Discouraged? Don't Give Up!
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 (Isaiah 40:31).
The promise of renewed strength. If you have ever been really weary and tired, you most likely yearned for renewed strength. Isaiah here is speaking to a tired and weary people. Being weary and tired often leads to discouragement. In that state we find it difficult to face life, to make decisions, to take another step.
But God gives his promise: "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength." When we are in that discouraged state it is often difficult to imagine that we can have strength again, but that is what he promises us. Note that this is not a promise of rest and comfort - which itself would be wonderful - it is a promise of great strength and vitality.
This is vividly pictured for us through Isaiah's words: "They will sore with wings like eagles." When we are in this state, we often don't feel like getting out of bed, let alone flying. But fly we will! And like eagles no less! Other birds flap and flap, some don't even fly at all, but eagles soar to great heights by their strong, large wings as they ride the currents of the wind.
God says to the tired and weary, to the discouraged ones who doubt that God even notices their difficult situation, let alone cares enough to help them (Isaiah 40:27) - you will fly like an eagle.
Now this is not a blanket promise to everyone who happens to be discouraged, tired, and weary. These words are directed to those whose hearts are inclined in a particular way: "Those who hope in the Lord."
What does it mean to hope in the Lord. Many other translations say "those who wait on the Lord." The translation quoted above uses "hope," because that is the kind of waiting intended here. It is an expectant waiting. It is like waiting at a bus stop, fully expecting the bus to arrive at that location. Because of this expectation, the person waits and waits. In that situation, we would not think of leaving that spot for a moment, in case the bus should arrive when we are not there. So we wait and we wait.
The discouraged ones who will fly like eagles are the ones that wait expectantly for God. These are those who know that God will come through for them. Even though life has beaten them down, they will continue to wait for God to come through. From time to time they may be tempted to not wait for him any more, but they dread leaving their position of expectation in case they miss God. And so they continue to wait for him.
What does it look like to not wait for God? That will look different for each person, but in each case it would mean neglecting the things that he has directed us to do. We might turn to activities displeasing to God. We might take our situation into our own hands, no longer relying on God's leading. We might stop nurturing our relationship with God, thinking that praying, studying his word and gathering with other believers has no benefit. Whatever it looks like, it will clearly lack a posture of expectation.
What is so very important to understand is that the promise of flying like eagles is not given to the strong and the confident. It is given to the weary and to the discouraged (Isaiah 40:29). Who else would need such a promise? This is to say that even though we might be looking for God to come through for us, yet we are discouraged. This passage is clear that there are times in life when it certainly looks as if God is taking way too long before he helps us in our difficulties. In fact there isn't a promise here of a change of circumstances, only that of strength and the ability to keep on going.
This is the process: As we go through difficult times where God seems far away, if we do not give up on him, he will strengthen us, providing us with wings to fly like eagles.
Isaiah 40 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)
40 Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her: for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven: she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.
3 The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.
6 The voice of one, saying: Cry. And I said: What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the held.
7 The grass is withered, and the dower is fallen, because the spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it. Indeed the people is grass:
8 The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen: but the word of our Lord endureth for ever.
9 Get thee up upon a high mountain, thou that bringest good tidings to Sion: lift up thy voice with strength, thou that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem: lift it up, fear not. Say to the cities of Juda: Behold your God:
10 Behold the Lord God shall come with strength, and his arm shall rule: Behold his reward is with him and his work is before him.
11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather together the lambs with his arm, and shall take them up in his bosom, and he himself shall carry them that are with young.
12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and weighed the heavens with his palm? who hath poised with three fingers the bulk of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
13 Who hath forwarded the spirit of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor, and hath taught him?
14 With whom hath he consulted, and who hath instructed him, and taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and shewed him the way of understanding?
15 Behold the Gentiles are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the smallest grain of a balance: behold the islands are as a little dust.
16 And Libanus shall not be enough to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
17 All nations are before him as if they had no being at all, and are counted to him as nothing, and vanity.
18 To whom then have you likened God? or what image will you make for him?
19 Hath the workman cast a graven statue? or hath the goldsmith formed it with gold, or the silversmith with plates of silver?
20 He hath chosen strong wood, and that will not rot: the skillful workman seeketh how he may set up an idol that may not be moved.
21 Do you not know? hath it not been heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have you not understood the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he that sitteth upon the globe of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as locusts: he that stretcheth out the heavens as nothing, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.
23 He that bringeth the searchers of secrets to nothing, that hath made the judges of the earth as vanity.
24 And surely their stock was neither planted, nor sown, nor rooted in the earth: suddenly he hath blown upon them, and they are withered, and a whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
25 And to whom have ye likened me, or made me equal, saith the Holy One?
26 Lift up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these things: who bringeth out their host by number, and calleth them all by their names: by the greatness of his might, and strength, and power, not one of them was missing.
27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel: My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
28 Knowest thou not, or hast thou not heard? the Lord is the everlasting God, who hath created the ends of the earth: he shall not faint, nor labour, neither is there any searching out of his wisdom.
29 It is he that giveth strength to the weary, and increaseth force and might to them that are not.
30 Youths shall faint, and labour, and young men shall fall by infirmity.
31 But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.