How To Find Encouragement When You're Down

Bible Book: Isaiah  40 : 26-31
Subject: Encouragement; Discouragement; God's Compassion

How to Find Encouragement When You’re Down

Isaiah 40:26 - 31

Everybody has “down” times - times of discouragement - and there can be all sorts of causes. It can be brought on by feelings of inadequacy. In the “Peanuts” comic strip, Lucy had her “Psychologist” sign out, and she was counseling Charlie Brown. She said, “Charlie, life is like taking a cruise. Some people sit on the ship’s deck looking forward, while others sit on the deck looking backward. Which are you?” Charlie Brown said, “I can’t even get my deck chair open.”

But discouragement can be a very serious, debilitating thing - for any number of reasons. At times discouragement comes because of illness - our own, or that of someone we love. It can result from shattered dreams, or personal failure, or guilt. It can come as a result of bereavement, or a financial crisis. Discouragement can be work - related, or it can be due to a problem in one’s marriage, or because of a wayward child. The possible causes are endless - but no one is immune, and sometimes discouragement leads to downright depression. Indeed, I may be speaking to someone who is dwelling right now in the slough of despondency because you feel that life has caved in on you.

Well, thank the Lord, no one need stay down, because God’s Word shows us how to get back up. God’s remedy for discouragement can be found in many places in the Bible, but none more clearly, I believe, than in isaiah 40:26 - 31.

Many interpreters believe that Isaiah wrote these words prophetically, regarding a future time when the Jews would be living in Babylonian captivity. He was warning them of the despair and sadness they would experience, but he also told them how they could get back up again - how they could find encouragement in that “down” time.

Because the people had sinned against the Lord, It happened just as Isaiah had predicted. In 586 B.C. the Babylonians, after a long siege, invaded the southern kingdom of Judah; they practically destroyed the city of Jerusalem, desecrated the temple, and took large numbers of the Jews as captives to Babylon. So that’s where we find them in this Scripture passage - exiled from their beloved nation: they’ve lost their freedom, their homes, some have lost family members - and, perhaps saddest of all, they have lost hope. Here they are in a hostile environment, surrounded by strange customs and by people who have no respect for their traditions. They feel isolated and abandoned.

At that point the words of Isaiah ring out, and he says in the first part of verse 26, “Lift up your eyes on high….” - and when you and I are down, that where the road to recovery starts: by our looking up. Someone has rightly said, “Look around, and you’ll be distressed; look inward, and you’ll be depressed; but look up, and you’ll be blessed.”

Isaiah goes on, then, to call their attention, and ours, to three great truths about God - truths which, if taken to heart, would replace their discouragement with new hope - and these three truths will do the same for you and me in our “down” times if we will focus on them. First, he reminds them of…

I. God's Amazing Awareness

Verse 26 continues, “…and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their hosts by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.”

He is obviously referring to the stars - in fact, the NIV translates it “the starry host.”

Astronomers estimate that the universe contains more than 100 billion galaxies. They tell us that what we call the Milky Way is home to around 300 billion stars, but there are billions of other galaxies - some much smaller, but some of them even larger, as much as 20 times more massive, containing multiplied billions of stars.

Numbers like that boggle my mind! Many years ago, Senator Everett Dirksen, discussing the federal budget, said, “A billion here and a billion here, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money!

A scientist was lecturing about the solar system, and he said, “In a billion years the sun will burn out and the earth will freeze.” One ol’ boy in the audience, rather excitedly, asked, “How many years did you say before the sun burns out?” The scientist said, “A billion.” The ol’ boy said, “Whew! For a minute there, I thought you said a million.”

By using their super - power telescopes to study galaxies, scientists estimate that there are roughly 70 billion trillion stars in the universe - and yet the great God of this universe not only created them, but he named and controls and cares for each one. Psalm 147:4 says, “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.” Not a single one of them gets lost, and not a single one disintegrates or falls without his express permission.

Now, if God is so mindful of every single star, and knows each one by name, he most certainly is keenly aware of every human being. Regarding man, Psalm 8:5 says, “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.”

Thus, Isaiah says in verse 27, “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?” Isaiah was saying, “How in the world can you imagine that he is not mindful of you? If he tracks and cares for each star, he most certainly is aware of you, and is going to care for you!”

So, don’t let the devil “do a number” on you. Don’t ever think that you’re an insignificant speck in an impersonal universe, and don’t ever think that you’re no longer on God’s radar. There is never one second when God is not aware of you. He knows your name, your whereabouts, and your circumstances. He is looking at you right now - with compassion; he understands what you’re going through; he knows of your heartache, your pain, your disappointments, and our weariness. He is keenly aware of your every need - and he cares! - and furthermore, he stands ready to meet those needs!

But not only did Isaiah remind his countrymen, and you and me, of God’s amazing awareness, in that same connection he also reminded them, and us, of…

II. God's Awesome Power

Verse 28: “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?”

While some human power sources play out, God’s power is inexhaustible; Isaiah was saying to those exiles in Babylon, “When God’s time comes to deliver you and return you to your homeland, he will show himself mighty and do whatever is necessary to fulfill his promise of restoration.”

In like manner, he has the power to set you and me free from whatever enslaves us. All of us, in our natural condition, are in bondage to sin and bound for eternal hell, but Jesus shed his blood on the cross in order that we, through repentance and faith, might receive the gift of eternal life and no longer be condemned or enslaved. Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus said, in John 8:36, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

Of course the devil doesn’t leave us alone just because we’re saved. Although he can no longer have any control over our eternal destiny, he tries to lure us off the track of God’s will so as to rob us of our joy and our effectiveness - so, he constantly hurls his fiery darts to try to trip us up. But 2 Peter 2:9 says, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation….” 

