29 He gives strength to the faint and strengthens the powerless. 30 Youths may become faint and weary, and young men stumble and fall, 31 but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint.
Long before our current, common-senseless cultural moment, long before the so-called revolutionary 1960s, and long before what is known as the Enlightenment, mankind has been on a quest for personal liberation. Or to hit closer to the heart of the matter—however worn the phrase—we have desired to be our own god. Much of the Bible is the story of mankind acting on that desire and that desire exacting its price. The modern heroic narrative of the sovereign individual is not so modern at all.
But the self-salvation project we are so desperate to undertake has never kept the promises it’s made. It never satisfies our deepest longing, and it will never set us free. The irony is that it will do the opposite. Whether it’s being at the mercy of Nebuchadnezzar or enduring the modern chains of anxiety, fear, depression and loneliness, our new boss is the same as the old boss.
Into our catastrophic plight enters the two most profound words in all of scripture: BUT GOD.
Isaiah’s message for the nation of Israel in Isaiah 40 is the same message we need today. He acknowledges and dispenses with our conceit, our thoughtless intellectualizing and our fetish of doubt. He seeks to restore our common sense as created beings and to calibrate our focus on the Creator. He urges us to lift our hearts and minds to the One who is sovereign and unchallenged amidst the confusion of human affairs and failures. God alone is able to free us, whether our chains have been put on us by others or are self-inflicted.
Isaiah echoes the promise that nobody falls from grace—falling is the beginning of grace. The powerlessness we feel is not helplessness and despair. Rather, it is proof of a thirst for a strength that can only be found in our weakness and for a power that alone can save.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- In what arena do you find yourself pretending you have it all together? Your family? Work? Social media? Church?
- How have you had the privilege of experiencing God’s power in your weakness?
- If you’re like me and you’re not sure you have, does the idea scare you?
Engage your kids in a contest involving physical feats. The goal of each exercise is to last as long as possible before wearing out. Examples might include: wall sit (who can stay the longest), jumping jacks (who can do the most), etc.
When everyone is sufficiently worn out, discuss that no matter how strong we are, we all get tired and wear out eventually.
Read aloud Isaiah 40:31, then discuss that God never gets tired or worn out. Reread verse 31, emphasizing that God is the one who gives us strength when we feel sad, discouraged, worn out, and when we have to do hard things. We can always trust in Him to give us what we need!