Monday, April 15, 2024

Hope Again: Going from Broken to Soaring in the Storm of Life

My wife and I were traveling to see a musical in Charlotte, Mi Saturday. We’ve often felt a divine connection with the bald eagle. I recall numerous times when God would use the bald eagle to give me a nudge in the Spirit, or give me a sense of hope for the future. I saw eagles talon locking over my car on the highway once and it was right before Chelsey and I would become friends. I have eagle pictures in my house. My step-dad even got me a brass eagle as a gift, because he knows how eagles remind me of God’s promises and hope. It’s the same for Chelsey.

Anyway, we were driving and right over our car we saw a beautiful bald eagle flying. We’ve had some real struggles lately, along with many blessings, so it really spoke to both of us.

I had a period from December through early April where I had constant GI issues, high stress levels, and racing thoughts, ever since going off anti-depressants, after being on them for over ten years. I knew was time to move forward, but the process had left me miserable and struggling. Thankfully, it’s slowly getting better.

Have you experienced a season in your life when you were broken and weary? Did it seem to go on and on? Did it seem to never end? What were you feeling?

I can tell you about numerous experiences in my life when I simply longed for a hard time period, that moment, to be over.

You try to make the best of it. You try to keep a good attitude. But the storm rages. And part of you just wants out.

That brings us to the context of our scripture today. Judah was facing an enemy, Assyria that was threatening to destroy them. But God promises they will be ok.

King Hezekiah leads the nation through this hard time relying on God. But even he becomes deathly sick, but he cries out in prayer to God and God heals him. And Assyria is defeated by God, and driven away.

Yet Isaiah 40, our scripture today, speaks not only of the victories in the past, of Hezekiah and the victory over Assyria, but, it speaks of the future, a time when Judah would be in captivity in Babylon, but would then return home and rebuild the nation.

Have you ever felt like God doesn’t see you? Have you felt that God sees you, but your cause doesn’t seem to matter to Him?

Did you cry out to God? Did you pray? Did you ask God what was going on?

I can think of many circumstances in my life where I cried out to God and said to God, "What are you doing? Where is your help in my time of need?"

We all have to learn something about how God acts in our lives: We can’t predict what he’s going to do. Our moral judgment about God’s actions in the situation are almost always incorrect. Don’t try to say, "Well, here is how and when God is going to help me."

God is very unpredictable, but it’s not random either. What he’s doing is very calculated and intentional. It’s most often intended to teach you something very deep or make an adjustment deep within you.

When you understand that, your trials and problems make a lot more sense.

So it starts out in Isaiah 40:27, with God saying to the nation, “Why do you complain, Jacob?”

You will find yourself in situations where you feel weak. You can’t move. You can’t function right. You are off. Not just for a day, but for a season. For a year. Even longer. You can’t function. You can’t make it.

Your heart grows weary, tired, cold, and you begin to lose hope.

We become like the eagle, sitting on the tree branch, unable to fly, or unwilling to fly.

And we complain, we cry out to God.

And God replies, “Why do you complain?”

The NIV renders it “complain” but it’s actually saying why are you speaking this way?

And it continues, God says..

“Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”?

That is the assumption, when we are going through something hard, and we pray and nothing happens, we think to ourselves, “Where is God?”

It’s at just those times when we need to be reminded who God is.

It’s easy to know “Jesus is my savior” when everything is going great. But it’s when everything is crazy we have to cling to the promise that Jesus is savior.

Let me tell you about the eagle. The eagle during a storm finds a safe place, a nest, a strong branch, and it digs it’s talons in tight.

Eagle talons are extremely powerful. Vets working with eagles have to be very careful because eagle talons can rip through just about any pair of gloves.

The eagle can sense the storm coming.

It may be a beautiful sunny day, but the eagle gets ready, finds a location and locks in. Pretty soon what was once the most beautiful sunny day becomes a bleak, dark, stormy, nightmare.

My dog Sammy, during a storm, he gets terrified. He clings so close to my wife Chelsey that she and him breathe as one. He's part border collie. A border collie can feel the storm in their bones. We Christians can also sense storms coming, in the Spirit. 

As Christians it can be one day everything is going great, and suddenly a storm roles in and we think alright, it’s time to grip on to the cross of Jesus Christ with those talons.

