"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,ESV)
I’ve heard it all my life. Be patient! After all, they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength, etc., etc. Blah, blah, blah.
I hate waiting. When forced into "wait mode" I'll usually still try to find something to "do." When traveling and camping out at airports between flights and during the flight, I'll have books and magazines at the ready, as well as my laptop. As someone has noted, the secret to patience is to do something else in the meantime. In other words, fill up downtime with some sort of "productive" activity; just keep busy and preoccupied during those gaps between one thing and another thing.
But I don't think that's the point of what Isaiah is saying in these verses. Busyness does not renew strength or provide eagle's wings. Gap filling busy-work is usually tedious. Tedium drains rather than energizes. So what is Isaiah's point?
Simple: Wait. Specifically, wait on the Lord with a sense of expectation.
Now, to get a better idea of what this means, take a look at how "wait" is defined in the dictionary (American Heritage): "to remain or rest in expectation; to tarry until another catches up; to remain or be in readiness." Included in the definition is a suggestion to take a look at the word “stay,” which includes in its definitions complementary meanings: "to continue to be in a place or condition; stay home; stay calm; to remain or sojourn as a guest or lodger; to stop moving; to endure or persist; to stand one's ground; remain firm; to cease from a specified activity."
Whew! Sounds like there's a lot of work involved in waiting! Actually, just the opposite. Our cultural conditioning tends to prompt us to always be doing something. To make things happen. To create our destiny. To be a self-made person. To grab for gusto. In other words, do everything except actually wait on the Lord.
We are called to do as the Lord directs us through His Holy Spirit. But just as there is a time to do, there is also a time to not do! Take a look at Ephesians 6:11-18. While there are several things listed that we are to do, we are also instructed to, " take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore...."
Wait. Stand. Trust. Hope. Doing these is tough stuff. Especially when you want something to happen. Yet, God will put us smack dab in the middle of a "time out" of sorts, not necessarily as discipline, but rather to remind us that without him anything we "do" is pretty pointless and empty.
What's the best response in times like these? Well, I don't have all the answers figured out, but I think part of the answer is found in Psalm 37:4-5: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act." And then add to that, Psalm 46:10, which states simply: “Be still, and know that I am God...."
Like I said, I hate waiting, especially when I want something to happen. It's hard to remain calm. It's hard to remain hopeful. It's just plain hard! Yet, if I allow myself to just rest in his care, what comes to mind are all the times in the past when he has provided exactly what I needed when I needed it, all without my help!
Being still and waiting doesn't feel productive, but it could just produce some amazing results in the long run.