My family loves to travel, and my husband often reminds me that anticipation is an integral part of the overall experience. Booking a spur of the moment cruise or snagging a last minute deal on flights just isn’t as fulfilling to him as planning and researching for months ahead of time. I suppose there is a joy in the waiting that adds to the overall joy of the journey itself, but I have to admit that waiting is not easy for me. Patience is a virtue I have never possessed in any quantity.
Ironically, the worst kind of waiting, in my experience, is waiting for God. It really doesn’t make any sense. God is the one and only one who can be counted on to follow through with any promise He ever makes. But for me, waiting for Him is filled with all sorts of temptations, lies that can sound an awful lot like “common sense.”
I have struggled for I don’t know how long with one lie in particular, and I know I don’t struggle alone. A dear friend and I once attended a retreat for women in ministry, her time away coming right on the heels of my weekend away. Both retreats were hosted by the same woman and followed the same general outline: identifying lies of the enemy that had slipped into our hearts and allowing God to replace them with His truth through our repentance. One day, shortly after, my friend and I went walking on a deserted beach on a bitterly cold day, to process our experiences. As we hesitantly revealed to one another the paramount lie that weekend retreat had unearthed in us, we were stunned to discover we were kindred spirits of sorts. We had shared the same lie — that nothing would ever change.
I fight this nagging voice more often than is probably socially acceptable to admit. It tempts me to give up on expecting God to ever do anything of significance. It tells me, rather matter of factly, that nothing will ever change because I will never change, that I shouldn’t expect anything amazing from God because that will only make me disappointed when my life continues to be small and aimless. And disappointment like that could dash my faith and shake my trust in God. It tells me to be realistic, to be “content”. Only, contentment to it means being resigned to the worst case scenario in order to spare myself any huge let down. How ridiculous! It might as well say, “Let go of trusting God in order to preserve your faith in Him.”
No matter how you slice it though, waiting is just plain hard. Living between a rock and a hard place indefinitely is exhausting. But what if the point of waiting is not just to hold on white-knuckled until God shows up and there’s some big answer to our prayers and everything finally falls into place and makes sense? That kind of arrival and cessation sounds more like death than life, doesn’t it? What if waiting is actually the place where we are meant to live and thrive? What if learning to hang on God and His every word, day after day, is the very thing that renews and strengthens us?
There is a curious verse in Isaiah 40:31 that says,
…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. – Isaiah 40:31
The enemy of my soul would love for my faith to wither away to nothing with the weariness of waiting. My Lord though? He wants to renew it — smack dab in the middle of the wait. Is that even possible? It seems so from these words of Isaiah. I wonder if waiting on God is different than waiting for God? Perhaps the difference lies in where my attention is turned while I wait. Am I pointed toward God Himself, or am I actually more focussed on the things I long for Him to do for me or give to me?
Waiting on God, for His words of life, for each and every little thing He has for me each and every day, a life of constant expectation of God’s presence and provision along the way, come what may, seems to be what mysteriously renews my strength for this earthly race. Someday the walking and running will come to an end; the wait will be over, for all eternity. Until then, according to Isaiah 40:31, renewal comes in the waiting, the trusting, the hoping — not in the realization of those hopes. That’s good news! And it doesn’t sound anything like the whispers of my enemy. It sounds much more like the life-giving words of my Saviour who sustains me, whose grace gives me wings for the wait.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
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.
– Isaiah 40:28-31