Throughout this long, long winter we’ve been waiting impatiently for the first sight of green, the first peek of a crocus.
Waiting, like temptation, is common to all of us. Waiting to catch a bus. Waiting for traffic congestion to ease. Waiting in a doctor’s office. Waiting in line at the post office or the check-out line in the grocery store. Waiting for a diagnosis. Waiting for a sick friend to smile again. Waiting for a grandchild to find a godly life-partner. And yes, waiting for God to answer a decade’s old prayer for the conversion of a friend or relative.
We know that our heavenly Father wants us to learn patience while maintaining hope for the future—especially as it relates to the return of Christ. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains”(James 5:7). But we ask the Lord, do we need so much practice? Our natures cry out, we can’t wait—whatever it is we think we need, we want now—whether it be justice for the oppressed or relief from our own sufferings.
And Lord, two thousand years have gone by since the promise of Christ’s return. Just as we wondered this year why spring was delayed we wonder why the Lord’s return is so delayed. For as we gaze out on a hurting world through the medium of television, it seems apparent that Jesus should return so that justice and peace might roll down like a river. Suffering in Syria. Kidnapped school girls in Nigeria. Human trafficking. Sabre-rattling from Russia. Suicide among our teens. We cry out in agony, how long Lord?
Although we have not doubts about Christ’s return, we are perplexed and impatient. And so we do what we always do when perplexed, we return to the Word and read again the promises. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God”(1 Thess4:16).
The Scriptures remind us that all God’s promises are fulfilled, though often delayed. The judgment on Israel, the destruction of first, Samaria then Jerusalem was delayed for centuries as the prophets sought to arouse the people to repentance. Perhaps we forget that it is God’s compassion and mercy that delays judgment. “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?”(Rom. 2:4). His delayed judgment on our age is really an expression of his mercy giving time for every tribe and tongue and nation to respond to the invitation of the gospel.
A delayed spring gives us practice in waiting for many things, but especially the return of Christ. After all, Paul did say, “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” when Christ returns in glory and power. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time…we ourselves…groan inwardly was we wait eagerly” for the consummation of all things.
And so as we see leaves finally unfurling and flowers finally lifting their faces to the sun, we are reminded that even a long wait is worth it. Our wait for the new heaven and new earth will be worth it.