Doesn't it seem like life often circles back to the same themes over and over again? As a sometimes-journaler, I'm always amazed when I go back and review entries from the same month in a previous year and see such similar themes! It's like it's a lesson that God wants to me learn, and He is using spaced repetition to help me to "get it"!
Waiting on the Lord is one of those circling-back kind of themes.
I previously posted this, two years ago, on this topic:
"The word "hope" is sometimes translated as "wait" in some Bible translations. Both are correct, if a little inadequate in the English. According to the NIV Application Commentary on Isaiah,
To 'wait' on God is not simply to mark time; rather, it is to live in confident expectation of his action on our behalf. It is to refuse to run ahead of him in trying to solve our own problems for ourselves.
I've previously blogged on Isaiah's teaching (and others') on waiting on the Lord (https://www.isaiahfortoday.com/post/_wait) and all of those points apply here as well. [Note: see the circling back!!]
The exact Hebrew word used here is qavah, which has both a literal and figurative meaning. The literal meaning has to do with binding together, like a braid or cord. It has to do with abiding, with the strands of a braid staying or abiding together because they are tightly interwoven."
I'm reflecting on this now, as I try to gauge whether I'm keeping in step with the Spirit or running on ahead in my own strength. When to speak, when to be silent, when to wait, when to act. Discernment is always needed.
Trust and hope and waiting on the Lord are all interconnected ideas. I've blogged on this two times previously (!) and am reflecting on it yet again. Now that I've finished a rather thorough Bible-through-the-year-drawn-out-over-two-years, I want to circle back to Isaiah again...because I'm hungry for it, especially "Second Isaiah," starting in chapter 40.
It's fun to re-read Isaiah 40 in light of what God has been teaching me these past few years. First, the chapter starts with interchanging uses of God's Name of Elohim and Yahweh.
Elohim is such an interesting name for God. It's the first Name of God, given in Genesis 1:
In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth.
The name can be shortened to El and was also used in the Bible and elsewhere to refer to false Gods:
Do not make any gods (elohim) to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold (Exodus 20:23).
Elohim is a plural noun, which is super interesting from a Christian standpoint. To us, God's initial introduction to us in Genesis 1 is as a Trinity. If you look for it, you can see it. In Genesis 1:1, Elohim "created the heavens and the earth," and the Spirit hovered over the waters (verse 2). Then, the Word of God is co-creating with the Father as Elohim speaks the universe into existence (verse 3).
And this is the name that Isaiah starts with in chapter 40, with:
Comfort, O comfort my people, says Elohim.
The whole chapter is stunning, and full of fodder that Handel used for his Messiah. Such beautiful praise of the glory of Elohim's power and might.
And then, it gets real. After God's description of Himself throughout chapter 40, He asks Israel this:
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord and my right is disregarded by my God?'
God knows how to get to the heart of the matter. Have you ever felt this way, or asked this question of the Lord? I have, and recently, and almost in the same way depicted in Isaiah 40. That is, I am so thankful to God for answered prayer and protection in my life and blessings. And then I pause and wonder, "But why have you not answered and responded about this other thing? Are you really hearing me? Does this not matter to you?"
You would think that evidence of God's might and blessings would prevent me from asking this, but just like the Israelites, I'm only so good as the precise moment that I'm in. As much as I'd like to think that I'm not as thrown by things as I used to be and can just put my trust in God, my inner whininess reveals that in the back of my mind, I have a perpetual single-song playlist of Janet Jackson's What Have You Done For Me Lately? Mmmmmm...yeah!
It's sad, but true. But rather than avoid and sweep over it (like so many of us do with our own problems), God calls this out, and asks us, well, why?
And then He gives His own answer. It's interesting, since this chapter starts with God gently comforting His people, that He actually doesn't end there. He starts with comfort and then moves to reminding us of His power, again and again. Just because we're stuck in circumstances that we don't like does not mean that He isn't mighty to save. Not at all. God says,
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (verse 28).
He gives us additional Names for Himself: Everlasting God and Creator. Do we really think that Someone Who is the Everlasting God and Creator has anything at all hidden from Him? That the One who made us is now unconcerned and disregards us?
But He doesn't give a pat answer, either. He is not to be held accountable to us--we are to be accountable to Him. But this is the answer, and the conclusion of the chapter:
But those 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. (verse 31).
