I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
Isaiah 40:26-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.
27 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”?
28 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.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 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.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
There are different kinds of tired, aren’t there? You’ve experienced being tired when you have finished a project that you feel good about. You’re tired—maybe even exhausted—but you can say, “I’m tired, but it’s a good tired.”
And then there’s the tired you feel when you have worked hard and you just need to rest a while to get your strength back. You’re tired—maybe even exhausted—and that’s the extent of it. A little rest, maybe a nap, and you’re good as new.
And then there’s the tired you feel when you have been dealing with an emotionally difficult situation. It can feel like physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. This kind of tired often requires more than just a rest or a nap to recover. This one can take more time and often help from someone else.
And there is yet another kind of tired. This one can feel physical, mental, emotional, AND spiritual. The writer Kathleen Norris names this kind of tired. It isn’t depression. It is something else. She reaches back to early monasticism for the term: Acedia. She writes, “The ancient word acedia, which in Greek simply means the absence or lack of care, has proved anything but simple when it comes to finding adequate expression in English. Modern writers tend to leave the term untranslated…” Dictionaries define the term as “heedlessness, torpor, a non-caring state, the deadly sin of sloth, spiritual torpor, apathy” or as “a mental syndrome, the chief features of which are listlessness, carelessness, apathy, and melancholia.” [Norris, Kathleen. Acedia & me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life. Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition]
She goes on to assert that dictionary definitions such as torpor and sloth fail to do justice to the word. She believes a state of restlessness, of not living in the present and seeing the future as overwhelming is more accurate a definition than straight laziness. Another sign is a lack of caring, of being unfeeling about things, whether that be your appearance, hygiene, your relationships, your community’s welfare, the world’s welfare etc….She relates this to forgetfulness about “the one thing needful”: remembrance of God. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acedia]
Nineteenth Century Theologian Søren Kierkegaard described this in Either/Or: “I do not care for anything. I do not care to ride, for the exercise is too violent. I do not care to walk, walking is too strenuous. I do not care to lie down, for I should either have to remain lying, and I do not care to do that, or I should have to get up again, and I do not care to do that either. Summa summarum: I do not care at all.” [Norris, Kathleen. Acedia & me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life (p. 16). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition]
With this kind of tiredness in mind, we turn to today’s passage from Isaiah. Isaiah is really three books in one. The first 39 of the chapters are warnings of impending disaster. Chapters 40-55 (where today’s reading is located) are concerned with consoling the people of Judah for a disaster that appears to have occurred already, and this portion seems to have been written from the perspective of a prophet and people in Babylonian exile. The closing chapters, 56-66, appear to have been written after the return of the exiles to Israel in 539 B.C.E.
So, imagine yourself in the midst of Isaiah 40’s setting: You and other survivors of your people are in exile in Babylon, hundreds of miles away from home. Your king is gone. Your temple is in ruins. Jerusalem’s walls are destroyed, and wild animals roam the streets. Many family members and friends are dead or missing. Everything you hold dear is uprooted. Where is your God? You thought that Yahweh, the God of your people and of your ancestors, would have protected you from all of this, but it seems that the gods of the mighty pagan foreign oppressor Babylon must have more power than he. Do other gods indeed control the natural world and the destiny of nations? You do remember the word of the prophets who warned that Yahweh would bring judgment for your repeated idolatries, immoralities, and injustices, and especially for neglecting to trust alone in Yahweh. But if your God has punished so harshly, does he care for you? Where is God in this God-forsaken land? You are grieving. You feel profoundly discouraged. You are weary and weak in body, mind and spirit. As you anguish over these things with bitter tears and fears for yourself and for all you hold dear, you hear these words of the Lord:
28 Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the creator of the ends of the earth.
He doesn’t grow tired or weary.
His understanding is beyond human reach,
29 giving power to the tired
and reviving the exhausted.
30 Youths will become tired and weary,
young men will certainly stumble;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will fly up on wings like eagles;
they will run and not be tired;
they will walk and not be weary. (Common English Bible)
Are you experiencing a kind of exhaustion now? May hope in the Lord renew your strength today.
There is a lot of theology woven in to hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “On Eagles’ Wings” by Michael Joncas (1979). I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul. Listen to this hymn on Sound Coud.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster