Waiting for Eternity
I’ve been thinking a lot about time. It’s probably hard not to nowadays. When the days slip by in the monotony of a pandemic, we have nothing else to do but carve out their worth with numbers. Five months since it started, four weeks since we went on a trip, two weeks since the grocery store.
While I’ve zoomed in on details, I’ve also found myself soaring high above to survey the big picture. I envision future history books that will discuss this time in our lives with a bullet point on a timeline. There we are- another chunk of life used to explain how it affects someone else’s world.
It’s what we often do to history before us. The Great Depression, World War I, World War II. We recite them as a list of facts that shaped us and easily forget the expanse of time in the midst of them. A documentary on the dust bowl hit me hard when I heard the people and the region experienced the effects of that “historical side note” for ten years. Ten years. I read Corrie ten Boom’s autobiography about her family living in Holland during WW2, and was reminded she suffered terrifying German occupation for a total of four years before eventually being taken as a prisoner for another year.
For someone counting days, the reminders sharpened my own view of this time. Surprisingly these long stretches of difficulty left me more encouraged than sad. It’s good to hear that my story isn’t new. It’s good to know I don’t wait alone. The more I read from Christians throughout history, I find brothers and sisters in Christ who waited right along with me through the difficulties of their eras. They didn’t wait solely with the hope to return to their plans, but instead they waited for their heavenly home.
Christians in the second century were said to “live in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven 1.” Centuries later, Corrie ten Boom arrived at a concentration camp and asked her sister how long this sorrow would last. Betsie answers her, “Perhaps a long, long time. Perhaps many years. But what better way could there be to spend our lives?” 2
Betsie saw her fellow prisoners and even the guards as the new ministry field God had provided. Along with the Christians thousands of years before her, she lived in the flesh, but not after it. These saints could have hope in whatever should come, because they knew their lives were merely dots on a page of a better story.
I won’t pretend to equivocate my circumstances with the suffering before me. Still, it gives great hope to follow their lead and shift my perspective from waiting for “normal” to waiting for eternity. Far too often in my thirty years, I admit my waits have been short-sighted. I’ve waited for a spouse, for a birth of a child, a new job, or the next season of parenting. Then it began to change. Perhaps it was the world events, or maybe it was just inevitable that my understanding of waiting had to grow up.
Now I wait for the King to come back to claim his throne. I wait for the Truth and the Life to fill the earth. I wait for the end of tears, heartache, and suffering of image bearers. I wait for the stench of sin to be fully removed from my own heart. I wait for God to move in the hearts of the unbelievers I love– and now I understand clearer I may wait my whole life.
As Christians waiting for these promises, we join a great multitude found in the pages of the Old Testament. How easily decades of life skims past our eyes as we read of their stories. Yet Abraham waited years for the child that would fulfill the promise from the Lord. He believed the covenant and after patiently waiting, he obtained the promise (Heb. 6:14). Through plagues, judgments, and forty years in the desert, Moses waited expectantly for the Promised Land. At the end of his life, he only gazed across its landscape, but Hebrews tells us he did receive it- for the land he looked to was a heavenly city- not a piece of dirt (Heb. 11:14-16).
We’re all waiting right now for the pandemic to be over. But I’m sure each of us are waiting on something else too. A spouse, child, friend, a grief to end — they take our prayers and our hearts with them each day.
But we have the greatest of hope because the one we wait on will never disappoint. The promise God made to Abraham is the promise made to us. By the death of Christ on the cross, we are called “a people for his own possession” (1 Pet. 2:19). And our father will never abandon his children, but he will continue to sanctify us and give us rest in himself no matter the circumstances. In fact, he wanted to convince us of his faithfulness and the sureness of his promises so much that Hebrews tells us he guaranteed it with an oath (Heb. 6:17). In whatever we wait through, we wait with assurance.
And not only that, but God has gifted us to wait together. Step back and remember this. We can be encouraged by and imitate those before us who “through faith and patience inherited the promise” (Heb. 6:12). Though our circumstances might be different, we are joined in the wait with our brothers and sisters beside and who have gone before us.
Let’s not look only for normal, but to eternity—to the city to come (Heb. 13:14) and sink our hope in the God who will always prove faithful.
- Unknown Author, Epistle to Diognetus, 2nd century
- Boom, Corrie Ten, Elizabeth Sherrill, and John L. Sherrill. The Hiding Place. Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 2008.