Hope in the Lord
By Bishop Brian Maas
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. (Isa 40:31 NIV)
I don’t know about you, but I could use some renewed strength right about now. This month marks the one-year anniversary of the first of the pandemic lockdowns. Do you remember the panic-buying of groceries and toilet paper? The apocalyptic predictions regarding our infrastructure and our economy? How we first thought it would only be for a couple of weeks? Even though the intensity of the pandemic’s consequences hasn’t been as severe as many first thought, the sheer, seemingly endless duration of it has more than made up the difference.
Like everybody else, I’m ready for this to be done. I’m ready to be out and about, and with people, and maskless again. This has gone on long enough!
Yet it’s not done; we have a way to go. It’s awful, isn’t it?
Still, let’s be honest. Every generation thinks it’s special; that our suffering is nearly incomparable. But others have had it worse. Take God’s people in exile, for example. When Isaiah speaks to them, it’s been years since they had a glimpse of their homeland, had any inkling that they might get to go back to the places and ways of their earlier days. They weren’t just dealing with restrictions; they were dealing with exile, with being absolutely absent from the familiar and the beloved.
Into this despair and fatigue, Isaiah speaks for God: “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Those who hope in God will have energy to dare to trust the Almighty, to know perhaps not when their longing would end, but to know for certain that it will end.
The NIV speaks of those who “hope in” the Lord. The NRSV speaks even more simply of those who “wait on” the Lord. This is God’s work, God’s promised action, God stepping into human history to change things once again—for the better. All we need to do is hope. And if that’s too much, we need simply to wait.
God. Will. Act.
Our suffering, our longing, our fatigue, our weakness will come to an end, and our strength will be renewed. That renewed strength, in our case, will look like the energy to be out and about, milling freely and connecting with others. It will look—I hope—like excitedly pouring ourselves into new and renewed ways of being disciples and servants; ways we’ve been denied by pandemic. And already, even now, it will look like faith, like confidence in God.
Whatever it looks like, that day is coming. Its arrival isn’t on a human timeline, but it’s fixed in time by God, and it will happen. In our eagerness for it, in our impatience for it, in our fatigue from longing for it, we need only to hope; we need just to wait.
The end of our longing is coming. Our strength will be renewed. We will be free.
We have God’s word on it.