At our church service today we lit the third candle of Advent. The candle of joy. Joy? My heart immediately went to those who are experiencing only grief and fear today, following the school shootings on Friday. Joy?
In the Advent season we watch and wait and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” But this year—this week—our prayers have become more intense, and we plead, “Oh Jesus, please come quickly.” Our world is imploding right before our eyes. It’s almost too painful to watch. Our hearts can’t possibly make sense of it. We shake our heads and weep as we read reports of children and teachers being gunned down in their school. So many innocent lives lost. Such senseless brutality. We don’t understand.
So I have a heart-to-heart with my Abba. Father, what is going on here? What message do You have for us as we watch our nation reel from this latest disaster? What hope do You have for us? How are we supposed to respond?
And in the quiet searching, He answers my questions. In fact, He answered these questions long before I had need to ask. His story was written long ago, and it’s there we find the answers we desperately search for. Not all of them are answered, of course. There’s still much mystery surrounding the things of God. But He clearly told us what to expect as we wait for Jesus to return again.
He told us there would be wars and rumors of war; famines and earthquakes, natural disasters. We see creation groaning as if in pain as it longs to be returned to its wholeness and perfection.
He also told us that “sin will be rampant everywhere and the love of many will grow cold.” (Matt. 24:12). He clearly stated that things will be very difficult in the last days. People will love only themselves and their money; they will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God. They will be disrespectful, disobedient, ungrateful, unloving, unforgiving, and slanderous. They will consider nothing sacred and will have no self-control. They will be cruel, will hate what is good, will betray their friends, be reckless, puffed up with pride, and will love pleasure rather than God. People will act religious, but will reject the power that could make them godly. (see 2 Tim. 3:1-9)
We’ve been told that it will be as it was in the days of Noah, when “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (see Matt. 24:37 and Gen. 6:5)
I once heard a speaker say that in the last days we will fear people more than we fear natural disasters. I think we’ve arrived.
On Friday God gave us a glimpse (once again) of what a world looks like that has pushed Him away. Our nation has pushed and shoved and insisted God leave. And now we hear people asking, “Where was God?”
But in the quiet of this season our Abba reminds us that He is still faithful. He tells us Emmanuel has come—God with us. And soon Jesus will return again and set up His perfect kingdom. But for now, this side of heaven, we have His Spirit in us and with us, and we have His love letter to us. And in His Word God has instructions for us and He gives us hope, as we live in such uncertain times.
God tells us to not panic, but to be aware that these things will happen. We are to keep watch, be ready, and be faithful (Matt. 24:36-44). He encourages us that this will be our opportunity to tell others about Him (Mk. 13:9). We’ve been told to live wisely among those who do not believe and to make the most of every opportunity in these evil days (Eph. 5:16, Col. 4:5).
The apostle Peter advises us in this way: “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. … Keep on doing what is right and trust your lives to the God who created you, for He will never fail you.” (I Peter 4:7-8, 19b NLT)
So in the waiting we live with integrity, courage, and trust. We show deep love to those around us, pointing them to Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace.
Jesus, in this Advent season we wait for You to come again. And we beg of You, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” But we trust Your delay is for a reason. We know there are many who have not yet surrendered their lives to You. We ask You to pour Your love into us with such abundance that we simply cannot contain it, and so in turn we pour it out on those around us. Help us not to walk in fear, but instead give us an awareness of the hope to which You’ve called us. Hope that we lovingly pass on to those still walking in darkness…hope in Your unfailing love. For the One who has called us is faithful and He will do it. You are indeed Emmanuel, God with us.