“When We Cannot Go On”

Isaiah 40:21-31

The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

“God gives power to the faint, and strength to the powerless.  Even the young will fall down exhausted, but those 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.”

Those words from this morning’s lesson from Isaiah were originally written for the people of God who were living in exile in Babylon, nearly six hundred years before the birth of Christ.  However, though they may not have been written to us or about us, they have always held an important word of hope for us; the hope that, no matter how overwhelmed or exhausted, depleted or defeated, weary or empty we may be, the God who is with us, and for us, will give us new strength for each new day; the strength we need to go on, even when we are sure we cannot; what this morning’s lesson from Isaiah calls, “the strength to walk, and not faint.”

Which, as you will, no doubt, have noticed, is the strength which came in last on Isaiah’s list.  At the top of Isaiah’s list was the strength to fly like an eagle, followed closely by the strength to run like the wind, followed lastly by the strength to walk and not faint; just enough strength to stumble forward, go through what we did not get to go around, and keep moving, even when we are most certain that we cannot.

I cannot speak for you, but, as for me, I believe that when Isaiah put that kind of strength, the strength to walk and not faint, at the bottom of the list, he was actually saving the best for last.  In my experience, when life is at it’s hardest and worst, there is nothing better, in all the world, than the strength to walk and not faint.

Somehow, in those moments, when the strength to walk and not faint is all the strength we have, the strength to walk and not faint turns out to be all the strength we need.  In the hardest and worst, most paralyzing and unbearable moments of our lives, strength turns out to be the new joy, and, walking, the new running.