“Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.”
-Teillard de Chardin
If you have been around church people for any more than a week you have probably heard Isaiah 40:31 quoted which says,
“But those who wait upon 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”.
This verse, or maybe the one before it, was even quoted in the movie “Remember The Titans” some years back. We love this verse. Of course, we hate heavy traffic, lines at the grocery store, and waiting more than five seconds for a page on the internet to load. Truth be told, we’re not a fan of long sermons either – even, ironically, sermons on Isaiah 40:31. What we do love, however, is when God chooses to act very dramatically and instantly on our behalf. Certainly, God does this from time to time, but not all the time. Maybe not even most of the time. Does this mean that God has forgotten? If we back up a few verses, in Isaiah 40 we read (vv.’s 26-27),
“Life up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?”
Israel was complaining that God was not hearing their complaints, or even seeing them! God responds by literally telling them to change their outlook – “look to the heavens”, He said. Once their heads were raised to the night sky, He informed them that He put the stars there “one by one” and named them all individually. In other words, He was not in a hurry when He created the stars and He is not in a hurry with them either. So “wait” says the prophet, “upon the Lord” – trust that He is working in your lives. Perhaps He is working one star at a time, but He is working both deeply and personally, calling “each by name”.
On separate occasions I have had both of my daughters ask me why all the trees died. This question, in both cases, was brought on by winter. All of the leaves had fallen from the trees and to young eyes it seemed as though the trees had died. I was able to tell them that the trees had not died and that by spring they would see God’s miracle. There was, however, a miracle happening at that moment but it would be imperceptible until spring.
Trees that loose their leaves are called deciduous trees and I’m told that these trees do not grow during winter. The roots of deciduous trees, however, do. So the trees that appear dead are actually growing stronger, right beneath our feet. Perhaps our lives are like trees (Psalm 1:3). Sometimes we think that God is not doing anything in our lives. We complain, “my way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”, all the while our roots our growing deeper. Our eyes don’t always work during winter, but God does. And He tells us to look at the heavens. We do, and “The more deeply we meditate, the more clearly we realize that the question we ask is a question we are being asked” (Abraham Heschel).
“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.”
So our call to fast, pray, and wait is a call to trust God. Perhaps God may choose to do a dramatic and instant miracle in our lives – “Is anything to hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Let us continue to pray for such miracles! I am praying for some today. But let us not forget that even while we are praying and waiting, our roots our growing deeper whether we can see it or not. He is already at work in our lives. So as you wait, do not give up hope, for as you wait your roots are being strengthen, and your strength is being renewed – even if you can’t feel it.