We are in the heart of winter. The single digit temperatures make leaving the house a brutal endeavor. The next fifty days are perhaps the most difficult for Chicagoans. The long slog of winter can be depressing and seem endless. Sunday’s text from Isaiah and a word from guest speaker Andrew Fields offered hope and motivation for anyone feeling the sting of a difficult season or whose New Year’s resolutions have already failed.
Isaiah 49 is a dialogue between an unnamed servant and God. The servant is Isaiah or Josiah or Jesus or Israel or anyone who has ever said, “All my work has been for nothing. I’ve spent all of my energy and what do I have to show for it?” The servant has thrown up their arms and is choking back the tears of failure. During the sermon, Andrew shared about a moment he and his wife Amy had during their time as educators in Honduras wherein cultural barriers and disheartening circumstances led to a sense of toiling in vain.
In the cold Chicago winter, it is so easy to limit our thinking to our own walls. A seemingly futile job search leaves you feeling like you will be perpetually unemployed. A miscommunication makes a relationship feel like it is forever lost. A 5-year plan comes and goes, unfulfilled.
The passage from Isaiah begins with a disheartened plea. We might expect an Old Testament God to unleash a chastising litany of reasons for the lack of progress. Or perhaps God will pat the servant on the back and help them set more achievable goals. But God is not so modest. He seems unfazed by the futility that has the servant fretting. He is not anxious. In fact, God says, "It is too small a thing that you should be my servant."
"Oh, don't be anxious about that. I've got far more in store."
God’s plans are no small plans.
The text reminded me of the Chicago fire and the rebuilding that took place in its wake. I love the famous quote by the chief city planner and architect, Daniel Burnham, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.” There may have been a temptation to think fearfully about how to plan for a city that had just been devastated. There was certainly mourning over all that had been lost, both over lives and a beloved city. But Chicago also had the vision to not let present defeats draft the plans for the future of the city.
In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis writes, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.”
The Christian God is not modest. He is the God of doing immeasurably more than our own expectations. He does not make little plans. Don’t let current circumstances give you tunnel vision. Don't let present defeats draft future plans.