Isaiah 40:31, "... but they who wait for 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." (ESV)
Psalm 40:1, "I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry." (ESV)
Psalm 100:1-3, "Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." (ESV)
I've been lax on keeping up with my devotions lately. I don't know why. I just have been. Today, I took the time to read through 3 of my MANY skipped over devotions. The one titled, "Wait Training 101" really caught my attention.
Karen Ehman's devotion is modeled after a Bible study of the same name she has written. She spoke of spiritual challenges much like I experience:
"You pray. You ask. You anticipate God's answer...you must wait.
And wait some more."
She compares spiritual "wait training" to physical weight training. Physical weight training builds strength, and so does spiritual "wait training." Isaiah 40:31 is the key verse she uses as the foundation for this Bible study.
For years, Isaiah 40:31 has been an oft repeated one in my house. It was used in Keith's funeral. I have it on a plaque somewhere in my house. What strikes me as this time being different is the how Karen brings up the "what if" questions.
Y'all know I struggle with the "what ifs" ALL the time!
No wonder this got my attention.
Here's what Karen has to say about it: "How can waiting renew our strength? After all, doesn't waiting seem to sap our strength as we worry and fret and drum our fingers impatiently? It's exhausting to play the "What if?" game in our minds: What if this doesn't work? What if God's answer is "No"? What if the thing I fear the most actually happens...what then?"
As I read these questions, I was astounded to realize that even though I thought I have been working diligently to overcome my own "what if" syndrome...I have not overcome it. I've only been ignoring it. The "what ifs" are constantly running as background noise in my mind and heart.
I'm not going to berate myself for it. I am actually thankful that I'm finally aware of it. I have lived with a spirit of fear for so long. No, not the kind of fear associated with phobias. Mine is a fear of failure, fear of disappointment, fear of not being in control of my emotions, fear of what the answer to my prayers will be, and maybe even a fear of succeeding.
Yeah...it's a good thing I'm still going to MLC (My Lovely Counselor). It looks like we've got more work to do.
The realization of these fears of mine explains SO much about myself that I have been wondering about for awhile. Why do I let myself quit something before I reach the end? Fear of failure and fear of succeeding. The "what ifs" kick in without me fully realizing it. They take over, overwhelm me, work against me, and I just stop. I stop the task. At that point, the task seems too big to overcome. Too much for one person to handle. Too heavy of a burden to carry out. So, I place the task into one of my mental packing crates and shove it into my mental closet for safe keeping...until the day the shelf in the closet gets too full and comes crashing down, or until the day when I finally listen to what God has been trying to get me to see for who knows exactly how long.
That is what is going on today. I finally see it. I've encountered Isaiah 40:31 over and over again so many times in different devotional contexts, in different sermons, in different life situations. Until today, I have not encountered the verse THIS way.
Karen Ehman says that the way to keep the worry-laden "what ifs" and waiting from draining us, is to shift the perspective. The way of doing this that works for her is to stop thinking of God's seemingly endless silence in the sense of sitting and anxiously waiting on an answer or response. Instead, shift the waiting to that of a butler, maid, or restaurant server.
This is how she breaks it down.
"Those who 'wait on the Lord'- as in serve Him, cater to Him, help Him accomplish His work; those who take His order and bring Him what He wants- they are the ones who renew their strength.
They mount up with wings as eagles. They walk and do not faint.
As we serve, we become more aware of what the One we are waiting on desires. We become more alert, attentive, and in tune with His wishes. We begin to take our eye off of our problems and fix them on the Lord instead. As we do, we get a glimpse into His heart.
Then, instead of the wait sapping our spiritual strength, it is renewed as we seek to do the Lord's will...to make Him famous...to give Him glory. Even in those long, hard times of waiting for an answer, we continue to serve Him."
In studying this devotion this morning, I also realized something else. While there are other areas of my life that I have not shifted my perspective, there are areas where I have. The main one being Nick's health and the daily struggles we encounter with it. I have not put that one in my mental closet. I have laid it at the foot of the cross and left it there. I do not try to pick that one back up and carry it. I do not let myself entertain the "what ifs". That doesn't mean that they don't stand up and try to draw my focus to them. Of course they do! I have been in the practice of shifting my perspective for so long that I'm no longer distracted by that. I still have to make the decision to leave it all at the foot of the cross though.
My question now is why am I able to do that with Nick's illness, Keith's illness and death, yet I don't seem to be able to do it with some other areas of my life? Hmmm....definitely food for thought.
Obviously God has brought me to this place for a reason. I am choosing to throw open the closet door and open these dusty boxes. MLC and I will be discussing this for some time I imagine.
If you would like to follow Karen Ehman, she has a website and blog at http://www.karenehman.com/.
As always y'all...
continue to remain
In HIS Grip,