What Does "Wait on the Lord" Really Mean?

What Does "Wait on the Lord" Really Mean?

You’re waiting at the doctor’s office far longer than you expected (and say to yourself that previous experience would indicate that one should bring a book to this place!) Your eyes wander to a framed painting on the wall, with an eagle soaring over water and mountains. In small script underneath, it reads “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles” (Isaiah 40:31).

You first feel surprised that the doctor may be a Christian - or was it just his decorator?  Second, you realize how ironic it is to have a scriptural encouragement to wait patiently at the doctor’s office. Then your thoughts drift to other kinds of waiting.

Perhaps your many visits to the doctor are related to waiting for healing. Maybe you’ve been searching for a job far longer than you expected. A wayward child or a broken family situation may leave you feeling empty-handed and like all you can do is wait. So much of life is outside our control, even when it comes to our deepest needs. These are the times when waiting upon the Lord becomes most relevant.

What Does "Wait on the Lord" Mean? 

What did Isaiah mean when he wrote those words: “wait upon the Lord”? What would it feel like to have eagles’ wings at a time like this?

To put it simply, it all boils down to where your power comes from. An eagle rises to great heights, but has no jet engine behind him. His body is designed to maximize the power of the air, and he soars on unseen currents with agility and ease.

Isaiah welcomes us to see ourselves as dependent creatures, designed to rely upon something unseen, something greater than ourselves. It is not a weakness of the eagle that he is so dependent upon the power of air. Rather, this dependence is his greatest strength. 

Let’s go back to you, waiting in the doctor’s office. Those that wait on the doctor will (probably) eventually be seen by the doctor. The doctor can observe, sometimes prescribe, usually advise, and occasionally refer to specialists. What is the difference between relying upon your doctor and relying upon the Lord? Should you leave the doctor’s office and go find God’s office to wait in instead?

The Hebrew word Isaiah uses for “wait” is QavahIt means “to wait, look for, hope, expect.” 

What do you expect will happen?

To figure out whether you’re waiting on the Lord, consider this question:

What do you expect will happen in your situation? 

The person in the doctor’s waiting room expects the doctor to play a part in her healing. The person waiting on God expects Him to use any and all of His resources to bring healing in the right time and in the right way. Maybe this doctor will be an important part of God’s plan to heal or maybe not. Either way, it’s God who will bring the healing.

Another person doesn’t have enough money in his bank account to pay rent, which is due in two days. He is applying for jobs left and right, but nothing has come through so far. He has asked a friend for a loan and expects this friend will probably help. But he ultimately expects that God will provide a job for him and will take care of his family, because he knows God is in charge of his life.

Riding the updraft of your mountain

To actively wait on God, fill your mind with the truth about God’s character, especially as it pertains to your situation. In Colossians, Paul says, “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).

bible verses and scripture about eagles

Why are eagles so often flying around the mountains? It turns out that this is where they get the best air currents. The upward shape of the ground produces strong upward drafts of air, and once an eagle catches one of these, it can ride it up and over the mountain.  More on this very interesting topic in this article.

Think about that: the very obstacle the eagle wants to get past produces the power to rise above it. Our difficulties can produce “updraft” for our thoughts to set our minds on things above.  

It may take some practice to deliberately “set your mind” on anything but your problems. But you can use your worry to generate reminders to set your mind on things above

  • Pick a specific scripture that pertains to your situation. (See some ideas below.)
  • Write it on a card or make it a background picture on your phone.
  • Anytime you find yourself worrying about your situation, pull out your card or your phone and read the scripture. 

If you are waiting on healing, search out scriptures and stories that describe God as a healer:

If you are waiting on provision, immerse yourself in the truth that God takes care of His children:

  • “God is able to bless you abundantly.” 2 Corinthians 9:8
  • Jesus teaches us to look at how God takes care of birds and flowers for evidence of how He will take care of us. Matthew 6:25-34
  • This article points to many other scriptures about provision.

If you are waiting on direction for your life or for a specific situation, dwell on the fact that God has promised to guide us.

Whatever your situation, let your concerns about it direct your attention upward, to your heavenly Father, who cares for you so deeply.

Using your past as evidence in the waiting

Your own story can provide evidence for your hope.  How has God helped you in the past? What obstacles have you overcome together?

Try this: when you’re telling someone about your problem, use it as an opportunity to also tell a story about God’s help in your life. 

For example: “My husband still doesn’t have a job, even though he’s working hard at turning in applications every day. This is really a test of our faith, but we’re putting our hope in God. He’s always taken care of us in the past. When we graduated from college, we had to wait till what felt like the last second before we knew where we would work next.  But at the right time, our future director approached us and invited us to join her team.”

The ultimate context

Let’s be real. Sometimes thinking about the past brings up more questions than answers.  Maybe you lost someone you loved, even though you prayed for healing. Maybe you’ve been in debt and are afraid of returning to that situation. We all have stories that remain unresolved. 

The thing to remember is this: the story isn’t over yet.

In one sense, all of creation, all of history, and all of humanity are waiting on God. We are waiting for the day when everything will be made right, when the old order of things will pass away, and the new will come (See Revelation 21:1-7). We know in our gut that this present reality is not as it should be. Even creation — and our amazing eagle — are waiting eagerly, groaning, as Romans says, for something better (Romans 8:18-39). If even the eagle, so majestic and free as it seems, isn’t yet how it should be, what will the new creation be like? 

If something in your past experience brings up questions and frustration, and seems to poke holes in your hope for God’s help, put it in the context of this broken world and God’s plan to restore it. Not everything is yet as it should be, nor as it will be. That loved one you lost should not have died — death is God’s enemy. This world is corrupted by destruction, disorder and malice. But Jesus will overcome all of His enemies, and the last of these will be death (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).

As you are waiting on God, let the unseen pressures lift you up to set your mind on things above. When you are powerless, turn to the Almighty One. And remember Paul’s words in Romans 8:

“Our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Photo credit: Unsplash/Rachel Pfuetzner