“But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” - Isaiah 40:31 (NRSV)
Or another translation, “But those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength.” (CEB)
Here we are. A new year. There is hope on the horizon, and yet, as we enter 2021, I feel much of the same burdens and struggles of 2020. I do not have the energy for “new year, new you.” I do not have the energy for resolutions or declarations of what will be different. I am entering the new year tired, even as I am also feeling hopeful. Perhaps this is how you feel, too.
This verse from Isaiah, in both its translations, is what I’m carrying into this new year. In fact, I invite our congregation to see this as the theme for our year together, a guiding Word for us as we enter 2021. Wait for the Lord. Hope in the Lord. Renew our strength.
1. Wait. This is a rather annoying thought to be having as we enter this new year. It feels like all I’ve been doing is waiting. I am losing patience. But I am reminded that waiting does not mean inaction. Waiting includes praying. Waiting includes community in all its new forms. Waiting includes preparing, studying, wondering, or treasuring and pondering like Mary. Waiting for the Lord is simply an acknowledgment that in God is our power, our wisdom and our path forward. The Lord will set our feet steadily on the road before us. Until God shows us and renews us, what more can we do but wait? We are invited to wait in prayer and community, and prepare for where God may be leading us.
- What new things bubbled up in the past year or surprised you? Is God inviting you to prepare or wait in some way? Write them down and pray about them.
2. Hope. I used two translations of this verse, because it seems appropriate that waiting and hoping would go hand-in-hand. While we wait for the Lord, we also hope in the Lord. Our hope is ultimately not in “getting back to normal,” but is in God. We have no idea what 2021 will bring, but we may rest assured that the Lord is with us. Our hope is in the Lord who loves and guides us. I have a lot of other hopes - good hopes! - but where I find my most steady sure foundation is in Christ.
- What are your hopes? Be specific. Write them down and entrust them to God.
3. Renew. Renew...I say this with a sigh, because I so desperately need it. I need my strength renewed. I need my spirit renewed. I need my body, heart and mind renewed. I need my community renewed. We wait and we hope, because the promise given to us is that the Lord will renew. Our strength will be renewed! We will be renewed! And we will not only be renewed for ourselves, but for the sake of others.
- What burdens and struggles are you carrying into the new year? What wounds are still hurting? What grief is tiring you? Write them down and pray for healing and renewal.
Wait. Hope. Renew. Let us carry these words into the new year as a community. As the Lord leads us, we will run and not grow weary. As the Lord forms and re-forms our community, we will walk and not grow faint. This is our promise.