To Wait for the Lord

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.
—Psalm 31:24

In my devotions a week or so ago, I read the end of the 27th Psalm and meditated on what it means to wait for the Lord—how it wasn't indicative of a passive faith, but requires an active stance. We see it even more succinctly in Psalm 31:24. In this case, it's hard to say if strength and courage precede the waiting, or if the waiting produces strength and courage. But somehow strength and courage cannot be separated from the commandment—repeated throughout scripture—to wait for the Lord.

So the relationship between waiting and hoping becomes important. In Germanic languages we don't necessarily see it. Look at a couple of verses in English and German (key verbs in bold):
  • Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. —Psalm 31:24 (NRSV)
  • Seid stark, euer Herz sei unverzagt, ihr alle, die ihr harrt auf den Herrn!—Psalm 31:24 (Zürcher Bibel)
  • The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I will hope in him. —Lamentations 31:24 (NRSV)
  • Mein Anteil ist der Herr, habe ich gesagt. Darum werde ich auf ihn hoffen. —Lamentations 3:24 (Zürcher Bibel)
Here we see two distinct verbs, wait and its German equivalent harren,* then hope and hoffen. But in Romance languages we see something else going on. So let's look at these two same verses in Spanish and French:
  • Cobren ánimo y ármense de valor, todos los que en el Señor esperan.Psalm 31:24 (NVI)    
  • Fortifiez-vous et que votre cœur s’affermisse, vous tous qui espérez en l’Eternel!—Psalm 31:25 (NEG)
  • Por tanto, digo: El Señor es todo lo que tengo, ¡En él esperaré!—Lamentations 3:24 (NVI)
  • L’Eternel est mon partage, dit mon âme; C’est pourquoi je veux espérer en lui. —Lamentations 3:24 (NEG)
And here we only see one verb: esperar in Spanish and espérer in French. Two distinct ideas in some languages end up being represented by a single word in others. And so when we wait for God in English and German, we should take our queue from Romance language speakers and take a more active stance in our waiting. In fact, waiting for God is the equivalent of looking forward to God in English. When we look forward to something, we await it with hope because we know it's going to be something good. This is even better in German, in which I would say, Ich freue mich auf den Herrn. Without the preposition auf, "ich freue" mich means I'm glad. This means that when Germans look forward to something, they're not just looking forward to it, they're literally rejoicing at the very idea of what's coming.

So, I'll pray for strength and courage, because when I wait for God, I know the best is yet to come.

I'm not just asking for patience, God, I'm asking for joy. And in that joy I am confident that you will strengthen me and give me the courage I need to face anything that stands between me and you; in Jesus' Name, who taught me to pray...

*Harren and warten are synonyms, though most German students are probably familiar only with the much more common warten.