“It was a cold Sunday morning with over a foot of newly fallen snow. We were in a classroom setting for a short burst of instruction before taking to the ice covered hills yet once again. In recent days many had parachuted into their training operations, or soon would. We all had run until our bodies were screaming and our minds were numb. We all anticipated yet another patrol over the icy hills of northern Georgia later that day, all of us carrying sixty-plus pound rucksacks. In the large rustic classroom the Ranger students constantly played “jab right, jab left” to keep one another awake.
Just as one of my battle buddies had jabbed me in the ribs to stop my head bobbing I heard my name, “Ranger Dees, front and center…” with further explanation that the Ranger chaplain from a nearby town was snowed in and couldn’t reach us for a brief worship service scheduled before our departure for yet another round of patrolling. The Ranger cadre, most of them combat veterans who knew the power of faith even though they seldom mentioned it, recognized that I was a man of faith and could perhaps give a sorely needed word of encouragement. For me, it was not some grand or noble task; rather, “the training just kicked in” — when I was squeezed, out came Scripture.
In what was certainly divinely inspired relevance, I simply recalled from memory and explained Isaiah 40:31:
“Yet those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength,
(We sure needed it!)
“They will mount up with wings as eagles,
(Sounds like airborne operations!)
“They will run and not get tired,
(“All the way and then some!”)
“They will walk and not become weary.”
(Give me some of that!)
This became a teachable moment. Future rangers and experienced cadre alike were struck by the relevance of God’s Word to the nitty-gritty of life. Even today, some of those fellow Rangers recount this as the day that “God broke through,” allowing them to recognize that faith is not for sissies; faith in the foxhole is for tough Rangers and all others who have to dig deep as they lead others to accomplish tough missions, as they live warriors’ lives of fighting, getting wounded, bouncing back, and fighting again.”
(Excerpt from Resilience God Style book, pp 112-114)
The COVID19 restrictions in America have been extended another month, at least. This is also a “teachable moment” for each of us. This news in a human sense pushes us towards discouragement, impatience, anger, and a “woe is me” mindset. WAITING IS HARD, particularly for those of us accustomed to instant coffee, drive through food, the 24-hour news cycle, and 5-day Z-packs to heal infection. Yet, WAITING IS A CERTAINTY OF LIFE and a historical reality.
Consider Noah who waited for the flood amidst public ridicule, or Abraham who waited for a promised son despite his age, or Ruth who waited for God’s plan to be revealed as rescuer of the Jewish people. Also consider WWII troops fighting until it was “over, over there,” or their waiting and working families on the homefront. Or consider each of us, waiting in varying degrees of social distancing and quarantine. While waiting is hard, the results of not waiting could be personally and nationally disastrous.
Just as with hard core Rangers, God’s WORD is relevant to each of us in the days of COVID19. When we addressed this topic of waiting in mid-February, we emphasized in Are We There Yet? that such waiting can be a “carefully disguised opportunity” in a number of ways. For instance, we highlighted the opportunity to:
- ASSESS FACTS (v. paranoia) in order to make wise decisions,
- Use the time of waiting to LISTEN TO GOD AND OTHERS,
- FOSTER AN OBEDIENT SPIRIT, and
- INVEST IN JOY while waiting. WORSHIP the Lord with expectation and gladness.
Last week we ended our blog with the verse above, Isaiah 40:31 “… those who WAIT upon the Lord will gain new strength…” Let’s dive deeper.
- If you look at different Bible versions, you will see that “WAIT” is translated in some as trust or hope. TRUST in the Lord, and you will renew your strength. HOPE in the Lord and you will renew your strength. All are different reflections of the same principle also reflected in Proverbs 3:5,6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” In these days of COVID19, leaning totally on self is a prescription for fear, frailty (weakness), and failure. Conversely, leaning on, trusting in, hoping in, waiting upon GOD is how we gain new (RENEW) our strength! Paul Tournier said “We fall the way we lean.” Let’s all lean in the right direction in these days of adversity for all of us!
- “WINGS AS EAGLES” is a powerful metaphor in a number of ways. As mentioned in an early blog: With Height Comes Perspective. As well, “MOUNTING UP” with wings as eagles implies intentionality, purpose, and action — even if it is our civic duty to protect self and others by being physically inactive. Mounting up implies preparation to go somewhere — it reminds us of our calling: What is God’s calling for you and for me during this time of COVID 19? Reach out to others? Invest in family? Regain spiritual perspective? Model resilience and patience for those around you? Rest? Refill our Well of Courage?
- It is interesting that adult eagles molt each year, renewing their plumage, allowing them to continue to soar over time, to “stay the course.” Isaiah 40:31 also speaks to this: “They will run and not get tired.” In short, WAITING, trusting, hoping in the Lord gives us ENDURANCE, despite the toughest of trials.
- Similarly, “They will walk and not get weary.” Walking instead of running is the way we PACE ourselves. There are times to go fast, and times to go slow. Either can drive us to our knees if we are not “Trusting in the Lord to Renew Our Strength.” May God give us a keen sense of pace, recognizing that our “battle” may not end soon.
As I close, the verse which precedes Isaiah 40:31 is also instructive:
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Perhaps many of us reading this are growing weary in waiting, or weary in well-doing. Our self-sufficiency may be proving inadequate as we recognize our human strength, wisdom, ingenuity may not be sufficient to keep the virus off of our doorstep, or provide the strength to respond properly if we do become infected. We may also be “stumbling badly” in how we are dealing with the isolation, or we may be attacking the very ones we love, or ditching healthy lifestyle choices, or frozen in place until economic recovery occurs, or resorting to a hypercritical attitude towards those seeking to protect us, or huddled in oppressive fear and anxiety as we wait for a future none of us can control. These are the human challenges and temptations we all face.
May we instead “Wait upon the Lord and HE will renew our strength.”
May we all WAIT WELL.
Respectfully in Christ,
So what about YOU?
Do you have any tips for “Waiting Well?”
Any life experiences when you could have waited better?
We are all in the “wait mode” now? How are YOU dealing with this?
Share with us in COMMENTS below.