Week two. My energy began to flag.
Week three. Body and soul were already bone weary. Though I wanted to be there, I missed home, and I had no idea what the future held. And it was only week three!
It was then that a verse I had heard multiple times came to mind––Isaiah 40:31.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind. (The Message)
Before I was tired, this verse was encouraging. I liked the sound of it and the majestic imagery. But now that I was tired…well…I didn’t quite know what it meant. What exactly did that “wait upon God” mean, and how did that translate to “fresh strength”? I had to look it up.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible said: “The phrase, 'to wait on Yahweh,' means to wait for his help; that is, to trust in him, to put our hope or confidence in him.…It does not imply inactivity, or want [lack] of personal exertion; it implies merely that our hope of aid…is in him.”
Matthew Poole’s Commentary said: It refers to those “that wait upon the Lord; that rely upon him for strength to bear their burdens, and for deliverance from them in due time.”
So I waited. And calm returned as did a respite. A chance to renew myself.
It was then I began to realize that I had been misinterpreting I Corinthians 10:13––you know the one that seems to imply that God won’t give us more than we can handle? I don’t think God promises that at all. I think we will always face more than we can handle––by design. Because if we can handle it, then we don’t need Him. The promise, I believe, is that we won’t face anything we can’t handle in His strength, for doesn’t Jesus say to cast all our cares on him? Not just some (I Peter 5:7).
And that renewing? Some say the image is of an eagle whose old feathers molt away and the new ones provide renewed strength. The parallel then is as we exchange our self-reliance for God-reliance, we “shall grow stronger and stronger in faith, and patience, and fortitude, whereby [we] shall be more than conquerors over all [our] enemies and adversities.” (Poole)
Most of us face burnout at some point. That weariness that saps one to the bone. Some are caregivers, others pastors, teachers, single parents, overworked employees, or overburdened employers. The list is interminable and individual. But I did learn something. Don’t look ahead. Don’t worry. Rest and wait in Him while you continue to do what you are called to do and He will give you strength. He will lift you up.
One final note. Frank Gaebelein makes this comment about verse 31: “The verb used in 31 suggests an exchange of strength. The three-fold description [eagle/runner/walker] forms a climax, not its opposite; for the exceptional flying and the occasional running do not require, as does the constant walking, an ever-flowing stream of grace.”
Let us take heart and hope in that “ever-flowing stream of grace.”
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Gaebelein, Frank E. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary:Volume 6. “Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel.” Zondervan:1986.246.