31 But those who wait on 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.
Maybe it’s just me, but some days the best thing about being alive is rest. I don’t think that was something I would have said 20 years ago. It actually sounds pretty pitiful to say it out loud.
“You know what I really look forward to? Sleeping!”
Wow, what an ambitious fellow. Sure, we all need it, and statistics say most of us don’t get enough rest, but looking forward to it still seems a bit lame. Of course, if you’ve ever been an insomniac or worked third shift, I bet you can identify. Or, if you’ve ever had pain that prevented you from getting a good night’s sleep, I bet you get it.
Another thing I don’t think I knew when I was younger, is that people really can and do change. Our dreams and goals change, even our personalities sometimes. This isn’t always a bad thing, but sometimes it can take us by surprise.
And I say this as I struggle to put together a coherent message, because writing hasn’t been easy lately. It was, once upon a time. Now, it’s usually more like trying to climb a mountain with cement blocks tied to my ankles. So, I started doing a little drawing, something I’ve neglected for about 20 years. Sometimes I do other crafts just to have a creative outlet because writing isn’t filling that need. We all go through these cycles, or at least that’s what I tell myself.
But, back to renewing our strength. Given that nothing in life stays the same, how do we remain strong? Our youthful vigor isn’t guaranteed to last forever. Even our talents can wax and wane. And waiting on God? Who has time for that?
Waiting on God to act might seem futile if we haven’t been walking with Him long enough to know who He really is. To know that He really does have our best interests at heart. If we’ve never yet seen him bring beauty from ashes. And even if we have, we have really short memories about such things. So, I go into default mode, which is rushing ahead and doing what my impatient desires demand. Which brings us to his power being made perfect in our weakness, which seems a tad weird, don’t you think?
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
What? I’m supposed to brag about being weak? I want to be strong in a pulling myself up by my own bootstraps way, not by being wimpy. Not by letting go of myself and trusting someone else. Why does he expect me to do the opposite of what comes naturally?
Jesus said: “28Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28
That doesn’t sound like growing wings and flying away. How do I balance that with my strength being renewed so I can soar? Unless, maybe this rest he is offering is the very thing that renews? Perhaps it’s all beginning to make an odd kind of sense after all. This rest can’t be a sitting around doing nothing kind of rest, because in the very next verse he talks about putting a yoke on us. No, not egg yolk. A yoke like you would put on oxen to plow a field. So, if you thought you were going to get out of working, I think you’re out of luck.
What we do need to leave behind in our anxious striving in the flesh that leads nowhere and leaves us feeling like a dog chasing a tail too short to catch.
…9There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10For whoever enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. 11Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest… Hebrews 4:10
Sinclair Ferguson says: “In speaking of this rest, the author consistently uses the same word for rest (katapausis) but suddenly here, he uses another word for rest (sabbatismos) used only here in the New Testament. In the context of his teaching, this refers to the Sabbath rest which is found in Christ. ( “28Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28)
What is this rest that Christ offers, since we have already said what it isn’t? It’s not a certain day to cease work, although that is beneficial to our physical well being, especially after a tough work week. No, it’s a rest from our self striving, our self sufficiency, our plowing through life on our own strength. Now, yes, meeting with God’s people in corporate worship once a week is an important part of all this, because it re calibrates our focus back on Him, something we probably shouldn’t need if we are daily resting in his sufficiency. But, we are all “Prone to wander.” as the song says. “Prone to leave the One we love.”
I really believe some people go so far and so long on their own strength, that one day they suddenly hit a wall and don’t want to take another step or get up to face another day. It can all seem rather pointless if we are only, as Solomon says, striving vainly under the sun. Suicide rates are alarmingly high, depression is high, drug use is up, and our technology just seems to add to the stress of life. Most people, I believe, are constantly connected, but rarely comforted. Real friends are a comfort, a resting place, a refuge. Superficial friends are just another stress to deal with.
The result of all this are a lot of lonely people wandering and wondering through life, unsure what their purpose is, or if they even have one. When they finally listen enough to hear Jesus saying to come to Him for rest, eternal sleep may be exactly what they envision and long for. As an old Waylon Jennings song says: ” Oh, how many travelers get weary, bearing both their burdens and their scars..don’t you think they’d love to stop complaining, and soar like Eagles out among the stars?”
Well, Isaiah seems to be saying that you don’t have to die to take that flight. That Jesus longs to give you rest, here and now, right in the middle of your problems, your brokenness and your struggle. This rest will lead to eternal rest, but again, not a lazy rest that does nothing. I look forward to endlessly exploring the new heavens and earth with eyes and legs that never get tired.
I picked up this saying from my Marine son: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Rushing through life like a headless chicken doesn’t accomplish much, no matter how much you get done, because it only leads to more discontentment. But working deliberately, in our jobs, our space here in this world, and in our souls, to always be moving forward at whatever pace God sets for us, while keeping our hand firmly tucked in His, that is a worthy goal.
1 Timothy 6:6 “Of course, godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.…
Being content with the basics, letting God choose the pace, not worrying about tomorrow,
(Matthew 6:34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.)
I hope this a useful reminder. I surely needed it!
Shalom, until next time.