“I hate to wait…” used to be a frequent comment made by me. I was an impatient person, always wanting what I wanted now! Now that I’ve been a quadriplegic for almost 9 years, I’ve had a lot more practice waiting. Sometimes, I may seem to have learned the lesson of waiting patiently. But not always.
Take, for instance, breakfast this morning, my morning aid was not feeling well and was s-l-o-w-l-y cutting up my meal… It seemed like it took forever. She started well before Judy ever arrived at the table. Following the morning prayer, she continued as s-l-o-w-l-y as before. I sat there trying to be patient and understanding; I smiled and waited (impatiently). I wanted to say, “Give me the knife and fork – I’ll show you how to do it.” And then I remembered she was doing it because I couldn’t… I wonder if it’s possible to be good at waiting.
There are more serious forms of waiting than being impatient about a meal becoming cold. There are many life situations in which we are powerless and impotent. We simply must wait. Sometimes one may work very diligently on a relationship or project and then wait for a response or other developments. For instance, Did the chemo work? Does he really love me? Will I get the promotion? Did I learn that lesson? Etc.
Often, waiting comes at or near the end of a long and painful process. You feel fatigued and like you have exhausted every possible avenue available. You are at the end of yourself. You’ve done all you can, and you must… wait.
In preparing for a men’s Bible study, I once conducted in-depth research into the Hebrew and Greek words translated “wait.” What did I discover? Wait means just that – wait. There are no secrets; the term describes a ceasing of action, often anticipating a desired (or possibly undesired) outcome.
There are several biblical passages through which God helps us. One of these was brought to mind recently in a devotional given by Dr. Dan Borg to a group of pastors who are committed to helping other pastors in crisis. (Think: PIR regional representatives.)
Dan pointed us to Isaiah 40.31. Isaiah 40 includes an extended and lofty description of the grandeur and greatness of God. (I recommend you read it, as it celebrates the wonders of the LORD.) Verse 29 begins to describe one of the benefits of God’s greatness. He gives strength and power to the faint and weak.
Verse 31, explains how: … but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Let’s observe this teaching:
• Those who wait for the Lord renew their strength.
• There are three figures of speech or word pictures. The repetition emphasizes the certainty of God’s help.
• The word pictures show us how God gives strength:
1. They soar like the eagles. God gives extraordinary strength.
2. They run without being weary. God gives great strength.
3. They walk and do not faint. God gives us just the strength we need.
Let’s think about number 3 – God gives us just the strength we need. In my experience, this is the usual way God has given strength to me. This is the “sufficient grace” which the apostle Paul spoke of. “But he (that is, the Lord Jesus) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)
When we are at our wits end and think we don’t have the strength to go on, the Lord wants us to wait on him. When we pause and pray, God may answer in more than one way. He may give you extraordinary – supernatural strength for the task ahead. Or he might give you great strength to more easily endure your situation. Quite often, the Lord gives just enough strength to walk and not faint.
After finishing college, I entered the U.S. Navy for a stint of about five years. Following that, I enrolled in seminary/graduate school. By then, my wife and I had started our family. So, I ended up going to school full-time and working full time. I learned some important lessons during those years; here is one.
At the end of each week, I would be extremely fatigued. I literally had no spare moments from 5 AM until 11 PM. (Up at 5 to study, classes and study from 8 until 2, work at a meat processing plant (demanding physical work) from 2 – 8, dinner with family, 8 – 9, study until 11. My schedule was “well-balanced” between physical and mental activity!
One day near the end of a long week, I remember being so tired that I had to talk myself into getting out of bed. Once vertical, I put my shoulder on the wall and began trudging down a long hallway to the bathroom. Literally leaning on the wall, it seemed all I could do to walk its length to that necessary destination. I was so exhausted I didn’t know how I could continue, but I knew that the Lord had called me to this and would be my help. He did and he has throughout my life, usually one step at a time I walk with the Lord.
… they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
This encouragement was not given only to me for “they who wait for the Lord.” Trust him. Waiting works because God is faithful!