The sound of the ventilator fills the silent room. You sit beside a semblance of the woman she used to be. Holding her unresponsive hand, there you are. The cares of the rest of the world fall away as your thoughts are focused on the memories you two have carved into life over the last few years.
You remember your children crying out in the night when stuffy noses keep them awake. You remember sitting in the small church office crunching numbers and worrying if the lights were going to be on next week. Lights, which God has graciously kept on through the tough days of the community you two planted yourselves in so many years ago.
As the clock ticks away, a piercing sound breaks the silence. Just like that, she’s gone and you’re face to face with the reality that God sometimes takes away good things. Through the brokenness of the fall, we are confronted daily with the image of death, disease, and illness daily in our lives and in our own grief and sorrow, it’s important to remember that we're not the only one from whom God has taken away good things. Job and Joseph are two great examples of God orchestrating his plan through suffering. The question for us today is, what do we do next?
In a moment like this you may feel like the Psalmist when he writes, “I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim waiting for my God.” (Ps. 69:3 ESV) It seems as though the writer has been waiting in the midst of anguish while crying out to God and yet hearing nothing. He’s waiting with expectation and hears silence.
Here’s where the waiting comes into play. While we wait we walk in obedience, understanding that God is working all things together for his glory. We feel the sting of death and loss on the one hand and on the other, we understand with the Psalmist as he nears the end of his waiting.
“Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.” When we understand that God works his might and sovereignty in and through all situations we see that his mercy and grace uphold us in the midst of our suffering. We feel his relentless pursuit of us in the messiest seasons of grief.
This understanding of God’s sovereignty finds its end in hope. What hope is there for us while we anticipate his coming? The hope that “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isa. 40:31)
Our modern church culture has made this into a cute verse meant for tote bags and coffee cups but there is something much deeper than a catchy slogan happening here. We do not grow weary or faint because God does not grow weary or faint. Just a few verses earlier we’re told that God increases the might of those who have no strength.
These verses aren’t about pulling ourselves up by our bootstrap. They are rooted in a deep hope that God, through the process of daily sanctification, is making us like himself. We don’t yet grasp this fully as we see through a blurred lens. We understand that this side of Eden will always be blurred, marred, and stained by sin.
The Psalms continually call the reader to remember. As you sit under the weight of grief and sorrow, remember that this weight is nothing compared to the weight of glory that awaits us when we step out of this life into the arms of our waiting savior.
On this side of heaven, we feel the sting of death. We taste its bitterness with every goodbye. Yet we remember that we have a King seated on the highest throne who is preparing a place for his people. A people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. We remember that He is the one who will wipe every tear from our eyes on that day we see Him face to face.
The church is filled with those waiting. Whether they are like Jonah waiting for Justice or whether they are waiting like Habakkuk to hear what God would say in the midst of their pleas, they are unified in their waiting. Show them the hope-filled, grace-saturated message of the cross. Drive the anchors of their hearts deep through a passionate preaching of the God who is not slow in bringing about the redemption of their souls.