We are tired.
Christ-followers and non-followers alike. As humans, created by God, we are tired.
We do not rest well.
I’m not talking about the difficult days that come in each person’s lives that drain us physically, mentally, spiritually—or even the very good days, too, that can also be exhausting, in very good ways.
I’m writing words about the ordinary days that are packed with so. much. to. do.
Doctors. Lawyers. Shop owners. Single moms. College students. Garbage collectors. Pastors. CEOs. Teachers. Sheep herders. Program managers. Missionaries.
We are tired. And, I suppose, it is our own doing.
But we have to work. And work is good. So good. It provides for our families. It provides much needed services and goods for society. It provides care for those in need. For those in ministry, it provides gospel truth to souls.
I am so, so incredibly grateful for work.
But we are tired. I am tired.
Travel all day yesterday, then work till midnight, then up at 4am, and looking at a full day of meetings and “socializing” this evening (which is always so challenging), followed with more work tonight and more meetings tomorrow and more travel tomorrow and more meetings on Thursday and parenting responsibilities interspersed in there during breaks and commutes.
We are tired.
Isaiah 40…..um, yes. That would be a passage I tend to avoid. It’s not that I do not believe it is truth. All scripture is truth. But it has been taken and watered down and cross-stitched and hung on so many walls of homes and offices and printed on bookmarks that I gloss over it. Yeah, yeah, I know this one—“they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength”—-and, for good measure, let’s throw a picture of an eagle up on the wall next to the verse. Or a good eagle statue. Maybe I’ll put a picture of an eagle at the top of this blog post, for good measure
…..nope, nevermind. Can’t make myself do it.
But these words that I so often gloss over, are not any less true because of my habit of skipping them:
So, yes, the cynic in me rushes past these Isaiah verses in a hurry to get to something richer, something not so, I don’t know—commercialized?
But, today. Here I am. Here we all are.
We are weary.
Here’s the thing, though. We skip so much of the rest of chapter 40, to get to verses 30-31, that we miss exactly why verses 30-31 are more than cliche–more than “feel good verses”. Two things, actually, from the whole of Isaiah 40, have me looking at this in a different light, on this wearisome morning as I eat my cold biscuit and gravy from the hotel lobby:
Verse 28: Have you not known? Have you not heard?
This admonishment here in verse 28–it is almost a dressing down, a “preaching to”–and I need it. I NEED it. “What is your problem, Shelly? Have you not known? Have you not heard?” Of course I have. I have, I have, I have. I know truth. I know that He is the everlasting God. The creator of the universe. He does not grow weary, even though I think that surely I must weary Him with my sin, with my thick-headedness, with my ridiculousness.
I know. And, I know that He is the one that does and will renew my strength. It is He who will give me what it takes to do the work before me. So I need to do the next thing. Work hard. He is the God that renews.
And secondly, this:
This whole chapter begins with the comforting of God’s people:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord‘s hand
double for all her sins.
Yes, this is directed specifically to Israel—mired in a weariness that we do not and cannot comprehend. But, we have echos of that weariness in our own lives. Not on that same scale, though sometimes it seems similar—Wilderness. Sin. Wandering. (Let your love, Lord, like a fetter, bind our wandering heart to thee.)
Not the same, no. But echos.
But God’s call to Isaiah–his charge to him to speak tenderly to His people, that is key. Because God’s character does not change. And He longs to speak comfort to us, as well, in our weariness. Warfare ended. And the weariness of our sin–our iniquity–pardoned.
It is on that basis that we can find comfort. That we can enter the only rest that truly renews–His rest. It is the greatness of God, as described in verses 9-26 that provides the rest of the weary. We rush over those great verses, to get to “those who wait upon the Lord….” words. We miss the magnitude of the only hope for rest:
To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
Don’t. Miss. Who. He. Is.
Only when we recognize and acknowledge who He is, can we grasp what it means to rest in Him.