyrian domination, but also Babylonian and Hellenistic domination — and then, as Christians believe, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, into the world not only to proclaim a better future, but also to initiate an eternity of consolation and joy through His Spirit, word, Church and unceasing providential care," he said.
People today, especially during the preparatory season of Advent, should also have trust in the Lord.
God, said Spitzer, has the ability to "turn darkness into light, discord into peace and hatred into love."
"When we think of the many crises, famines and plagues that gave rise to transformations of culture, technology and medicine as well as the many injustices and wars that gave rise to better governments and individual, political and economic rights, it’s hard to resist the thought that Isaiah’s prophecy is brought to fruition by Jesus’ promise of His Father’s loving providential care until the end of the age," he said.
Humanity "should never abandon hope, fall prey to fear or slip into darkness," said Spitzer.