There’s a melancholy feeling I get whenever I look at an abandoned house. To some people, it’s just an eyesore. I see the former home of a million forgotten stories. How many little eyes peeped with wonder through window panes now lying shattered on the ground? How many footsteps trekked across floors now drooping under the weight of too many years? How many backs rested against walls now warped and skewed beyond repair? There were stories in those buildings…once. But the stories are gone, and the only thing left behind is the desiccated husk that housed them.
People, moments, possessions…like the sand in an hourglass, they all slip away to a place beyond our reach. No degree of love or desire is enough to hold anything back from that inevitable fate—though it rarely stops us from trying. For thousands of years, our entire race has been searching out a workaround. Explorers chased legends of a fountain of youth. Eastern religions sought a way to ascend beyond the mortal frame. Story tellers dreamed up time machines and alternate dimensions.
Even today, so many of our technological breakthroughs and scientific advances are aimed at that most elusive goal. We have machine-created tools engineered to last longer, go farther, and do more. We have medicines intended to slow aging, boost health, and counter sicknesses. We are calling upon the collective knowledge of entire civilizations in the hopes of halting the steady march of time.
But here we are. Still sliding down the hourglass. Still heading toward the point of no return.
Everything ends, and we can’t stop it.
The promise of renewal
Which makes it all the more incredible when God asks us,
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.
In a world where breaking down and falling apart is a matter of “when” and not “if,” we serve a God incapable of tiring. At the end of a long day, it’s easy for us to feel worn out. God can’t even be worn out by a long millennium. While the physical world around us is bound to degrade over time, God remains “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And what’s more, He promises us the very thing humanity has been seeking for its entire existence. He promises that those who hope in Him will renew their strength.
Renew! An impossible word. The law of entropy ensures that our physical universe continues to fall apart a little more every day, and yet here we have the promise of renewal. Of restoration. Of reclaiming something already taken by the sands of time. More than that, we are promised to soar like eagles, to run without weariness, to walk without growing faint.
A forgotten promise?
And yet…if we believe these words, where’s the proof? Certainly we would see this promise reflected in “those who hope in the Lord,” the faithful members of God’s Church. Throughout history we know that God has provided men like Moses, who lived 120 years without losing any of his vigor (Deuteronomy 34:7), and Samson, who had the strength to tear down an entire building with his bare hands (Judges 16:30). But where are the Moseses and the Samsons today? If the members of God’s Church are to “run and not grow weary,” then how can we account for those who suffer with illnesses and hardships? Could it be that God’s people just aren’t trusting Him enough?
I have a hard time believing that. What we need to consider about this promise is a point Paul raises in his second epistle to the Corinthians. He writes, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
As humans, we tend to get caught up in the temporary things—the things which are seen; the world we can physically experience. Paul reminds us that these things are perishing along with our physical bodies. What really matters are “the things which are not seen,” a world we can’t touch or see. Our physical bodies are perishing, yes—and like houses standing abandoned, we too will have a physical end.
Looking to the unseen
But the house isn’t the point. At the end of it all, the house itself isn’t what mattered. What’s important is what happened inside the house—the stories and moments that happened while it was in use. Our outward man perishes, but “the inward man is being renewed day by day.” When God promises to renew our strength, it’s something that happens internally. What happens to that physical body is a blip, the briefest of moments on a grand cosmic scale—what matters more to God is what happens to the inward man, not the outward. And so He strengthens us in building Godly character. He strengthens us in overcoming our sins. He strengthens us in becoming the sons and daughters who will live forever as spirit beings in His Kingdom.
If the promise of eagle’s wings was for this physical life, then we would have far more Moseses and Samsons today. But it isn’t and we don’t. More often than not, we have prayer requests for faithful servants of God who are finding their physical bodies racked with illnesses and maladies. Their outward man is perishing. Our outward man is perishing, and the entire universe along with it—but God is teaching us to turn our attention beyond the temporary things we see and toward the eternal things we can’t see.
The word of God isn’t going to keep you from aging. It isn’t going to keep you in perfect health, and it won’t prevent you from going the way of every single created thing since the days of Adam. You are going to die, and before that you are probably going to become very weak and feeble. It’s the common fate of the entire human race, and we can’t escape it.
Everything physical ends…but the physical isn’t what matters.
Paul wrote again about the inward man in another epistle, explaining, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19)
This is what matters. We’re not going to be physical forever. What matters is letting God, through His Spirit, strengthen our inner man. What matters is growing to become more like our Father and elder Brother. What matters is being rooted and ground in love and being filled with all the fullness of God. To that end, God promises that those who hope and wait on Him will have their strength renewed—the God who cannot grow weary will give us the strength to keep from becoming weary as we continue down the straight and narrow road and toward eternal life as sons and daughters in His Kingdom.
Paul concluded his passage with these words, and I believe they make a fitting end to this Sabbath Thought as well:
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Until next time,