He also knows how to deliver from unholy attitudes such as bitterness, lust, and jealousy, and from God - dishonoring, destructive habits and addictions.

The last part of verse 28 says, “there is no searching of his understanding.” God is all - wise, and knows exactly how and when to use his incomparable power. Psalm 147:5 says, “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding in infinite.”

I love verse 29: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” How far down can a person get and yet still be within reach of God’s help? The answer is, All the way down! Down for the count of ten! “To them that have no might he increaseth strength!” You may feel absolutely wiped out, beyond help; but not so! However far down you may be, you can, by God’s grace, get up again!

Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.”

Verse 30: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.”

No one, regardless of age or vitality or determination is immune to down times or to stumbling. But, praise the Lord, no one need stay down, because Isaiah goes on to remind the exiles in Babylon, and you and me, of…

III. God's Abundant Provision

That is, God’s abundant provision for enabling us to tap into his awesome power. There it is in a nutshell, in verse 31: “But they that wait upon the Lord [and that Hebrew word for “wait,” qavah, can also be translated “expect,” or “look for,” or “hope”] shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

To “wait upon the Lord” is the key to God’s power being unleashed in our lives - and “waiting upon the Lord” does not mean to shift into neutral and just “hang around”  around idly until he acts in our behalf. That’s not faith; that is presumption.

When you look at the various uses of that expression in the Bible, you see that “waiting on the Lord” has three components: (1) First, It means looking to him in faith for the ultimate victory in the battles of life. (2) Second, it means being patient, as we look to him to bring about that victory in his own time and way. (3) Third, it means that as we patiently look to him, we are to be active and aggressive, doing everything we can under his leadership to address those situations in which we are asking his intervention.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “God helps those who help themselves.” Well however trite it may sound, it is true.

The one and only area in which it is not true is in regard to salvation. There is not one solitary thing you and I can do to help save ourselves; all we can do is to reach out and receive salvation as a gift, by meeting those two unalterable conditions set forth in Acts 20:21, “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 2:8 - 9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

However, except in the case of salvation, it is true that God helps those who help themselves. It is most assuredly true in regard to overcoming temptation. The Bible makes that clear over and over again. For example, James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” We yield ourselves to God and ask him for victory, but he gives that victory only if we obey his command to battle the devil. One ol’ boy said, “I’ll fight the devil as long as I’ve got a fist; I’ll kick him as long as I’ve got a foot; I’ll bite him as long as I’ve got a tooth, and then I’ll gum ‘im tis I die!”

As we thus cooperate with God, trusting him for the final outcome, we have his assurance that “…they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength….” The Hebrew word for “renew” literally means “to exchange.” As we wait on the Lord, we exchange our weakness for his strength, our fear for his courage, our confusion for his guidance, our heartache for his healing, and our misery for his joy.

Isaiah says, “They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Those expressions means that God will supply exactly the strength we need for whatever the situation at hand requires.

But let’s go back to that second component of “waiting on the Lord” - being patient until God works things out in his own time.  For many, that’s the really hard part, because we modern day Americans are generally not very good at waiting.

A friend of Connie’s and mine had stopped at a red light, and when the light turned green his car stalled. He was grinding away on that starter, but it simply would not start. The guy in the car behind was impatiently blasting away on his horn. Finally, our friend calmly got out of his car, walked back to the car behind him, and said to the driver, “If you’ll come start my car for me, I’ll sit here and blow your horn for you!”

We get impatient waiting in line at the store, or waiting for the microwave to heat some food item. But if we’re going to experience the power and blessing of God, we have to come to terms with the fact that God’s timing is simply not necessarily the same as ours; but his timing is always right.

In John’s gospel we read that Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, was terminally ill; his two sisters were desperately hoping that Jesus would arrive soon and heal him, but by the time Jesus got there Lazarus was dead. Jesus went to the tomb and told some of those standing by to open the tomb by taking away the stone which sealed it. Martha didn’t understand what Jesus had in mind and said, “Lord, his body is decomposing by now, for he has been dead for four days.” But the stone was removed, and all of their sorrow and disappointment were banished, as Jesus miraculously brought Lazarus back to life! There’s a gospel song about that event, and the chorus contains this line: “Isn't it great that he was four days late, and still on time!”

He was late by finite human standards, but arrived exactly on time by the infallible standards of God!

A grandfather was taking a nature hike with his six year old grandson. The child was running ahead, and came to a creek. Afraid that the little boy in his enthusiasm might get careless and fall in, the grandfather called out, “Wait! Wait for me, and I’ll get you across!” Fortunately, the little boy obeyed, and when the grandfather got there he lifted the lad onto his shoulders and waded safely across the creek. When they reached the other side, the little boy said to his granddaddy, “If I hadn’t waited on you, I would never have made it across!"1

There are times in our lives when, even though we’ve sought to follow the right path, we come to un-crossable barriers - but if we’ll wait on the Lord and trust in him, he’ll carry us across. When we’ve done all we can, we can trust him to do what we can’t.

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength….” It might be that someone here tonight can’t have your strength renewed because you’ve never come to know the Renewer. This would be a good time to say to him, “Lord Jesus, I’m so tired of trying to fight life’s battles alone, and I’m so tired of being captive to habits and attitudes that are are keeping me down. Lord, right here and now I repent of my sins and in faith that you paid the penalty for my sins on the cross, I commit myself to you for time and eternity.” Then claim his promise in John 6:37: “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

If you’re a believer who has gotten out of God’s will, this would be a good time to ask God’s forgiveness for your backsliding and to ask him to help you back on track.


1Grace Notes Sermon Ministry [from Evie Meginnson]