Strength to Wait
Have you ever been listening to a worship song and thought, “I don’t get it?” Or instead, maybe you thought, “No thank you!” That happened to me yesterday when a refrain from the song, “Wait On You” was playing. Though I was enjoying the melody and the performance, I felt my heart push back against the message. Why? The short answer is that I don’t like to wait!
I know I am not the only one in our current, instant-answer culture that hates to wait. But I was shocked at how the thought of waiting, as it was being sung repeatedly, was creating a discontented feeling in my heart. It was as though my soul was having a non-verbal argument with God.
God, I am tired of waiting.
I am tired of waiting on answers to my prayers.
I am tired of waiting for answers to my friend’s prayers.
I am tired of waiting on direction for ministry.
I am tired of waiting for this pandemic to end and this animosity over it to stop.
I am tired of waiting for people to respond to e-mails that need a response.
I am tired of waiting on big picture prayers and the day-to-day inquiries to resolve.
I am just over all this waiting!
Since the chorus of this song is based in scripture, I decided to examine it and hopefully discover a clue or secret that might help my heart.
Isaiah 40:31 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.”
I discovered that the Hebrew word for wait in this verse isqāvâ… it means to wait.
No big revelation here to help to my heart.
However, it is sometimes translated hope, and the full definition is to wait, look for, hope, expect. That was beginning to feel a little better; the idea that waiting can be hopeful and expectant sounds better than just a never-ending holding pattern.
My next step was to look at this scripture in context. Check out the Message version:
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. ~Isaiah 40:27-31
As I read this version, I felt like I was right there with Jacob…why would you ever complain, O Chris? Or whine? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
The book of Isaiah is divided into two sections, the book of judgement and the book of comfort. Chapter 40 is the first one in the comfort section. The whole chapter focuses on who God is – his incomparable nature, his impeccable character, his everlasting love for his people, his omniscience, his omnipotence; Isaiah lays it all out. God is supreme and he is supremely aware of Israel’s need.
In reading this chapter and Isaiah’s conclusion, I saw clearly that my problem wasn’t waiting; it was that my focus was completely wrong.
Gaze and Glance
Many years ago, I had the privilege of listening to Elton Gillam speak about biblical prayer. He imparted two concepts with such joy, that they still inform my Christian walk today.
The first one was to use the Bible as my prayer book; to actually read the scriptures and pray them out loud to God. Because he emanated a supernatural peace and joy, I knew that this type of prayer had to be effective.
The second was to fix my gaze and glance triangle.
He assured me that if I GAZE at God and only glance at my problems or needs, then those will shrink, or take on appropriate size in view of God’s supremacy.
But if I gaze at my problems or need and only glance at God, then the problems grow and seem bigger than they really are.
Many teachers and pastors talk about this gaze and glance concept. However, the way Mr. Gillam presented it, with joy and peace and a huge smile, it was easy to tell he LIVED this way. That is why his teaching still impacts me 25+ years later.
Wait ON God
My issue with the song wasn’t the lyrics, it was my focus. I pushed back against the concept of waiting because I wasn’t seeing any answers despite how desperately I was looking for them. All along God was trying to tell me that I should be waiting on HIM! Looking for HIM and not the answer.
Turning Isaiah 40 into a prayer changed my perspective completely. As I received the truth of God’s comfort & love for all of his people, I felt my body relax. As I contemplated his authority, his plans and his power, my heart became expectant and hopeful.
Now, I am singing “Wait On You” with the same joy the worship leaders had, and the same assurance Mr. Gillam gave.
And now, this is my prayer: I get it, God! You have NOT lost track of me; you care about everything that happens to me. You don’t come and go – YOU LAST! You don’t get tired or have to pause; instead, you are the one who energizes! So, I say YES and Thank you – I receive your fresh strength! I will wait, look for, hope, and expect it! In Jesus’ name. Amen.