The Strength to Soar
by George Garrison
Posted: April 30, 2020
Rejuvenation and hope as we wait for the pandemic to end…
George Garrison is senior pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Illinois. He began writing "Thursday Thoughts" during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so much of the church's activities had to go virtual.
My junior high track career was rather inglorious. Lacking the speed of a sprinter or the endurance of a distance runner, it was my lot to run one of the most grueling races of all, the 660-yard dash.The 660 was a race of excruciating pain and consisted of running about as fast as an eighth grader’s growing legs could stride for the entire distance, one and a half laps around the track. By the end of the race, my legs were in so much pain I wondered if I would ever walk again, let alone run (the event has long been discontinued, with good reason!).
When we know exactly how long the race will be, we can calculate the energy and effort that needs to be expended, and we can finish strong. But one of biggest challenges of the pandemic of recent weeks is that we are all running a race with an uncertain length. Last week we received the discouraging news that the distance to the finish line has been changed again. As a result, we’ve all felt a plummet of energy and a spike in discouragement.
In the first few weeks of our quarantine when we all thought and hoped our race would be a short one, we had the 660 mentality. We started the race with energy and enthusiasm; patience, creativity, and good-will were in great supply. But now, as our race has lengthened, we’ve seen how our original mindset can only take us so far. We’re worn out, and unfortunately there is still a good distance to go. The uncertainty of knowing just how long we will be in this event is making the wait increasingly challenging. We’re weary of waiting. But there is a type of waiting that can actually produce a much different effect.
In *, God speaks through His prophet that the waiting process can be one of rejuvenation. “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.” Really? How can this waiting process God proclaims be so rejuvenating and contrary to what we’re presently experiencing? Right now it can feel increasingly harder to just keep moving, let alone soar like an eagle.
Keep in mind Israel was experiencing an exile at the time of these words, something far more cataclysmic for them than our pandemic. As our daily lives continue to consist of more waiting than any of us want, the waiting in this context is not a passive, frustrating exercise, but one of hopeful expectation. The strength to soar is not found within us, but within the One described in previous verses, who “does not grow tired or weary, whose understanding is unsearchable.” In our waiting we can hope expectantly in God because unlike us, each day of waiting makes no withdrawal from His storehouse of strength. All of the befuddling aspects of COVID-19 that will take months for us to understand pose no problems for His “unsearchable understanding.” And we also have the promise from this passage that strength from God’s inexhaustible storehouse is available to us: “He gives strength to the weary, and to those who lack might, He increases power” (verse 29).
Another reason our waiting can be a time of rejuvenation lies in what we already know to be true about God’s actions in history. Our hope in Him is not a shot in the dark but a grasp of His light. The light of God’s power and strength have been well documented and displayed. The previous verses ask two profound rhetorical questions: “Have you not seen? Have you not heard?” In other words, along with the nation of Israel we have both seen God display His great strength and wisdom in our personal history, as well as “heard” through Scripture all He has done in sustaining and strengthening His people throughout human history. This is the grounds for how we can soar above the ground; He gives strength comparable to the flight of an eagle.
Unlike the 660 mentality, what matters most is not how well calculate the strength and energy needed for the length of a specific race; what matters most is how well we calibrate God’s strength and power in light of our entire lives. There is good reason to hope expectantly in God and know He will see us through these difficult days. And because of the historical evidence of His strength and power at work in His people, there is every reason to hope expectantly that by His strength we can even soar in the process.
Praying for God's strength to empower all of us during these trying times,
© 2020 George A. Garrison
* Bible passages are linked to BibleGateway.com, where you can change translations, listen to an audio version, view other passages, and find additional resources.
George Garrison is Senior Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Illinois.• E-mail the author (ten.nairetybserpleunammi@egroeg*) • Author's website (personal or primary**)
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