I was reading a book before I went to bed last night: 7 Biblical Truths You Won’t Hear in Church by David A. Rich (Harvest House: 2006). I’ve blogged about his book before. I finished the book last night. Most of it challenged me to some degree. What I read last night sorta hit me between the eyes.
Many of us are familiar with Isaiah 40:31: But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. This is from the New Living Translation, my current favorite Bible translation.
In Chapter 8 of Rich’s book, entitled “God Keeps Satan on a Leash”, Rich outlines how God and Satan interact. He talks about how we pray during tough seasons and how God answers those prayers. He unpacks this Isaiah passage in a way I’ve never heard before. In fact, I can’t remember a single sermon that brought it to life, ever, other than as a continuous statement. Because, in the New King James Version, preferred by most Spirit-filled denominations these days, it reads like this: But those who wait on 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. It’s more poetical. Isaiah is written as a sort of prophetic poem from God to Israel. The way ancient people wrote, building thought upon thought, is lost in this translation. I have always read it as a single thought, complete and total. Waiting was tied into having strength for life’s difficulties. Since the NKJV translation is the one I have memorized, I will use it.
There are 3 separate thoughts here, Rich says. There are three different ways God helps those who wait or trust in Him.
The first is that we get “wings” to soar above the struggle. This, Rich says, is when God changes things. This is our favorite! God swoops down and drops $1500 when we most need it. Jesus heals cancer in a stricken body. The lame walk, the blind see. It’s immediate, divine intervention. It makes for exciting television and thrilling testimonies.
The second is the “run and not be weary”. I identify with running. Rich says this is when we keep going and going and our perseverance and endurance help turn the situation into something favorable. I must say I am a fan of this one, too, though I do like miracles. I think many situations in my life – friendships, child-reading, job issues – have turned around simply because I “stuck it out” with God providing the power to do so. It’s important in this instance to remember the One supplying the power and not pat myself on the back.
The third is the “walk and not faint”. This, folks, is not the most fun. We keep on and keep on and keep on and nothing changes. We start to fall into despair. Our finances, even though we tithe, still suck. In fact, our tithe check bounces! Our kids don’t respond to discipline. Our spouse walks out to parts unknown. God will give us the endurance to hold on. We “take our lumps and keep on going”, Rich says. He also debunks the myth of 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. We like to quote it in reference to hardships but the context is about temptation to sin. We may find ourselves at times overwhelmed by life’s trials, way beyond what we can bear. It is then that we must hold onto the Lord who is holding onto us even more tightly.
In my own life, I have to say the second and third meanings from Isaiah 40:31 have come into play much more often than the first. I usually don’t recognize God’s help, sad to say. It certainly doesn’t seem to be the easiest or most expedient way out of my troubles! But maybe that’s not the point of the troubles. I am finally wising up to the fact that there will always be obstacles. Just another precious promise from the Bible. The troubles and bad experiences that seem to go on forever teach me to trust and to surrender and finally, to grow up.