“Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not grow weary;
they shall walk and not faint.”
Life in the middle is hard. Have you ever thought about that? Beginnings are exciting and hopeful. Endings are satisfying and joyful. But the middle? Often the middle is just hard. Our English language supports the argument. Here’s what life in the middle sounds like:
“I woke up in the middle of the night.”
“Times are hard for the middle class.”
“We need to cut out the middle man.”
“Our middle child is having trouble.”
“Middle age is no fun.”
“The Middle Ages were so dark.”
“We can’t find the middle ground.”
“I block out most of what happened in middle school.”
“My car broke down in the middle of the highway.”
“We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
There’s an idiom that describes life in the middle: caught between a rock and a hard place. That’s how we feel in the middle. At the beginning the path is clear. At the end, we know we made it. But in the middle of life’s woods, two roads diverge, and we’re faced with hard choices.
As a church, we find ourselves in the middle of the school year, in the middle of (a balmy) winter, in the middle of our Sojourn theme. How’s the journey for you? Perhaps the excitement of launching “Sojourn: Toward an Enduring City” has given way to boredom and weariness. These are understandable reactions to being in the middle. The excitement of beginning wears off, and we get bored. The exhilaration of running hard goes away, and we get tired. The resolve to finish well erodes, and we just try to survive. Our sojourn this year is a microcosm of our life as believers. The real question is: If you’re a Christian, how are you living in the middle—in the middle of your conversion and your homecoming, in the middle of Christ’s First and Second Coming?
Isaiah 40 offers comfort and hope for those living in the middle. The end of the chapter acknowledges what we’re up against as sojourners, but it also reminds us where to find the resources to carry on. In a sense, we should not be surprised if we’re tired. “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.” If the youthful and strong among us burn out in the middle, that’s bad news for all of our strategies to be good enough, smart enough, fast enough, and strong enough to make it on our own. In the middle, being self-sufficient is insufficient. In fact, the more we believe in our own wisdom and strength, the more likely we are to grow weary and faint. Why? Because there is only One who does not faint or grow weary, and you and I are not He.
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.
Weary traveler, do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the one who never wears down in the middle. He is the one who understands the way when nothing makes sense. The middle of nowhere is not nowhere to Him. Life in the middle requires ears that hear and eyes that see. We need to hear the Word of God reminding us who He is and who we are (and who we’re not). We need to see with Spirit-opened eyes that we are not wise or powerful in ourselves, but He is. As He opens our ears and eyes, we realize that the way up is the way down. “He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29). So will we acknowledge our weariness and confess our weakness? Life in the middle humbles us and breaks us down, but the Lord intends to meet us there and build us up in Christ. There is invincible hope for those who look to Him in the middle:
They who wait on 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.
You might say, “I’ve heard these verses before, but how can I really know that God is with me in the middle of my journey?” Forgive me the Sunday school reply, but the answer is one name: Jesus. The Alpha and the Omega left heaven and entered the middle of history. Jesus inserted Himself in the middle of our mess. He walked our roads, healed our sick, and confronted our sin. He came to be the Mediator—the Man in the middle—between a holy God and a sinful people. And to do that He died on a cross, in the middle of two thieves, to pay our debt and to make us His treasured possession. Jesus grew weary, became faint, and laid down His life so that we might live this sojourn in His resurrected power. In Jesus Christ, we have His joy in a new beginning, His hope in a glorious ending, and His grace for life in the middle.