“… 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's wonderful lines regarding the renewing of our strength carry an even more encouraging message than we might immediately recognize. First, Isaiah compares our strengthening to the flight of eagles. Eagles have very large wings in relation to their body size – which doesn’t make them better “flappers” for flying, it makes them able to soar on air currents that carry them long distances and to great heights. They are wonderfully designed for this soaring flight and often spend only a couple of minutes out of any given hour actually flying on their own strength. In fact, without the air currents that lift and speed the eagle, it is actually not an impressive flyer. It requires a great amount of energy to flap those great wings and lift the large body, and it is as the eagle utilizes the power available to it from air currents that it soars and its strength is literally renewed and multiplied.
The analogy for those “who hope in the Lord” is obvious. We may be able to accomplish a certain amount on our own strength, but if we choose to accept the power of “the wind” (Acts 2:2), our strength is renewed and expanded and we can rise to much greater heights. But Isaiah doesn’t stop there. After comparing God’s strengthening of us to the flight of the eagle, he speaks about the strengthening of those who run and those who walk. These are clearly descending levels of strength and apparent accomplishment. Soaring is better than running, running better than walking.
We all have days when we feel that we spiritually soar with God’s help, others when we feel we are not that high, but are moving along steadily - running, as it were; and yet other days when we feel we are just plodding pilgrims slowly putting one foot in front of another. Some days, pain, worry, fatigue and failure take their toll on us, and we just don’t seem as spiritually energized. But that’s doubtless Isaiah’s point in the descending order of soaring, running and walking – God promises to strengthen us however our day is going.
In his excellent book If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat, John Ortberg makes the point that it is natural and not wrong that we have such widely different days. Jesus knew what it was to receive God’s strength to do His work on soaring days – days of healings and other miracles. He also must have experienced slower days when he had to cope with doubting and unbelieving friends as well as dealing with the hostility of enemies. And finally, Christ knew what it was like to need the strength even to walk – as he carried the heavy stake on which he was to be crucified. The truth is, if we seek God and stay close to Him, we can often soar – but we can’t always soar. Some days we soar and some days we just feel sore. As Ortberg perceptively concludes, sometimes it is just important that we keep going despite our weakness. In the last analysis sometimes it takes more character to walk than it does to soar. In those situations, Ortberg reminds us, maybe God prizes our walking even more than our running or soaring.