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.
I admit that I always (always, always, always) interpreted this verse to mean that "wait" meant to behave as a restaurant staffer, "waiting tables." Therefore, my strength would be renewed by being busy. While I'm unopposed to making oneself useful during our waiting periods, that is NOT what this verse means.
This verse is requiring something of far more effort than the usual service of ministry. This verse is directing us to do more than just keep busy about our lives while a situation unfolds. For in actuality, "wait," means, "TO HOPE."
It doesn't matter if you spend every waking moment in ministerial duties, and then dream of ministry after you go to sleep. How much you work does not renew your strength. In fact, it can often deplete you so thoroughly you haven't the energy or ability to actually do what the Word is instructing; HOPE.
I've experienced giving so much of my energy and virtue in ministry that I lay in bed at night HOPELESS. Besides a lack of discipline on my part, the enemy's mental attack in these moments of physical exhaustion is severe. Those in ministry (even ministry outside the church, in volunteer situations, occupations of service) know there is overwhelming joy in serving. We could even call it a "high," akin to a drug hit. It feels empowering to serve. When we are in a season of pain or sorrow, serving is often the ONLY relief we get. So, of course we would like to interpret this verse to mean that when we "wait" on the Lord (aka: minister or serve) we renew our strength, but in fact the thrill we experience is a high, a mere hit-in-the-moment. Perhaps even designed by God to be a sort of "pain pill."
However, waiting on the Lord is more like a Gym experience, rather than a drug experience. A person can pop a pill and feel empowered even though they're a weakling. A gym experience often leaves one's muscles a little shaky due to the duress endured in the training process. The Gym-guy may feel more exhausted and depleted, but he's actually building strength. He'll be better off, not only the next time he's in the gym, but the mind thinks more clearly after a gym experience, the digestion works better, healing is released into other areas of the body not even in the targeted muscles after a work out. Likewise, hope's gym-experience is unpleasant in the moment, but the results are benefits beyond the intended or targeted area.
The Drug-guy feels powerful, but is actually depleting what little strength he has while feeling like the Incredible Hulk.
We do not work in our fields of ministry in efforts to win brownie-points with God, as if working more and harder in ministry is a get-out-of-jail-free card. We work in our ministries because it's our gifting and calling, and because it's our offering of sacrifice. Being in various fields of service is our gift to others. It's a beautiful benefit that the tasks also happen to inspire and motivate us to keep breathing one more day. While "waiting on the Lord" may involve being busy about our Father's work, it is not what this verse is asking for.
When we reach a desert or valley circumstance of life, where the joy is gone, the confusion is abundant, the pain is severe, the last thing we have by nature is hope. As children, hope comes very easily and naturally to us. But through life's busyness, and hard knocks, our hope wanes.
Perhaps a good comparison to how hope works in us is Melatonin. Our brains easily and abundantly produce melatonin in our youth, but as we age it isn't naturally reproduced and we need to take a supplement to help us sleep. This is of course also true of skin tightness, muscle tone, eyesight, hearing, and so forth. Somehow in the course of our lives hope reproduces on its own less and less. And when we hit a tragedy where we lose so much, we do not naturally get over it as we once did. In our youthful vibrancy it was easier to get up and get to seeking the next good thing. But this ability depletes and we get sick and tired of losing a good thing we were settled with, a good thing we enjoyed ownership of. When it's taken from us we can't see WHY we'd want to go seek yet another good thing, because, of course, there's a risk that it too will be taken!
Not only does Hope seem non-existent, the very idea of hoping for something feels very painful. We can't tell what to hope for, or why to hope for it.
And yet, "waiting (hoping) upon the Lord" is what renews our strength, causes us to mount up on wings as eagles; Hope.
Hope makes it possible for us to run without getting weary. Hope, not busyness, causes us to walk, even through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This is God's long term plan and purpose for our Gym seasons; to strengthen us.
Psalm 27:14 hammers like a marching drumbeat in my chest, "Wait (HOPE, EXPECT) I say, on the LORD!"
It's not an easy request.
Tears are shed when you hope.
Instead of a high you can feel shaky and vulnerable.
But Hope is a powerful muscle to build. For Hope powers Faith. Faith makes ANYTHING possible.
So, while you offer your sacrifice of ministry, while you endure hardness like a soldier, while you pay your bills, and are faithful to the routines; HOPE in the Lord.
Here are some "booster shots" of scripture to encourage you to HOPE:
(Don't forget to translate the word "wait" as "hope," because that is what it means!)
Genesis 49:18 (KJV) 18 I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.
Psalm 25:3 (KJV) 3 Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Psalm 25:5 (KJV) 5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
Psalm 25:21 (KJV) 21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
Psalm 37:9 (KJV) 9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
Psalm 37:34 (KJV) 34 Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.
Psalm 39:7 (KJV) 7 And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.
Psalm 40:1 (KJV) 1 [[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.]] I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
Psalm 52:9 (KJV) 9 I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.
Psalm 130:5 (KJV) 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
Proverbs 20:22 (KJV) 22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.