Where To Find Hope When You’re Sick of Death

Today I am sick of death. 147 people killed at a Kenyan university. 129 confirmed dead in the Paris attacks. At least 41 killed in two suicide bombings in Beirut. Here at home in my church, 5 people in or closely related to our congregation have died in the last two weeks of stroke, cancer, and double-pneumonia.

HopeFor one of the funerals, I’m asked  to speak on Isaiah 40:28-31:

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.

He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

These verses appear at the end of a longer hymn by the prophet, so I back up and read Isaiah 40:21-27 too:

Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,

and its people are like grasshoppers.

He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,

and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

He brings princes to naught

and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

No sooner are they planted,

no sooner are they sown,

no sooner do they take root in the ground,

than he blows on them and they wither,

and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

“To whom will you compare me?

Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:

Who created all these?

He who brings out the starry host one by one

and calls forth each of them by name.

Because of his great power and mighty strength,

not one of them is missing.

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”?

According to Isaiah, God is great, and we are like grasshoppers in comparison. God is eternal, and human life is easily swept away in a whirlwind.

In this life, those who have power don’t always use it well. Time and time again, people use power to destroy, to terrorize and oppress other people. Power is used selfishly to get more power or more prestige or more money, to get ahead of someone else, to put one nation ahead of another. Power can be disempowering instead of empowering.

But the greatness of God’s power means that God is also merciful. The great and eternal God cares for all creation–even the grasshoppers and the grasshopper people who complain and ask why?

The same mighty God who calls each star into being and names it, is the same gracious and merciful God who sees that not one of the stars is missing. The God who never gets weary gives strength to those of us who are ever-so-weary of all the things that we need to do, who are weary and worn out by death and grief.

In this life, we know that everyone gets tired, weary, and weak at different times. Even those who are young and strong may stumble and fall. Those who are healthy may succumb to illness. In this life there is discouragement, disappointment, and death. We’re still waiting for the promise of Isaiah to be fully realized.

But the day is coming, when those who hope in the Lord WILL renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

Until then, we find our hope in our powerfully great and merciful God–in the God who sustains the powerless in the face of  circumstances we can’t control, in our own personal lives and in the world at large.

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Categories: Church and Ministry

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9 replies

  1. April that is beautifully written.

    • Thank you April for those encouraging words. My daily prayer is: “God, give me direction in my life to radiate your love to all through actions, deeds, speech and thought.”
      April, you have always inspired me to follow in the ‘footsteps of Jesus’.

  2. April it was great to see you last weekend. We were at the worship time too! I’m praying that you will get time to rest and restore your soul. I am grateful for your gift to be with folks who are facing great losses. Peace, Kate Janzen

    • It was great to see you, Kate! And I was glad we could have supper on Friday since I didn’t get to talk with you on Sunday morning–thank you for worshipping with us. I appreciate your word of encouragement, and I think this week should be a little lighter so I can catch my breath!

  3. Thank you for this post, April. They hit home this week in light of the events in Paris and as we celebrate Eternity Sunday in our church tomorrow. I wanted to thank you for offering me some inspiration for my sermon.

    • I’m glad to hear that, Wendy, and I hope your sermon went well today. I hadn’t thought of the connection with Eternity Sunday, since we don’t generally celebrate it in my congregation, but Isaiah’s words would be very fitting. May God continue to inspire and bless your ministry.

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