Strength To The Weary
Isaiah 40: 28-31 (NIV)
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to 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 the Lord 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.
Strength to the Weary
A few weeks ago, Lee and I had a tree removed from our backyard. It was a tall, beautifully shaped hickory that sat at the back of the yard, where we could see it in its entirety from our back porch or each time we walked out the back door to go somewhere. We could mark the seasons by its appearance, whether in full bloom or in the empty limbs of winter. It had glorious yellow- gold leaves in the fall.
I took a picture of it on a snow day in 2014, and that is the picture.
We knew that something was wrong when it never bloomed last spring and was bare all summer. We discovered that it had been infected by a fungus and had died. As I watched it being taken down, I felt an overwhelming sadness. Then I felt a little silly for getting so emotional over a single tree.
Were we not in the middle of the pandemic, with all the people we have lost and all the turmoil we are experiencing, I might have reacted differently. In any other year or at any other time, I might not have felt the loss of this tree so keenly.
But we know that’s how grief works. Sometimes it is specific over a single loss, but then it becomes mixed in with grief for other losses. A specific event can trigger grief over past losses, grief that is packed away most of the time.
The challenge of living right now is that many have suffered tragic individual losses, and in addition nearly all of us have experienced some collective loss. It is not all measurable numerically. How can you put a measure on the degree of fatigue, sadness, and loss of optimism that many now feel? The consensus is that things will be different from now on, but we don’t yet fully know how; we don’t even know what all we have lost and will yet lose.
We know that to be human is to experience loss and grief. And yet we know that God grieves with us. The familiar words in Romans speak to us about the nature of God. “If God is for us, who is against us?” Paul asks, and then proclaims “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Therefore as those who know God and are followers of Christ, we see the future differently. We know the nature of grief, but we also know the nature of hope. The gospel that we proclaim is not about death and despair, it is about death and resurrection. After death comes resurrection, and although the death is real, so is the resurrection. So is the hope.
The words in Isaiah remind us of the present reality that our hope in God gives us. We find renewal. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength,” the NIV version tells us, using the word hope rather than the traditional ‘wait.’ Isaiah reminds us that those who hope “will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
We grieve, but we do so with hope. Soaring on wings like eagles? That may be for later. Right now we will just walk and not be faint, we will run and not be weary.
A Hymn that speaks to this is, “Hope of the World.” The words say:
Hope of the world, thou Christ of great compassion, speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent. Save us, thy people, from consuming passion, who by our own false hopes and aims are spent.
Hope of the world, O Christ o’er death victorious, who by this sign didst conquer grief and pain, we would be faithful to thy gospel glorious; thou art our Lord! Thou dost forever reign.
God renews, and will renew, our strength. Thanks be to God. Amen.