A friend called today. The first words out of her mouth described the death by overdose of her close friend’s 23 year old son - a bright and capable college senior.
Our conversation was interrupted by another call. It my friend’s own daughter, actively choosing rebellion against God and experiencing a great deal of stress because of it. She wanted counsel, but not godly counsel.
Yesterday it was a call from another friend on her way to the hospital to sit with her 69 year old father who seems only days away from his final breath - years of Parkinson’s and the current complication of pneumonia stealing his life away.
My friend descended into tears as she described her conflict with family members over end of life measures. She won the battle for blood pressure medication and a feeding tube, but it was a hard fought victory against those she thought she could count on to advocate for life.
With each phone call, not to mention the hopeless news cycle of the day, the darkness of a world hell-bent on physical and spiritual death overwhelmed me. How long, O Lord?
It was no different for the exiles of Israel who sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept for their losses, their true home and a messianic deliverer. How can we sing?
It was no different for the apostle Paul who suffered greatly even after Jesus “abolished death and brought life.” (2 Timothy 1:10) He helped Timothy set his expectations properly on the stark realities regarding life and church ministry in a world awaiting Jesus’ second coming.
In later times some will depart from the faith. (I Timothy 4:1)
All who are in Asia turned away from me. (2 Timothy 1:15)
In the last days there will come times of difficulty. (2 Timothy 3:1)
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)
Demas...has deserted me. (2 Timothy 4:9)
Alexander...did me great harm. (2 Timothy 4:14)
No one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. (2 Timothy 4:16)
And it’s no different for us.
Rebellion, betrayal, difficulty, persecution, desertion, harm - tares among wheat as we await that day in which He will wipe away every one of our tears.
In the midst of the darkness and dangers of gospel ministry, Paul’s pep talk to Timothy is “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead,” (2 Timothy 2:8) and know that “He is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 2:12).
Risen from the dead and ascended into heaven now, but returning again on that day.
That day of final resurrection for which we still wait.
That day when difficulties, betrayals, overdoses and Parkinson’s will be gone forever.
That day when the phone calls will always be for rejoicing and never for weeping.
During Advent we identify with Israel’s desperate waiting, and we practice Paul and Timothy’s hard but hopeful perseverance.
During Advent we look forward to saying, as Isaiah prophesied that Israel would say upon seeing the God who came to dwell among them at the first Christmas and at the Cross:
And it will be said in that day “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9
Melanie Krumrey is a pastor’s wife, serves as the women’s ministry leader at MERCYhouse church in Amherst, MA, and blogs at www.dwellabideadorn.com.