Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
― A.A. Milne
We all need to remember this. We’re braver, stronger and even smarter than we think we are (not counting that one person we all know who thinks s/he is smarter than everybody). I’m not saying that we can all add 10 more items to our to do list, or taken on three additional projects or add one more obligation to our lives because we’re strong enough and smart enough to make it all happen. No, we don’t need to be reminded that we can do more. We need to be reminded that we are more. That we can cope with more. That we can endure more. That we are created in the image of a mighty God. That we are stronger than we think and so is our God.
The people in Isaiah 40 need to be reminded of how strong they are. While there is much scholarly debate about just who is talking in this second part of Isaiah and who is being talked to, most agree that it was written to comfort the Jews who had been taken into exile in Babylon about 150 years into their captivity. About the time that many were being allowed to return home. But after so many years, “home” was only something they had heard about. So an entire population of people who had basically been raised in captivity were about to return to a home they had never known. There must have been excitement, but it was probably overshadowed by the uncertainty and the fear of what they would find when they arrived…of what it would look like to live as free people in their homeland. The prophet is reminding them that they are stronger than they think, and that their strength is found in a God who is always with them.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The God who lives forever is the Lord, the One Who made the ends of the earth. Got gives strength to the weak and gives power to you even when you get tired and clumsy. Even when you feel all strength is gone. But if you’ll just trust in the Lord. If you can wait on the Lord, you WILL get new strength. You will rise up. You will run and not wear out. You will walk and not fall out.
In other words, you are braver than you know, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.
You are brave enough not to sit on the sidelines and remain silent in the face of injustice. You are brave enough to take a stand and raise your voice.
You are strong enough not to return hate for hate and violence for violence.
You are smart enough not to blame an entire religion or ethnic group for the radical actions of a few.
You are brave enough to admit your own complicity in the problems facing our world today and strong enough to love those who are not yet blessed with such self-awareness.
You are smart enough to know that even when other people’s hurt is not your hurt, their pain is still very real.
You are strong enough to hold on to hope and not be dragged down by despair.
In a world where there will be another “worst mass shooting in the history of America,” in a country where citizens are deeply divided, in communities that seem to be under attack from all the isms—racism, terrorism, sexism: Be not afraid. Have you not heard? Have you not known? You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. And the One who loves you and is stronger than anything you will ever encounter is with you always.
–Rev. Anne Russ