Are you tired of having to wait?
Not like in line at the grocery store. I mean tired of waiting to get pregnant, tired of waiting for deployment to be over and get a good shower, tired of waiting for that Mr./Mrs. Right, tired of working a job you hate, tired of looking for a new home, tired of the burden of sorrow, tired of the chronic pain, tired of fighting through the traumatic memories.
The God who speaks to you in the Bible has comfort for you in the pages of the ancient book of Isaiah, as he lets you overhear his conversation with the nation of Israel.
God’s Conversation with Israel
At the beginning of the conversation, God reiterates his people’s complaint:
“Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God?’” (Isaiah 40:27 ESV)
God’s people complained that their life circumstances were unknown to the Lord. In fact, some took their grievance one step further. They felt as though their situation might be known to the Lord, but that he chose to ignore them; he “disregarded” their circumstances.
After acknowledging their complaint, God gives his people a reminder of what he is really like to reorient them in their distress (v. 28-30). God’s response ends with these famous words:
“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 40:31 ESV)
And in his conclusion, God exposes the root of his peoples’ questioning in his answer to them, when he tells them, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”
They were tired of waiting for him.
How to Wait When You Want to Give Up
The people receiving this message were exiles, living in Babylon, displaced from their homeland, and discouraged by God’s discipline that had come upon them for their rebellion. They wondered if they spent God’s mercy by their sin or exhausted his promises in their rebellion. They were wondering when they would go home, and if God would welcome them back. With what little faith they had, they were waiting for his deliverance.
God’s answer to the exiles and to us is “wait.”
That is not what we want to hear. Waiting feels next to impossible because we’ve run out of strength. That’s why “wait” isn’t God’s only answer. Before he tells his people to wait, God reminds his people who he is to reorient their thinking in their suffering. He gives them four reminders about his character.
What are you waiting for today? These reminders are God’s Word to you, to give you courage as you wait on him.
The LORD Is Everlasting
“The LORD is the everlasting God…” (Isaiah 40:28 ESV)
What does this have to do with you waiting on God?
Israel complained God didn’t know their business or care about them. Here he reminds them that time itself is his creation and he bends it to his will. Their circumstance is under his control—the same is true of your circumstances.
You are waiting on the one who created time. If anyone knows how to handle clocks, it’s the Creator of time. If he could divide existence into days and set sun and moon in the heavens (Genesis 1:14-18), surely he can direct the moments of your life according to a good design.
In Psalm 33:14-15 David prays, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand” (ESV). Friend, our time is in competent hands.
We have to be okay that time isn’t in our hands. This is very hard for us to admit. It’s time (pun intended!) to relinquish control to the one who really wields it. You can wait because the Lord is everlasting, and thus his timing is perfect. He hasn’t forgotten, it might just not be time yet.
The LORD Is Creator
Isaiah says next that God is “The Creator of the ends of the earth” (v. 28).
In other words, life was God’s idea. Your life was God’s idea. You were in his thoughts before you ever came into being (Psalm 139). You may complain that God has forgotten you, but if you started in the mind of our Maker, you certainly haven’t left.
Nothing exists unless God wills it to. Your situation is completely in God’s control. It may be outside your control, but it isn’t outside his. Whatever he purposes comes to pass.
This can quickly discourage us because we tailspin into wondering why, why, why, and we complain at how he is handling things. This is where we need to hear God: “Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14 ESV).
We must let God be God. We can find comfort in the Who of God—that he is trustworthy and wise—as we wait to understand the “what” he is doing, and choose to leave the “why” to him.
If you’re particularly discouraged in this area, consider reading Job 38-42. Reflect on God’s character: what is he like, he who holds your life in his hands?
The LORD Is Never-Tiring
This God, our God, “does not faint or grow weary” (v. 28). We, on the other hand, faint. Even young men in their prime get tired.
The word “faint” here appears four times, which means it’s important. Perhaps the hardest part of waiting is how wearisome it becomes. We get tired of waiting. Our strength dwindles, our spirit weakens, and our heart loses power to keep believing. Waiting is hard and painful—or severely uncomfortable as our patience is stretched, our understanding strains, and our peace flees.
But get ready for a beautiful picture.
The God who never tires meets a person. This person falls exhausted frequently. In fact, they’re so weak they need sleep every 24 hours. They can’t live without food or water. They sweat when they run a little bit. That person is you. That person is me.
How would you expect such a strong person to respond to such a weak person?
“He [the LORD] gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might, he increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29 ESV).
God extends his hands to lift us up; he bestows his strength upon us. He does this for those who “wait for the LORD” (v. 31). In fact, he infuses us with his strength such that we don’t walk, we run and we soar, “carried by eagles.”
God doesn’t say “Be strong. Wait.” He says to wait, and when you can’t wait any longer, or when you fall exhausted, he promises to pick you up again. When you are exhausted, ask him for strength (Psalm 73:26). And he will give it.
The LORD Is All-Wise
Isaiah continues, “His understanding is unsearchable” (v. 28). That’s frustrating to us (or at least it is to me!). Ever try to play connect-the-dots with the circumstances God lands in your life to make some meaning out of it?
We often weary ourselves with searching out the unknown. But God knows all there is to know, including the deepest recesses of our hearts, and it does not overwhelm him or increase his blood pressure like information-overload does to you and me.
His knowledge is never maxed out. This means that God is always able to welcome your needs, desires, and concerns when your mind and heart are full. And he knows how to best address every one of your concerns.
Will you hand them over to him in prayer? As you wait, will you admit that you don’t know all the details, and choose to depend on the one who does?
The Wisdom of God
God wants to remind us in Isaiah 40 how we are different from him. When we are waiting on him, waiting for a trial to be over, we want God to be like us: to play life’s timetable according to our desires, to work in ways we understand. And when his paths perplex us, we think he must be neglecting us. But that’s not true. The everlasting, un-wearying, all-wise creator God has our trial on his timetable, our troubles in his control, and he tenderly bends to our aid when we tire.
The greatest proof of this is Easter. Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34 NIV). The wrath for all our sin was funneled down on Jesus. And with every last drop of strength he had, he loved us to the end (John 13:1), suffering under the weight of all the wrongs we ever did. Jesus fell as a young man, exhausted to the uttermost, into death. He let our sin and suffering crush him, so that we might have the hope of perseverance.
But the everlasting God, had even this in his hands. In his time, three days later, God gave power to the powerless and Jesus rose from the dead. Though the cross seemed like foolishness to many—irreconcilable to his disciples—it was the greatest display of God’s wisdom the world has ever known (1 Corinthians 1:18).
God has not forgotten you. He does not ignore your distress. He just addresses our concerns according to his wisdom, not ours. Keep waiting, and when you faint, start praying. The Lord will bear you up on eagles’ wings.