The hot waffle iron sizzled as my sister drizzled batter over each crevice and shut the lid. A few minutes later she had four steaming waffles stacked on a plate, with maple syrup and whipped cream on the side, ready to serve to her hungry kids.
My mouth watered as I stared longingly at this feast I could not enjoy; gluten and my body don’t get along. I sighed with that familiar feeling of frustration mingled with despair as I ate my fried eggs. Why does my body have to be so stupid? Why can’t I be like everyone else and eat normal food? I’m so tired of this!
A Battle Bigger Than Waffles
Feeling weary is not limited to a disdain for dietary restrictions. There are multiple areas of my life right now where I feel ready to throw in the towel.
The Christian life itself is in fact an uphill climb, a constant fight against sin. Ephesians 6 informs us that this struggle is much more urgent than fighting a craving for contraband food. It’s a fierce battle against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). We’re called to put on the full armor of God so that we can stand against the attacks of the enemy (Eph. 6:10–20). We can’t just give up.
Most days, however, I don’t wake up raring to go to battle. I feel tired, discouraged, or apathetic. But I’m reminded in a passage from the book of Isaiah that God is in the battle with me—to strengthen me in the midst of the fight even when I’m feeling weary or downright defiant.
So let’s look at this passage together in Isaiah 40. But we’re going to do something unconventional and work our way backward through the text! (You know how movies will have a flashback scene to reveal a vital piece of information and create that “aha!” moment just in the knick of time? That’s what I’m aiming for here.)
The last few verses of chapter 40 are familiar to most of us, especially if you grew up in the church. You probably have this framed on your wall or have seen it inscribed on an engraving of an eagle or something similar.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (vv. 30–31).
We cling to hope-filled, beautiful words like these. And for good reason! We want assurance that God will help us in our time of need. But these words are particularly meaningful when considered within the context. This call to hope in the Lord comes on the heels of some heavy, soul-searching questions. Back up a few verses and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? (v. 27).
Do you ever feel like you’re lost or forgotten by God? Yeah, me too. But in these moments of doubt and discouragement, there is still hope for those who “grow weary” or “stumble and fall.” Verse 30 said our hope and strength comes from the Lord. But the reason we can rely on this truth is because of the unchanging character of God described earlier in verses 28–29:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength (vv. 28-29).
We grow tired and weary. God doesn’t. This is good news! And it keeps getting better! Continue to drive in reverse through chapter 40, and you’ll find more reasons why you can confidently place your trust in God. He is worthy. There truly is no one like Him!
He is like none other on heaven or earth.
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 (vv. 25–26).
He rules over wind and sea, mountains and forest, man and beast.
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble (vv. 22–24).
His wisdom cannot be matched.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? (vv. 12–14).
He is gentle, relational, and loving.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, [close to his heart] and gently lead those that are with young (v. 11).
He is powerful and victorious.
Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him (v. 10).
He is stable, constant, forever.
All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (vv. 6–8).
The “Aha” Moment
These verses build upon one another like a grand crescendo, pointing us back to the reason we can trust in God’s character . . . the reason we can draw near and be held “close to his heart” . . . the reason we can confidently place our hope in Him. The reason is because of the good news heralded in verses 3–5:
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Matthew 3 tells us that this “voice” is John the Baptist, announcing the arrival of Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. God has prepared a way for us to Himself in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He’s straightened the crooked paths and lifted the weight off our backs. Like “Christian” in the classic allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, we are relieved of our burden through the power of the cross and equipped with everything we need to fight our enemies and reach the Celestial City (heaven).
God’s strength and hope can be yours, even when you’re ready to quit, because Jesus the promised Messiah came to earth, lived and died to take away your sins, and lives again to set you free—to run and not grow weary. His Word says that those who hope in Him will be renewed with strength. Guaranteed.
Of course, this renewal we long for will only be entirely complete once we’re in heaven in the presence of Jesus. Because we still carry in us the sin nature inherited from the first Adam, we grow tired and weary. We lose heart, lose hope, and yes, at times lose ground to the enemy. But Jesus knows this. He not only offers us strength and power to face our enemies, He also promises us comfort in His Word while we wait for victory:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 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 (Isa. 40:1–2, emphasis mine).
Friend, there will be all too many moments of weariness, failure, and doubt in our upward climb in this broken world. Waging war against our sin nature and the evil around us is exhausting business. But rest and rescue from the present battle is on the horizon! You can draw strength from the Prince of Peace because God has tenderly promised that this war you’re waging is as good as won—because Jesus already won it for you on the cross. It is this hope that enables you to pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus.
So run to your Creator who never grows tired and let Him renew your strength. Look to the everlasting God whose understanding and wisdom is more than you can comprehend. Fall on your knees before your Savior and find forgiveness and hope in the cleansing blood of Jesus.
Truth in Action
Knowing the truth is only half the solution. We must also live out what we know to be true. James calls this being “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22–25). So with this in mind, here are some practical suggestions for fighting the good fight:
- Remove yourself from temptation (or remove the temptation itself). A recovering alcoholic shouldn’t merely limit her alcohol intake; she must cut it out completely. Your sin is just as serious (and dangerous). Do yourself a favor—flee from temptation and pursue righteousness (2 Tim. 2:22; Mark 9:42–45).
- Remind yourself of the gospel. We should never outgrow the wonder and power of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Preach to yourself daily the glories of God’s grace. This reminder positions us to be ready to run the race set before us (Heb. 12:1–2). Paul describes it as wearing shoes on our feet (Eph. 6:11, 15). The gospel equips us, encourages us, and enables us to run and not grow weary.
- Immerse yourself in God’s Word. It’s difficult to preach the gospel to yourself if you don’t know it. In God’s Word is wisdom, life, and love. Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).
- Surround yourself with godly counsel and accountability. If you’re aware of a particular sin struggle in your heart, get help! You don’t have to fight it alone. Sin thrives in secrecy. But God made us for community (James 5:16).
- Entrust yourself to a loving Savior. We’re fighting a losing battle if we attempt to live in our own wisdom and strength. Jesus is tender and gentle and carries you “close to his heart” (Isa. 40:11 NIV). Come and rest in Him (Matt. 11:28–30).
I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD
If You Knew Your Future
God’s Sustainment of Matter and Life
The Hope of Surrender