Reflection on Isaiah 40:31 (NRSV)
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.
After reading this scripture from Isaiah, my thoughts took me back to 1963 when Birmingham, Alabama, stood as an exemplar of racial intolerance in this nation. At the time, Birmingham was a place where Black children could not attend certain schools, play in certain parks, drink fresh water from certain fountains, or eat in certain restaurants. Nor could they be born or die in certain hospitals. Although very much a part of humanity, Black people in America at that time were dehumanized and rendered socially separate by Jim Crow laws, hatred, ignorance, and mistrust. While they endured gross injustice, with hopeful mindsets, they prayed for a change to come and they waited for the Lord to intervene.
Just when they thought their prayers were not being heard, enter Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a prophet who exhibited patience in the face of adversity during the Civil Rights Movement and believed that in time suffering would come to an end. In April 1963, near the beginning of a period of protest marches in downtown Birmingham, marchers pressed their way toward city hall. On their way, they were beaten, kicked, and mauled. Daily they were arrested and taken off to jail. But day after day they came back in greater force than the day before, determined to march for justice and to wait on the Lord. Waiting on the Lord – we all know how Dr. King’s story ended. But in many genuine ways, the struggle continues to this day. And waiting for a change to come is hard, especially in today’s society.
Successful waiting, both then and now, entails steadfastness in the face of opposition, difficulty, or adversity. It requires patience and engenders hope. In the midst of the world’s afflictions, the prophet Isaiah invited us to trust rather than to doubt, to hope rather than to despair, to have courage rather than to fear. The prophet asked us to be strong and to believe that God is in control. How long, Lord, must we wait? I don’t have an answer to this question. But I trust that God, in God’s way and time, will renew our strength.
Holy God, give us the strength and courage we need to wait on you. And while we are waiting, grant us your peace. Amen.