By Jacob Butts
For us, Advent is a time of remembering. It is a time of waiting in expectation, or a word I'd like to think has more weight: hope. It is a reminder to us that waiting is a part of life, and while it can seem frustrating, the pain, suffering, and injustice that comes along with it ultimately will never last. Its evil reign will end. For God is good in ways we cannot comprehend. He will have complete justice.
If anyone has gotten to know me in the past year you would have heard me complain about something. For some closer to me, you heard something new every week. For that I greatly apologize. This was one of the worst years of my life. I dealt with physical, mental, and emotional pain, and this is all an understatement.
I don’t say this to be prideful but to point out a fundamental truth: suffering is real and it really sucks. By extension, suffering in waiting is also real and painful.
Therefore, if God is good and He is just, and if He has proven Himself as good and just time and again, then I must trust He will still be good and just when things go wrong. When I call out to Him in suffering and He doesn’t answer immediately, then He has either called me to something and I have disobeyed and He waits until I obey.
Or the answer is no or not yet... wait.
I believe my frustrations stem from both, but chiefly the latter: "wait". For if I know I was called to Indy (a long story I'd be glad to tell anyone) and if I know God is good, then my present suffering is the in-between, and it cannot be the resolution. No, He will not leave us here. Even if we pass away He will still bring us back. Nothing will separate us from Him.
There are a couple verses in 1 Corinthinans 13 that are usually associated with marriage, but in fact, it was Paul's response to a church in Corinth who were disobeying the teachings of Jesus. Paul listed these attributes to say, "be like Jesus in this way:" The NIV translation goes like this:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
What should be noted is the last and often forgotten attribute of Jesus: always perseveres (or endures). I recently discovered the King James translation of that attribute, "Charity suffereth long.” I personally find this translation to be more accurate. Charity was a word in our English language we once used to describe a person's (or God's) unconditional and generous love. Charity is not just patient, kind, and generous, but it suffers long. It knows waiting and suffering can be one and the same. Sometimes I wonder if the question is not why am I suffering, but can I suffer well? Can I suffereth long?
Then how do we suffer well? I believe the answer is in the advent: Hope.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! Godʼs dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:3-5 NIV
God is good. He is coming again to make all things new. Take hope in that, brothers and sisters.