Most everyone has experienced anxiety or anticipation while waiting for something. As a single adult, I certainly have learned what it means to wait. For this reason Isaiah 40:31 has come to have special meaning for me: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (emphasis added). Many of us dread waiting, but through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord tells us that waiting can actually be a good thing.
In the past I’ve thought of waiting as wasted time, such as when I wait for a plane to take off or wait in line at the grocery store. This kind of waiting requires little action on our part; it’s mostly a matter of biding our time. This type of waiting is also usually paired with frustration and impatience. Consider how you feel when someone you are waiting for is late. By the time the person arrives, you may be so upset that you had to wait that you don’t appreciate the fulfillment of your anticipation.
Of course, this is not the kind of waiting that Isaiah said could “renew [our] strength.” On the contrary, impatient waiting tends to leave us physically and emotionally exhausted. I have been guilty of this kind of waiting too often.
So what kind of waiting was Isaiah describing? The Hebrew word translated as wait also means “hope for” and “anticipate” (Isaiah 40:31, footnote a). To add my own interpretation, I like to think of waiting in terms of a waiter at a restaurant. In this sense, to wait on someone is to serve that person. A good waiter—or server—gives his or her customers excellent care and attention by checking in often, learning their desires, and attending to them. When I adopt this attitude toward the Lord, it adds purpose to the time I spend awaiting a particular blessing. In fact, time seems to pass more quickly when I am diligently working to serve God. Ironically enough, it’s through this work that I “renew [my] strength.”
The same amount of time will pass whether I am squandering it in anger and impatience or using it to serve the Lord and His children. Choosing to “wait upon the Lord”—or viewed another way, to serve Him—yields far more satisfying results. This choice also helps me remember that because Heavenly Father’s greatest desire is to bless His children with what will ultimately help us be happy, He will not only give me what I need, He’ll also give it at the time that is best for me.
Shifting my attitude from one of “just waiting” to “waiting upon the Lord” has shown me that waiting can be a good thing after all. This perspective has opened my eyes to the many gifts Heavenly Father has given me. Most of all, it has given my life renewed strength, purpose, and meaning.