Why we celebrate Advent

God knows that it is good for us to practice waiting; he built it into our very design and that of the universe around us. A baby takes 40 weeks to develop in the womb. A bear waits for spring. A diamond is formed. We know this, and yet we still actively or passively forget how to wait. A web page opens 15 seconds too slow, a traffic light takes “forever”. Waiting to conceive, for a proposal, for healing, for justice.

Each year about this time, I go to church where we hear about the beauty of waiting and allowing God to work in his time and his ways. Afterwards, we rush off to busy ourselves with all the shopping, cooking, visiting, and all other kinds of busyness. Once spent with all our efforts and plans, we wonder why we need to decompress from the season. Having waited all year long for Christmastime, I think we have lost the ability to enjoy it for what it is: Waiting.

The season of Advent is a spiritual kind of waiting when believers make preparations for the coming of Jesus and for the salvation he promises to bring for the whole earth. We try to re-remember who He is and why we need him. In the pages of the Bible we learn that we share the same hearts as our ancient forefathers in faith. Longing for salvation has never left us.

God’s purpose in giving us this glimpse of hope wasn’t exactly to invite us into the solution. Sarah knew that God had promised her and Abraham would have as many descendants as the sand on the seashore. But they were very old and it wasn’t happening. She faced the challenge of having to decide whether to trust her own reasoning or to trust that God would be faithful to deliver.

We know that in Genesis 16 Sarah lost her patience and tried to hurry along God’s promise herself. Although this exact story probably wouldn’t happen today, we are also guilty of the same untrust and unbelief when we take action outside of God’s will. 

It’s the motivation to lie, steal, cheat our way forward, because in our hearts we don’t fully trust God’s way to work for us. We try to self medicate and take things into our own hands. It’s easy to point out and incredibly difficult to do.

Whatever this may look like for you in your life, the motivation behind sin is always going to look like a lack of trust in God’s goodness. Because if he was good, you wouldn’t have to wait right?

That God’s goodness depends on our understanding is human reasoning.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

Even so, God understands our impatient hearts even more than we do. Even while we may not understand or agree, we cannot deny that we are utterly limited in all aspects of our being; God is not. He asks us to trust because we will never be able to fully understand this side of heaven. Like a father who is coaxing his daughter to jump in the pool, our Father coaxes us to just trust. Even though nothing makes sense and even though we have seen how heavy things sink to the bottom. We jump because we know that our Father is good and has never failed us in the past. We jump because of his track record.

Abraham had even less information than we do today about God’s goodness and provision. He didn’t have the whole of scripture to bask in, nor did he have as many faithful people that came before to leave behind lives of trust and worship. Even so, he knew the Lord so well, was so convicted of hearing the Lord’s voice and so moved by that command to take up and move to a foreign land that he had no choice but to believe and do it.

The season of Advent then, is our annual opportunity to return back to the question of waiting. Will we await the coming of Jesus with hope and belief? Or will we sink back to our own understanding where we must make a way for ourselves before things get too out of hand?

My prayer for us this Advent season is that we would lean into the waiting and the unknown, taking comfort and refuge in the Good Father who has it all under control.

Reflection

  • Read Psalm 106 
  • Prayerfully consider what you can practice waiting with faith on this season

How to find joy in waiting on the Lord!

Waiting on the Lord is a very difficult thing to do.

I waited almost 3 years after meeting my future husband to become his wife. I knew from the beginning I wanted it to be him, but it just wasn’t time. We could have rushed ahead and forced it to happen, and I could have ended it all in fear and frustration that it wouldn’t.

Waiting is not always pleasant because you can tend to despair and feel sorry for yourself. If you’re lucky you might find some good soul who doesn’t mind listening to you complain and wonder aloud what is taking so long. And yet, it’s needless suffering, there is no reason to live that way! God asks us to wait in Patience, in Hope, and in Prayer . If it makes you anxious, He offers a shoulder to bear the burden.

I’m a dweller. I like to dwell on things internally, and because of that I struggle with depression and anxiety. It’s very hard to turn off my brain when something feels out of balance. The biggest mistake I made while waiting was allowing too much doubt and despair to seep in. In my case, only by prayer and having others pray for and with me, and only by a large gift of faith, was I able to eventually come to a relative place of peace and contentment. Then, the waiting became sweet.

It just came down to praying with conviction of God’s faithfulness and my unworthiness:

God, I really want _____. You know my heart, you see all. I know you have a better plan than I could imagine. Please forgive my tears and doubt and impatience. Thank you so much for my faith. Thank you that the desire for ____ is a good desire, from you. I’m so glad that you are in control. I don’t want anything for myself that you don’t want for me right now. I can’t wait for ___ because____. Thank you for the hope I have for that to come one day, and even if your answer is no, thank you so much for loving me enough to keep me from something you don’t want for me.

Help me to keep a right perspective, keep me from self pity and despair. When I stumble, lift me up with angels’ wings and remind me of your truth, that more than anything I could ever desire, you have already given in your Son Jesus.

Waiting on the Lord for that big dream (proposal, baby, raise, etc) is no longer painful and full of grieving when you offer it to God with your whole heart. An open-heart, letting-go prayer turns the drudgery into joy because you have the confidence that God is pleased with a sincere plea. He will never turn away from an honest prayer, and that is His promise

 

The “getting” is good

…or something like that

I scoffed when I saw this on a cheap decorative canvas at Ross. It’s the kind of thing that gets passed over at department stores so long that they have to send it to…Ross. How incredibly cliche, and yet – how incredibly true. If the destination is Heaven with Jesus, then the journey should surely not be taken lightly.