Wait on and abide in the Lord. This is connected to trusting in Him. This is the answer to all things, and it is certainly the answer to fretting about whether the Lord hears us.
He doesn't promise that everything will work out swimmingly. Not even the oft-quoted Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future) does this, if you study this passage further. Also, if you read the very next verse, there's a big "if" here--"Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you" (Jeremiah 29:12).
We kinda leave that part off.
As I told someone recently, yes, God might give you more than you can bear (I Corinthians 10:13 is about God not giving us more temptations than we can bear, not things total). But, as that verse does say, He will always provide a way out.
That's another reason to wait upon and abide in Him...so we don't miss it!
It's like the story that pastors use, that is so perfect for this illustration...It's of a man trapped in his house during a flood, who prays for God to rescue him. God sends neighbors to help him, a boat, and a helicopter with a rope. At each time, the man refuses help saying, "God is going to rescue me!"
So, yeah, that's us. We want a hand reaching down from heaven and may miss the help that may come in the form of the rather quirky acquaintance who offers a cup of blessing to us.
I have definitely had humans act almost like angelic visitors to me, and I would think that they seriously were angels except that I've known them for a long time and am pretty sure they exist as real humans! You know, those times when you are just beyond yourself and you happen to have an encounter where someone says the exact thing you need to hear.
This is Elohim in action.
Trust is a core psychological concept to Developmental Psych folks like myself. My favorite theorist, Erik Erikson, has Trust versus Mistrust as his foundational crisis for infancy. That is, developing trust in ourselves and the people around us is the first and essential emotional task of our lives. Failure to do this can mean a lifetime of distrust toward other people and significant issues with future close relationships, such as marriage. Successful establishment of trust with a parent can mean a healthy model for all future relationships.
We know that none of us do this perfectly, and Erikson acknowledged that we may need to revisit this crisis on and off again throughout our lives. So, apparently he understood the need to circle back to certain themes across one's life! I feel heard!
Much has been written of the troubles that people face with establishing trust in God when their trust of a human father or mother has been so fraught. Erikson is right--it is very difficult to feel that deep, abiding sense of trust in anyone or anything if our lives have instead taught us that the people closest to us are not to be trusted.
I heartbreakingly had a little girl that I barely know tell me a few days ago that she looks at other families who love one another and asks God why she doesn't have that. She sees my family having regular dinners together and wonders why her mom had to have a restraining order put against her father. What will this model of fatherhood do to her model of God the Father?
These are serious concerns, and yet God throughout Scripture (the Old Testament is particularly clear on this topic) tells us that He is the Father to the fatherless.
Even David, who we may think--except for that Bathsheba thing--had it all together, seemed to struggle quite a bit with his family of origin. I've always been fascinated by the preamble to the Goliath fight. David's dad sends him to the Israel-Philistine front with food for his brothers who are serving in King Saul's army. Young David gets interested in what is happening and asks about what will be done about Goliath, given his boasts against Israel, which have a blasphemous vibe to them. The soldiers answer him, and David's oldest brother overhears it and speaks to David harshly, calling him conceited and wicked.
“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?" (I Samuel 17:29).
These are such honest questions of frustration. We experience this in families, in workplaces, and with friends. What did I do now??? How is my parent/boss/friend/coworker constantly offended and angry at me no matter what I do?
This question reveals a lifetime of issues in David's family of origin.
It is heartbreaking to know of people who really struggle with trusting in God and waiting on Him because of the terrible model of parenthood that they have personally experienced. I pray that God will indeed be an extra loving parent to them and that others can surround them with love and care. Jesus said, "With God, all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26).
But the rest of us aren't off the hook. If we're honest, we also have off-kilter views of how reliable and trustworthy significant others can be. Attachment theorists in developmental psychology speak of secure attachment, and some of us are healthier and more secure than others, but we are all to some extent a little off. A little insecure.
We bring this to our relationship with the Lord, and so he needs to remind us so frequently to trust in Him, to abide in Him, to wait on Him.
Let's give it a go and actually listen. Let's take Him at His word, that He is trustworthy.
After all, He is the Everlasting God, who created us and everything around us, the all-powerful Trinity who offers us comfort and love.