Isaiah 40:31 says: “But they who wait for the Lord renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
This is one of the most celebrated and shared verses of the Bible. I’m sure you’ve seen it on greeting cards, framed pictures, and tees garnered with a picture of a soaring eagle.
If you’re like me you’ve had different responses at different times to these products. At one point you wrapped your hands on them anytime you found them. You got a euphoric inspiration from them. Then at other times these products exhausted you. You shunned them as superstitious, sentimental, or just flat out silly.
Though we oscillate between euphorically or exhaustingly responding to “soaring eagle” merchandise, this is not how we should respond to the truths in this verse. These are truths that promote waiting on God. They teach strength and endurance. Let me show you how.
Have you done a lot of strengthening exercises? I work out a few times a week, and I always find that I am chipper on the days when I work out. I feel pep in my step and a eurphoric sensation that I can take on any task.
It’s remarkable that God conveys that our waiting gives that same sensation. The practice of patience empowers us. It renews our strength. It’s kind of like a video game where the player is able to recover from attack by waiting and avoiding attacks. But it’s entirely different because we are not waiting from something we are waiting into something. We are waiting into the Lord.
Our wait is a wait into the Lord that strengthens us. Why is that? Well Isaiah 40:28 clues us in. Look at the beginning of the verse: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the Ends of the earth.” This verse tells us who God is. He is everlasting and Creator.
Thus, we derive strength from God because he is the one of unending strength. He outlasts all creation and is the source of all creation. All creation waits on him and depends upon him. Where creation has its start and stop, God doesn’t. So we can plug into God’s unending strength and be empowered by him.
Humans are puny and weak without God’s strength. Life’s troubles exhaust us easily, and it’s meant to be that way. The curse of the fall led to toiling work. Our toil is because of our turning from God, and our toil reminds us to turn back to him. So when we are exhausted from all of life’s troubles, we need to turn to God. That state of being turned to him and looking to him is an act of waiting; it brings endurance from exhaustion.
But we don’t just get exhausted from toil. We get exhausted from going, we get exhausted from not knowing, and we get exhausted from waiting. Toil is only part of it.
To fully grip how to develop the endurance portrayed in Isaiah 40:31 we can again look at what Isaiah 40:28 conveys about the character of God. Isaiah 40:28 ends by telling us more about who God is: “He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”
Now, when we look back at Isaiah 40:31, it makes more sense. Our endurance is borrowed from God’s endurance. Exhaustion from going is endured because God does not faint. Tapping into God’s tireless strength protects us from fainting. Furthermore, our exhaustion from not knowing what’s ahead is endured because God’s understanding is unending. We, then, trust that he knows what’s next for us.
Soar Like Eagles
Have you ever seen an eagle circling or soaring? They can hold their wingspan for a lengthy time and glide on the wind for what appears to be an interminable period. They look graceful, steady, and sure as they soar.
Do those words describe your patience? Graceful. Steady. Sure. Is that the picture of how you wait for the Lord? My patience falls far short of that description. When I don’t know what’s going on, when I am weak, when I am exhausted, then I am much more likely to look like a spazzed dog chasing its tail rather than a strong, enduring eagle soaring on the wind. You know why? A dog is focused on his tail.
Isaiah 40:28 and Isaiah 40:31 teach us to not be focused on ourselves but to refocus on who God is. Look at the enduring nature of God’s character and trust Him to provide strength and endurance through whatever toil or trial you face.
Joey Cochran, a ThM graduate of Dallas Seminary, is the church planting intern at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois under the supervision of pastor Joe Thorn. You can follow him at jtcochran.com or @joeycochran.