From the time I wake up to the time I lay in bed trying to will myself to sleep, I’ve got my eye on the clock – constantly – timing my arrival “getting there”. It’s always about the “there”, never about the “getting,” and it makes me sad that each day I ask Jesus to “carry” me through the morning, afternoon, and night for the very reason that I don’t want to have to live through it myself.

He always does get me through, but that’s not the point. It’s all well and good to pray for God’s guidance and company in daily life. What I have been doing is wishing my life away, as if it was some boring commercial I could fast-forward through. To be sure, there are tons of times I’d rather not live through, like large gatherings of people, or the 4:15 am alarm. However, that sort of thinking does become a slippery slope for me. I begin to dread having to answer calls at my job, the chores I must do at home, the conversations I must have with people, the period of waiting before my boyfriend proposes already, and the ominous question of “where do you want to be in 5 years?”

I’ve heard preaching about God’s timing and waiting with hope and patience, but still my heart clamors against the bars of time to be free. I haven’t had anything significant to write about and barely any time to myself over the past few weeks. Ok, I just (sort of) lied. The truth is that I’ve got the wrong motivation and my attitude stinks, therefore no writing has occurred. I’m turned in towards myself again, as if the writing was for me, and I’m acting as though God isn’t with me and doesn’t help me. By the grace of God, I don’t have to do all that work by myself. If I had to accomplish everything I thought I had to, with all my own power, then there would be no God, and Jesus needn’t have died on the cross. Thankfully however, He did and I don’t. In fact, God has promised to take care of me and remain on my side:

 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. ~Joshua 1:5

In the Catholic Church the year is organized around something called the liturgical calendar. The year is split up into different seasons that celebrate Christ’s life and resurrection. It’s from the season that mass readings and prayers are chosen, working through the Bible in a 3-year cycle. It’s one of my favorite things about the Catholic church, that on any given day, in any given place in the whole world, everyone is reading and meditating upon the same passages from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms.

The green part is called Ordinary time, but we shouldn’t be deceived by the word. It’s the time between Easter and Christmas, and Christmas and Easter. This “ordinary time” is necessary time. It gives us the time to prepare our hearts and work on ourselves, over and over, year after year. The normal days are the ones that decide how we react in trial or triumph.

God, in our difficulty give us the courage and strength to hold fast to your promises, that even if I forget all you have taught me so far, I never forget that you are wholly trustworthy and good. Help me to cultivate a love and respect for the ordinary and what seem like boring times of my life. Help us all to remember that you purposely chose to give us this day in particular; you did not have to. No matter our situation there is a purpose and a plan for every minute.

If you, dear reader, have an attitude like mine sometimes, please know you are definitely not alone, more than that, remember our feelings are fickle and fleeting. And nothing else in the world can correctly re-route your thoughts like the Holy Spirit. I pray that whatever is on your heart today, you can gather the courage to lay it at the foot of the cross. And might I recommend this sermon? It comforted me, and I hope it does no end of good for you too!

Submitting My Desires to Him

 

All the Psalms are wonderful because they are so honest and perfectly applicable to human experience in any day and age. But one of my favorites is Psalm 73 because it describes something that I encounter almost daily: unbelievers who “don’t need” God.

It’s the challenge of a lifetime to live “in the world, but not of it”. I’m still a regular girl who wants all the normal things: a husband, children, a home. But how do I act when I see others with the the very things I desire so much? Why does it seem like everyone else gets whatever they want, especially the people who lead lives contrary to God’s purpose? And why do I have to fight against my selfish thoughts all day everyday — and be happy about it?

They do everything that I daily fight against doing, and they get away with it. From barely noticeable lies and cheating, to the “larger” things like stealing and killing. Sure, I would love to devote my life to writing whatever I want, or traveling everywhere under the sun, or spending tons of money and time on makeup and fashion. But I don’t.

I can’t, not with the thought of Jesus on the cross. Since He has made me a new creation I know that I have a higher standard to live to (2 Corinthians 5:17). Knowing what I know, my conscience is sensitive to every single move and decision I make.

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. ~Philippians 1:27

I have to constantly reprimand desires that don’t fit with God’s Word. From the things we put in and on our bodies, to the things we allow to seep into our minds, to the desires of our hearts, we can’t help it, but the world provides a gleaming array of temptations. When I can’t have something, I feel sorry for myself and whine at God like a toddler who’s been denied candy before dinner. Just like the speaker in Psalm 73:21-22, “My heart was grieved and my spirit was embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you”.

But I have something that these people don’t have – through my faith in Jesus, I know that I am clean before God. I have to bring myself again to a place of submission in my heart, so that I understand once again who God is: Good, Holy, Wise, Perfect Planner of My Life. If only I can get back to this knowledge as soon as possible I know that I will never spend too much time in this sinful attitude of envy.

Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~1 Corinthians 6:11

Today, I pray in a special way for you who ache over things you can’t have because it’s simply not in God’s plan for you right now. I pray that you will seek peace by submitting your heart’s desires to Him. Come close to Him and he will comfort you.