It’s time to cling on to God during the storm. And God will get me through.

We’re all trained to do that. But what do we do when the storm gets worse? Many of you know also, cling on even tighter. Hold fast even longer. Because God trains each of us. 

It's dark as night and the storm lasts so long. It seems like daybreak will never come. 

What happens when you see a light on the horizon, and you get all excited, but then you realize it’s a train light of a 30 car train headed straight for you, during the storm, and you’re standing on the railroad tracks?

What do you do then? Is it time to panic yet?

We each have reached a moment in these storms where we start to lose hope. What is your threshold of sorrow? When do you start to give up?

Isaiah chapter 40 reminds us of the comfort of God in these situations.

It says in Isaiah 40:1-2, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

The trial occurs. The difficulty occurs. The problem plays out. But it also does reach an end, where comfort from God comes.

And we are reminded by God about who He is. Because in the midst of the ongoing difficulty, we start to forget. We start to think, well, it’s just not going to happen. It’s going to fall apart. God has forgotten about me.

We know the scripture. But our emotions go to that place of, “it’s too late.”

But God appears and says to us: (v. 28) "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

God is still God when it seems like it’s over. When it seems like it’s too late, God is still God. 

These are human emotions. It feels real, I get that. It feels so completely real. But it’s not real. It’s not the end. It’s only just the beginning. Or, if it really is the end, it’s still only the beginning, because after even physical death comes new life.

There are different things we go through in life.

The context of Isaiah 40 is a nation, a people, a person even, who has been punished for their sins. They’ve messed up and they are being paid back for it. They are also at the same time receiving forgiveness. You can be forgiven by Jesus, but still have consequences in this world. Sure God forgave you but you can’t change the fact that you hurt that person in your sin. You can’t change the fact of the charges against you. You can’t change the fact that the family is in shambles.

That’s one area where we need to rise up in weakness. After Sin and forgiveness.

A second area is after a trial, God was testing you, it took everything for you to get through it, now you feel broken.

A third area, is spiritual warfare the enemy was attacking you, and you made it through but now you feel weak.

A fourth area, is common sorrow. Life is just tough, it wasn’t God, it wasn’t the enemy it was just bad stuff that happens in life.

Any of these areas can produce a crisis that leads to a spot of brokenness.

Depending on the storm that I go through, it can be one of two things, one, you find me clinging to the tree branch, clinging to Christ, I’m wet, I’m tired, but I made it through.

Scenario two is I’m smeared across the ground over there, in a gutter, drenched, face down in a puddle, in tears, ugly cry, and I’m just not ok. I’ve been in both.

In either of these scenarios, we come out the other side of our struggle, the other side of the storm, and that’s what we’re talking about today: What do you do at the other side of the storm?

The storm is over. But so are you. It didn’t matter that the storm was over because you were done too. As much as the storm disappeared, so has your heart and zest for life.

You have given up. What do you do then?

And why would God wait until you were over to ask you to start again?

Why does it take getting to the point that you give up to reach the goal? Is that some sort of cruel joke? No it is not.

God is bringing you to the end of yourself for the purpose of ending your “self.”

God’s deepest work in us can only occur in the deep valleys of the darkest sorrows of our lives.

It hurts so bad though, it’s so scary, it’s so desperate, that you honestly despair of life itself. I would just say to myself honestly, I hate my life. I wish I was not here. And you really mean it.

Have you been to this floor of the building?

There was an eagle that was raised in captivity, her name was Baekseol. She was a beautiful bald eagle, but she would refuse to fly. She would always walk around on her two legs, but never want to launch off and fly into the sky. What a tragedy! But she had become so accustomed to walking, so trained by life to think she couldn’t fly, that she began to believe it.

It took her courageous trainers to slowly teach her that she could fly and she could learn to love to fly again. And over time she did.

Similarly, in verse 29, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”

God gives strength to the weary. Notice who is giving, it’s God. It’s not us producing the strength.

We can’t produce the strength. It’s not there. It’s gone. We’re smeared against a wall somewhere and it hopeless.

God gives the strength. He increases the power level on your battery pack. It’s at zero. Only God can bring extra power.

