Isaiah 40:25-31; Matthew 11:28-30
In a way we can see the reading from Isaiah as expressing a kind of youthful faith, a first-half-of-life faith, when we can run and not grow weary and we soar on eagle’s wings. There are all these obstacles to get over and we glory in that. We can jump tall buildings in a single bound and we must jump tall buildings in a single bound.
In a way we can see the reading from Matthew as expressing a mature faith, a second-half-of-life faith, when we can’t run anymore and we have grown weary and our wings are really tired and sore.
Isaiah is about effort and Matthew is about rest. Isaiah is about what’s hard, Matthew about what’s easy.
But this is a false distinction finally, and it doesn’t matter. Young men can “faint and grow weary, / and youths stagger and fall,” and it’s the Lord who renews their strength anyway, not anything they’ve done on their own or could ever do. Their strength is from God as is the rest that Jesus promises. The Lord gives us what is hard and enables us to bear it, and he takes away the burden when it grows too heavy. All is from him and all is through him, at whatever times in our lives, and all we have to do is open ourselves up.
The life of faith is both terrifically hard and terrifically easy. It’s both.
As Ruth Burrows puts it, “of ourselves we can do nothing at all. All that we do, our very uttermost, which nevertheless we have to do, is merely a preparation for that direct intervention of God which alone can bring us to himself.”