One of the recurring themes of the Psalms is the question, “How long, O Lord?” That seems particularly relevant given the times we live in. But it wasn’t just the Psalmist who raised this question while enduring hardship. Its a theme that runs through the Old Testament that also serves as the context for one of the more familiar verses of Isaiah.
The setting of Isaiah 40 is a prophetic word of hope that is offered to a people who are preparing for exile and captivity. Israel’s deportation to Babylon is one of the key events for the people of God who had once been delivered from slavery in Egypt. The prophet voices the questions of the people in chapter 40:27: “O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say that God ignores your rights?” Those seem to been the questions that many people are asking today.
In the context of the setting, Isaiah reminds the people of several important truths about how to endure suffering and displacement, first of which is to remember the strength of God. God has clearly demonstrated his strength in his creation. “Look up to the heavens, Who created the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, not a single one is missing. Because of his great power and incomprehensible strength, not a single one is missing. Have you not heard? Have you not understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding” (Isaiah 40:26, 28). One needs to look no further than outside their window to see evidence of God’s power. Its displayed throughout the universe.
The second word of encouragement that Isaiah offers is that God’s strength is transferrable. “He gives power to the weak; and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion” (Isaiah 40:29-30). This strength that God possesses is available and transferrable to those who seem to be in obvious need as well as those who are presumed to be strong because they are young. Everyone is succeptable to weakness and powerlessness. Everyone is eligible to receive God’s strength which is perfected in our weakness.
So here’s the key. “But those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary, They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). God’s strength is not only transferrable, its a renewable resource. And that strength is renewed through the process of waiting and trusting in the Lord.
Christine Caine once said that “Patience is my capacity to tolerate delay. Its trusting that God is good, that God does good, and that he knows what he’s doing no matter how long it takes; no matter what his purpose is.” Waiting enables us to find renewal and rest, which in turn allows us to reorient ourselves to our situation and realign ourselves with God.
“How long, O Lord?” As long as it takes. But waiting time is not wasted time. During our present challenges, remember that God is at work in our world as well as in our individual lives. You have what it takes to endure!