We start to feel glued to the ground. We start to feel like we can’t dream again, we can’t hope again, but it’s not true.

God give us new strength, out of weariness. What does God have to work with there? Weariness. That’s someone who is fatigued. Exhausted. Tired.

This is a divine recharge, a divine reset. You go from weary to strong and from weak to powerful.

What’s the greatest example of this phenomenon of God bringing sudden change? The disciples from when Jesus was crucified, to the disciples after receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. They went from weak and broken, to powerful and heroic.

Can you dare to dream again? Can you go from clutching the ground, refusing to fly, to jumping off that log, and flapping those wings really hard, to climb back into the sky?

It says in verse 30, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall...”

This is a very clear acknowledgement and it tells me it’s cyclical, this cycle will occur in your life many times I believe.

You will reach moments when you’re tired and weary, even young men stumble and fall.

I’ve battled health problems the last few years that have kept me down, made me sick, made me fatigued, and after a few years of that you start to wonder, how can I keep going? I’m going to have to quit my job. I’m going to have to go live in a nursing home or something.

You long for the days when you played basketball and went to the gym and felt strong and healthy and able to fight the good fight.

If you’re here, don’t assume it’s abnormal. I thought to myself, “Something is wrong!” But it’s not. "God didn’t notice." Of course he does. He sees all. It’s not some abnormality, it’s part of the plan.

But then in verse 31, “...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

Here we find instructions on what to do: Hope in the Lord.

That’s our part in this equation. Do you want renewed strength? Hope in God.

Your instruction is to return to a place of hope in all the weakness and stumbling and falling.

What produces hope? In Romans, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, character produces hope.

Even if you’ve lost hope I think you can find it again in God. You dare to believe again. And that’s enough.

About two years ago I had lost hope in life. My heart had become bitter in ministry. It just so happened my then girlfriend and I had gone to a musical called "Pilgrim" based on the Pilgrim's Progress. After the play, one of the actors came and prayed with me, he played "Hopeful" in the production, and after that moment I found a new softness in my heart return. God can bring new hope out of bitterness.

Then we come to the promise, what happens then, God strengthens us, gives us new power, and then…

“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 goal then is to reach a place where we soar. We’re not sitting on the ground, we’re not flapping like crazy trying to reach the sky, but instead, we’re carried on the wind of God, by faith, we ride on the Holy Spirit wind, and it carries us up into the heavens, so close to God, that we soar on eagles wings.

In conclusion today, where are you at in all this? No matter where you are in this process, you can trust God.

Maybe you’re in a season in life where everything is going pretty awesome. That’s great, but always be ready to hold fast to the Master in a storm. But enjoy the sunlight.

Maybe you’re just going into a storm, if that’s the case, hold fast to the tree which is Jesus, and trust Him through the storm.

Maybe you’ve been in a storm for a while, and you’re waiting for it to pass. Keep trusting Him. But don’t try to predict when it will end. Just say no matter how long it lasts I trust in Jesus.

Maybe you’ve been in a storm for years, and you’re starting to lose hope. Hope again. Hope in the Lord. Don’t give up.

Maybe you’ve been through the storm, the storm is over, but you feel smeared across the ground and unable to move. You feel broken and weak and weary. Believe today, that God will be your trainer, to gently help you to see that you can be strong again and you can learn to fly again.

Maybe you’re just starting to lift off into the light after the storm, you’re believing, you’re seeing your strength grow, and you know that you will soar on wings like eagles.

No matter where you are, believe that God is the one who will restore your strength and give you hope again, so that you can rise up on wings like eagles, to soar in the open sky.

Let’s Review our Main Points:
1. Don’t try to Predict what God is going to do in your situation

2. Difficult circumstances may go on much longer that we hope

3. When you sense the storm coming cling tight to God through Jesus

4. Let God’s word remind you who He is (He is I Am- all power)

5. When it feels like it’s over remember God is greater than emotions

6. Difficulty can be after sin, trials, spiritual warfare or common sorrow

7. After the storm you may feel unable to fly (Hope in God again)

8. God is bringing you to the end of yourself for the purpose of ending your “self.”

9. At the right time God will give renewed strength & recharged power

10. Brokenness becomes hope (flapping) that leads to victory (soaring)