Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from theLord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlastingGod,
the Creatorof the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strengthto the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in theLord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
I don’t know how you’re feeling at the moment, either just today or generally, but I feel quite exhausted at times.
The overlay of COVID19 on our lives means that we are having to do a lot of extra thinking anytime we do something. Remember to take a mask out with me; remember to wash my hands regularly; remember to leave space between me and others; consider whether my journey or purchase or shopping visit is necessary; do yet another meeting on a virtual platform; try to remember what the current guidelines are on meeting other people… and it’s all on top of the usual stuff of life. And if you’re in a working role where COVID19 is having a significant impact on what you can and can’t do or how you do it, it’s another layer altogether.
My own strength runs out. My capacity for understanding and patience is limited. My temper gets frayed ridiculously quickly at times. My compassion for others gets stretched to breaking point. I’m human, and those are some of the limitations of being who I am, and there is more change to come.
Some of that change will be positive, some of it not so much. Some will be short-lived; some will have a longer timeline. Some of the change will be instigated by me; some of it by others. Some of the change will be permanent; some of it will be temporary.
I have to confess that there have been times during the past seven months when I’d say I was absolutely shattered, and the thought of engaging with something new and different, again, was so unappealing and unattractive I could have easily ignored or resisted it, even recently when we started to do all of the thinking about meeting at the school again. It just seemed like it was going to be too much.
In Isaiah chapter 40, the prophet was speaking to the people of Israel who were exiled at the time and, in one way or another, were expressing an attitude that they either felt they were outside of God’s vision for them (‘my way is hidden’ in v27) or that God had given up on them (‘my cause is disregarded’). So, in the following verses Isaiah more or less reprimands them for having too low a view of who God is and what He can do.
He reminds them, with a rather incredulous tone, that JAHWEH is the everlasting God – all other gods (the unseen) are temporal and come under His authority, and that he is the Creator of the ends of the earth – that is that everything seen is also under his authority. In effect, whatever is going on either naturally or supernaturally is known by God, and he especially knows what is going on for them. Being God is what God does.
Isaiah then continues on the theme of the God’s being: God does not grow tired or weary – there is nothing that can outdo God, overstretch Him, sap Him of his energy and power, prevent His purposes from being worked out (even if they are frustrated at times). He doesn’t get bored, fed up, angsty or irritable as a result of what is going on, because His resources are limitless. No one can fathom his understanding – the mind of God is so incredible and awesome that there’s almost no point in trying to comprehend it (other than to appreciate his majesty and compassion). But Isaiah doesn’t stop there. He then moves onto the nature of God: that he is loving and caring for his people.
God knows our circumstances. He knows how we are feeling right at this moment about all that we are coping with, or not coping with. He knows whether we are feeling strong or weak; resilient or battered; confident or unsteady; fearless or fearful; worn down or pumped up. And for all those who are weary, He gives strength. To those who are weak he gives power.
Although he probably doesn’t need to, Isaiah reminds his listeners that even those who appear to have the most strength and vigour, that is, the young, grow tired and weary and then stumble and fall. It’s not simply the older generations that experience this. We can all, in different ways, become worn out to the point where we want to give up, sit down where we are and not go any further because it’s all become too difficult, too painful, too challenging.
BUT! Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Isaiah turns the corner and, like a child who does the same and suddenly sees their parent, is lifted up by the truth that when we put our hope and trust in God, he does sustain us, renew us, refresh us, re-establish us, re-energise us. He will do it. It’s not a self-improvement technique. It’s not a mindfulness approach. It’s not a ‘willing yourself into a better mindset’ effort. His grace and his love will renew our strength as we sit in his presence and gaze upon his face.
Not only that, but we will soar on wings like eagles, who seem to float effortlessly because they discover the warm updrafts in the same way that we can discover the ways of the Holy Spirit to lift us up. I’ve been doing quite a bit of running recently and I definitely feel weary towards the end, especially if I’ve been running hard and expending lots of effort to move. But Isaiah is saying that we’ll be able to run with God and not grow weary, to walk with him and not be faint.
We still need our sleep and our rest. Our minds and our bodies are temporal and require downtime to recover and recuperate. But Isaiah is telling the people of Israel, and us, that whatever we are going through, whatever changes may come, whatever battles we face, that it is to God that we go for the resources to navigate them, encounter them, engage with them.
Going back to what I said earlier about how I felt about the work to get us into the school again, three times since I expressed that sentiment to God someone has said these verses to me. It was only when I heard it again yesterday as another church leader prayed for me that I clocked (again) how willingly I try to do things in my own strength rather than rely on God’s resources through the Holy Spirit.
If, like me, you’re feeling somewhat weary and faint and you’re not sure how you’re going to navigate the next season, whatever that might bring, I’d like to pray for you now. Take a posture of receiving, for that’s what we do when we call on God, by opening your hands upwards like you do when receiving a gift, and maybe close your eyes.
Lord God, Heavenly Father. You created me and you know me. You knit me together in my mother’s womb and you rejoice over my life. As I sit before you now, you know all of the pressures, struggles and fears that crowd my thoughts; you know the angst and pain that troubles my heart; and you know the effort and exhaustion that saps my body of its strength.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, you died so that all the stuff of life, all of the things that are wrong with the world and in me, could be covered through your sacrifice and removed from me as far as the east is from the west.
Holy Spirit, you were sent by Jesus to help me in living my life for you, to enable and equip me to be someone who brings more of your kingdom into this world. I pray that in all that I am doing and grappling with at the moment, I would know your presence and your power, your strength and comfort, so that I am able to run and not grow weary, to walk and not be faint, to soar on wings like eagles.