I love eagle watching. They soar above it all such power and majesty. At times I could even envy them, high above it all. Unperturbed by wind currents, even using them to their flight advantage. But it didn’t describe my life at all. My thoughts and emotions felt more like getting seriously stuck on a muddy country road, with help nowhere to be found. Before cell phones, that was a crisis.
The nation of Israel had been split in two and the second part is called Judah. The people there believe they are living the good life, but God knows it really isn’t working so well. They about to be conquered by an enemy and it won’t be pretty. God keeps talking to them through the prophet Isaiah, trying to show them where it isn’t working so well, trying to help them see where the consequences of their choices could prove disastrous. They were about to become seriously stuck.
Stuck in the mud
Like Judah, I didn’t really understand at all the impact of choices I had made, or what people had done or said to me. I didn’t understand how much my sense of who I was had been dramatically altered. I believed no one cared at all about my life; I certainly didn’t see any caring responses. I thought it was normal and how my life would be.
It’s amazing how our definition of normal comes, not from what God believes is to be our normal, but out of our life experiences. Like viewing the world with our noses to the ground. Nothing like soaring like an eagle. No wonder hopelessness, shame and worthlessness, bitter anger and fear prevail.
How could my definition of normal ever change? God sent some people into my life who modeled a much different normal. Some confronted me with some hard truth. Others were caring so I listened and thought about what actions I needed to take, what different choices I needed to make.
Still I wondered. It took time. Would God respond to me like that, too? Or was He so angry with my responses to life that it is all over? I finally began to see what God offered that helped me want to listen and respond to Him. Allow me to share what I’ve learned: I can soar like an eagle, and it is a blast!
God comforts us
Even though it’s taken me time to really listen and take different action, God keeps patiently waiting and caring.
Consider what He said to Judah.
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. 2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.” Isaiah 40:1-2 (NLT2)
Comfort. I heard that many times before I could imagine what God might be doing. Can you imagine God comforting you as you hear Him invite you to listen?
How does God comfort us? He speaks kindly, not harshly. He listens to our heart, to the emotions and thoughts that make it hard to respond to Him. He knows it feels like we’ve been punished over and over because, truthfully, life is pretty tough. But He has a better way than punishing you even more. Jesus, on the cross, took care of any punishment you and I deserve for our choices. God is not in the punishing business.
Key travel routes are the road to comfort
He invites us to listen to what He says. It makes no sense at first. A road in the wilderness doesn’t seem to have much to do with comfort. There were key travel routes in ancient days, used for trading and for moving from place to place.
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.” Isaiah 40:3-4 (NLT2)
“Wilderness” primarily means “speech,” and secondarily a wilderness. What do the words we use have to do with comfort and restoration? Our words reflect our thoughts, thoughts that are key travel routes in our minds. We easily go to some places in our thought responses to situations and people. Key travel routes like shame, worthlessness, self-pity, bitterness, or fear. Thought responses become easily traveled patterns.
I grew up on a farm and a path down to one of our fields was not paved or graveled. The tires cut deep grooves in the dirt so when I tried to drive down that path, the grooves seemed to control where I went. When it rained, the path became muddy and slippery. It was very easy to get stuck in the mud and the grooves. So like my thought pattern travel routes. I was stuck, desperately in need help to get freed.
Why listen to God?
Why trust Him a little bit and respond?
My father was a rather stern disciplinarian, a pattern learned from his father. When he was mad about something I had done, he would bark, “Look at me!” I didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to see the anger or hear what was coming.
God’s invitation is not at all like that. What does God do that would invite us to look at Him, to consider His words?
He acknowledges our human frailty. He knows we’re going to blow it. Yet, He never fails to honor His promise to us. That alone gets my attention. No matter what I’ve done, no matter how stuck in wrong thought patterns I am, He stays true to what He offers me. True to what He offers you. How tenderly He cares. He holds us so close to His heart.
The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.
Isaiah 40:8, 11 (NLT2)
What is God’s comfort?
God comforts from His absolute trustworthiness. He is always present with us, even if we don’t think so. Present to care, waiting to show us who He says we are, waiting to show us the abundant life He really wants for us. His definition of abundant living has proven to be far more than anything I had experienced before.
When I began to trust His wisdom, He kept patiently working with me so I could grow in understanding who He really is. He was not the distant, uncaring and mean ogre I thought He was. He kept patiently working with me so I could grow in understanding who He says I am. My thought patterns began to change. I realized He didn’t see me as shameful and worthless.
God does acknowledge pain and hurt
Jacob (or Judah) and Israel both thought God didn’t see their trouble and certainly didn’t care. Isaiah asked them why they continued to think like that.
“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? 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. Isaiah 40:25-28 (NIV)
Isn’t that like us? We see people who don’t act like they care and assume the same of God. Can God restore us to what He purposed for us? Yes, He can. He has been demonstrating that in my life!
God’s comfort finally got through to me that He did understand. He knew where I was stuck and all about how I got there. He knew every situation that caused pain. More than knew it as a fact, He experienced it with me.
His ability to rescue us from the mud of our flawed definition of normal is no less magnificent than His ability to create stars and to call them by name. They have followed the same predictable routes for centuries. I don’t understand God or how He does all of this, and I don’t have to. All I know is that He still does it.
Soaring like an eagle
If you are feeling beat up and weary of the hopeless you have felt, consider how God wants to help you. He’s waiting, not to punish or rail at you, but to lift you up, to give you a life and purpose beyond your wildest imagination. He starts right were you are, in your weakness and weariness. (photo by Carol)
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 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. Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)
I love to watch eagles soar above it all such power and majesty. How might you experience God’s comfort and begin to soar today? How can you take a small step to respond to God’s comfort?
Carol Boggess, author and speaker
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts