One of my favourite annual rituals is to crack open a fresh daily planner and map out my upcoming year. This year, the planner I purchased asked me to summarise the last year in a sentence. Honestly, I stared blankly at that page for a while.
The last two years—for many of us—were years of waiting. I look around at those I know and count numerous plans put on hold, visas delayed, weddings postponed and careers derailed by forces beyond their control. Most of us spent 2020 waiting for a pandemic to pass that only re-reared its head in 2021. Maybe there’s no better way to describe last year than the word “waiting.”
Periods of waiting need not be wasted or fruitless
For those of us staring down another potential season of waiting and uncertainty, it’s comforting to realise how very integral waiting is to the Christian story. Abraham and Sarah waited for a son. The children of Israel languished in Egypt for more than 400 years. At least another 400 years of silence and exile exists between Malachi and Matthew. Even today, our stance as Christians is one of waiting—waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). And we are in good company!
So what can we learn in these periods of waiting? First, while we may be waiting for something, it does not mean we are trapped in limbo. We must find the opportunities to serve, to worship and be faithful. Titus 2 describes our permanent calling as Christians to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives”. God’s sanctifying work in our lives is actively at work at all times, shaping us more and more into His image. Periods of waiting need not be wasted or fruitless. We can actively try to notice ways in which He is moulding us during these periods, and how He teaches us to trust and rely on Him even while we face frustration and disappointment.
Second, we can find solace in the stories of saints in Scripture and history that waited for years to see God’s promises fulfilled. Around the Christmas season, I often think of Anna and Simeon, who waited for decades in the temple before they finally saw the promised Messiah. I can only imagine how many times they must have wondered if they would ever see God’s promise fulfilled. How often discouragement must have crept in during those long years! Yet, redemption and joy were just around the corner. God fulfilled His promises to His people throughout the ages, and He will keep His promises to us too.
All Christians must dwell in the tension of what many have called the ‘already, not yet’
Finally, let these moments of waiting remind us of our moment in history, waiting for the coming of Christ and His kingdom. All Christians, no matter our situations or status, must dwell in the tension of what many have called the ‘already, not yet’. Christ has begun His work on earth and in each one of us—the ‘already’—but we still live in a world captured by sin and darkness that will one day be overthrown by His new creation—the ‘not yet’. As we experience the discomfort, uncertainty and frustrations that periods of waiting often bring, may it remind us that these experiences will always be a part of life until Christ returns. May it motivate us to truly long for His return and echo the cry of His people through the ages, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”
I’m reminded of a song penned by Wendell Kimbrough, inspired by 2 Corinthians 4:17:
Every year we thought was wasted
Every night we cried “How long?”
All will be a passing moment
In our Savior’s vict’ry song
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