Thursday, December 4, 2008

Waiting for New Strength

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

                        Isaiah 40.31 


“Anticipation is making me wait; it’s keeping me waiting,” Carly Simon sang so splendidly in her 70’s classic. And as the anonymous sage said, “Anything worth having is worth waiting for.” But it's easy to wait for something we desire. Waiting for what we need is another thing entirely—definitely not anything to sing about. When we anticipate needs, we provide for them in advance so we won’t have to wait. It’s only when unanticipated needs arise that we’re plunged into the waiting game. These are times when anticipation turns into its ugly alternative, anxiety. Once anxiety rears its head, fear and doubt soon follow.

After lavishing Israel with extraordinary promises of its coming Redeemer, Isaiah wisely intuits the big question on everyone’s mind: When will He get here? Given the perpetually repeated pattern of invasion, occupation, destruction, and rebuilding before the next enemy attack, Israel’s concept of a Messiah has long ago morphed from heartfelt desire into desperate need. Still, Isaiah doesn’t know exactly when the Savior will appear. So he changes the subject from a promise with an undetermined delivery date to a matter of urgent importance.

Immediate Needs

Like Israel, we frequently fix our sights so far into the future we overlook immediate needs that threaten our perseverance and patience as we wait for the big prize—finding a life partner, financial security, social and family acceptance, equal rights, etc. We grow weak and weary and disgruntled, focusing on signals that discourage us from holding fast to God’s promise He’ll come through in the end. Until then, we’re in dire need of new strength and tenacity. If we lose heart and let go, the “big things” God wants to do for us will never come about.

Isaiah preempts Israel’s question about how long it must wait on God by questioning how well it knows God. In verses 28-29, he asks, “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.” Though our faith falters and our stamina fails, God continues to move, full speed ahead. His reasons and methods are beyond our comprehension. In the meantime, He meets our immediate needs for new strength and power.


Solomon observed, “The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9.11) In other words, a lot of uncontrollable factors come into play as we wait for big things. The question isn’t when will they come to us. It’s when will we get to them. Endurance is what’s most crucial here. Jesus said, “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10.22) And, in verse 30, Isaiah points out not everyone who seems likely to go the distance makes it: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall.” But, he says, they that wait on God will receive new strength. They’ll soar like eagles. They’ll run without getting tired. They’ll walk without feeling faint. God’s great promises require great endurance. When our resolve starts to weaken, waiting for new strength becomes the short-term solution to guarantee long-term results.

It's not when great things will come to us--it's when will we get to them. To shore up our endurance, God meets our short-term needs for new strength.

(Tomorrow: Stargazers) 


FranIAm said...

I love what you say about when things come to us versus when we get to them.

This brings to mind how God initiates all and then we must respond. This is true from the glory of the cosmos to the having a baby grab your finger for all that it is worth.

What a blessing. Thank you.

Tim said...

Hi Fran! From the cosmos to a baby--what an extraordinary image!

I know we commonly say God "gives" us wonderful (and sometimes not-so-wonderful) things. But from personal experience, it seems more accurate to say He "places" them and then leads us to them. What constantly amazes me about this is how much knowledge and wisdom we gather along the way. I believe that's why Isaiah tells us if we wait, we'll gain new strength to keep moving. If we just sat around waiting for blessings to be handed to us, we'd be--shall we say--rotund and oblivious!

It's always delightful and insightful to get your perspective! Thanks.

Joy always,

johnmichael said...

I've always believed that endurance and patience go hand in hand. Without patience, you can have endurance. The words are almost synonymous aren't they?

Growing up and even now, I was/am a very rewards now person. I've always looked for instant gratification in all my endeavors. For the most part, I've been taught to wait. I've been taught patience by this waiting. Yet still I struggle with the desire to have answers now. I guess it's something that will change with time.

Tim said...

John, I apologize for not responding sooner--been running like a madman, trying to catch up on everything that fell behind while I was gone.

That instant gratification impulse is a killer! Not only does it stir up impatience and anxiety while we wait, it often creates feelings of dissatisfaction that drive us to give up altogether. Although my success with this is about 50-50, before I throw my hands up and walk away, I try to remember what Jesus says in Luke 21.19: "By standing firm you will gain life." Answers we're waiting for are already there, waiting for us. If we hang in there, we'll get to them when the right moment comes. Wanting them sooner than later is a normal thing. But getting them before we're ready to have them or really need them can bog us down with details and emotions we don't need to handle right now.

And, by the way, you're right--as you get older, you also get more comfortable with delayed responses. Sometimes you almost forget about what seemed so urgent when you asked for it, and when the answer comes it's a marvelous surprise.

Thanks for the comment, and have a great weekend!