I originally wrote this post on April 27, 2013, one week before my due date with our 2nd child.
Today, I’m 38 weeks with our 4th child. And I need these reminders just as much today as I did 6 years ago. So, with minor revisions, here it is again. I’m preaching to myself, again.
Like before, all that needs to be done is pretty much done. The freezer is stocked with some meals. The newborn clothes are washed and put away. The house is relatively clean and the laundry on top of (for now). The hospital bags are packed; the kids bags for Grandma’s house are packed. All major projects I’d hoped to accomplish are finished.
There’s nothing left to do but wait, while maintaining our normal life when we all know it’s about to change. Drastically (Ok, so the 2-year-old doesn’t quite understand just how drastically her life is about to change…)
We’re waiting for something certain- we WILL go into labor; this baby WILL be born – yet with uncertainty- when, what time of day, how long of labor, etc. I’m stuck in the paradox of waiting for the certain with all the uncertainty of how and when the certain will come to be.
I can’t say my mood has been particularly jovial these past couple days as I sit in that paradox. My nesting craze has come to a halt, turning into a state of grumpy exhaustion and restless anxiety as my mind runs through all the variables I can’t control.
I wish I could say that after doing this 3 times, these last few weeks of pregnancy were different this time, but the truth is my heart is fickle. The good news is, the answer is exactly the same as it was 6 years ago.
It’s tempting for me to think that what my heart needs is just for this baby to come – or for God to tell me when she’s going to come – so that I can live purposefully until she does (an email from firstname.lastname@example.org with the date and time, length of labor, and difficultly of labor on a scale of 1-10 would be nice). It’s tempting for me to think that the waiting days are futile and purposeless, just minutes ticking by on the clock until the next phase of life starts. It’s tempting for me to think everything would just be better if I at least knew.
But what my heart really needs is more Jesus. More gospel. More focus on His glory, less on mine. More purpose & joy drawn from Him, less drawn from my circumstances or physical state of being.
Waiting for the Uncertain Certain: The Believer’s Paradox
Waiting for the uncertain certain is actually a reality I live in all the time – I just don’t think of it that way.
Isn’t it the paradox we live in as believers each day? We await the second coming of Christ, which we know with certainty WILL come. But we don’t know when, or even fully how.
I admit my eschatological position is not fully solidified. I know Jesus will return. I know He will redeem everything. I believe Scripture gives us some cues about what that will look like, but that ultimately, we won’t know when or how until it happens.
Sometimes we begin to doubt. We forget that full redemption will come. We fail to live each day purposefully and joyfully, instead grumbling and complaining about earthly things and the state of this broken world. We’re tempted to think that if we just knew when He was returning we’d have more purpose and joy in the meantime. We’re tempted to think that the days until He returns are really just futile and purposeless.
Yet, while we’re stuck in the uncertain-certain paradox, we’re called to live faithfully. Purposefully. Gratefully. Joyfully. Contentedly. With trust, and hope, and longing all at the same time. I have a feeling that even if God decided to tell us exactly when He was returning, He’d expect us to go on living exactly in those same ways. But He doesn’t. We must trust Him, trust that He knows best, trust that He has a reason for how and when He returns. Trust that He has purpose for us each day until then.
The Israelites, John the Baptist, and the Uncertain Certain
The people of Israel were stuck in the same paradox for hundreds of years. They knew a Messiah was coming. But they didn’t know when. There were signs that they could look for. I have to wonder how many times a baby was born in Bethlehem that someone thought, “is this Him?” much like the questions an evening of uncomfortable contractions brings to me, or the news of an epic natural disaster bring to some believers.
Yet for all those hundreds of years of uncertain waiting, what did God expect of them? That they trust him. Rejoice in Him. Find their hope in Him. Live purposefully for Him. With contentment because He is enough and His glory is the ultimate goal.
John the Baptist is a great example of this. God gave him a job to do: prepare the way for the Messiah by proclaiming his impending coming. John didn’t know who he was; I don’t even know if he knew the Messiah was present on earth just 6 months after his own birth until God clearly identified Jesus as the One John was proclaiming. Maybe John was tempted to get worn out, or bored. Maybe he was tempted to say “God, come on, can you just tell me when this dude is coming?” God didn’t tell him the how and when. No, God said “John, I have this task for you. And it’s about me, not you.” So when Jesus did come and God revealed His identity to John, what was John’s response?
Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease. -John 3:29b-30
In another specific instance, the people of Israel were stuck in this same paradox. Moses had ascended the mountain to receive the commandments from the Lord. The people knew he would return; they didn’t know how or when. They were told to stay at the bottom of the mountain and wait.
At some point they determined he had been gone too long. They decided he either wasn’t coming back, or that they couldn’t wait that long. So they begged Aaron to make a golden calf. They pursued idols. Instead of trusting God and finding their purpose and joy in Him each day until Moses returned with His words, they built for themselves another god.
What a vastly different response from John and the Israelites. Both living in the paradox of waiting for the uncertain certain. John faithfully fulfilled the calling God had given him, finding his greatest joy in God Himself as he carried out the task God had set before him. The Israelites doubted God, doubted His goodness, doubted His sovereignty, and begrudgingly pursued other idols.
How are We to Wait?
God calls us to live in the uncertain certain. As believers, we live every day in the “already but not yet.” We wait for what we know will come without knowing when or how it will come. Yet the waiting we are called to is not one of purposeless, stagnant, dull twiddling of thumbs. Anything but! We are called to wait:
- With longing, because we genuinely look forward to what is to come. We feel the weight of a world not yet fully redeemed, and we know that the good things of this life are but a shadow of the good that is to come.
- Trust, because we know that He is good and sovereign, and that everything is ordained in His time, for His glory, whether that timing makes sense to us or not.
- Hope, because we know that He is true to His Word, and that the certain will come to fruition. In the meantime, we have hope because we know that He is at work and the certain has already been put into motion.
- Contentment, because we know that He alone can satisfy us, and while we look forward to the day when He will satisfy us eternally with none of the distractions of a broken world, the good news of Jesus means that He can satisfy us now.
- Joy, because we know that nothing in the current world can bring us the kind of joy He can. We have been given everything we don’t deserve and nothing we do deserve. There is no greater joy.
- Gratitude, because we know that each day is a gift from Him. Every day is a testimony of His grace that He has not abandoned us nor given us what we deserve, therefore each day is worth celebrating with gratitude and praise.
- Purpose, because we know that His glory and kingdom are the ultimate goal, and every mundane moment of every day can serve that purpose now. Since every day is a gift worth celebrating, every day is also an offering we can give back to Him.
These realities that are true in our lives as believers are true for me right now as I await the arrival of our little one. If I focus on earthly things, on what I think I deserve or the way I think things should be, I will be like the Israelites…begrudging, grumbling, discontent, and filled with idolatry.
But if I focus on heavenly things, on the sovereignty and goodness of God, the purpose He has given me, the greater joy that even the birth of a child is but a shadow of, then I can be filled with all of the above things even I as longingly await labor to get underway.
I don’t need to know when labor will come in order to live purposefully in the meantime. What I need to know is Christ…that must be enough.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! -Psalm 27:14
“The Lord is my portion” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. -Lamentations 3:24-26
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of god in Christ Jesus.-Philippians 3:14
While I’m waiting I will serve You
While I’m waiting I will worship
While I’m waiting I will not faint
I’ll be running the race even while I wait – John Waller “While I’m Waiting”
As I wait, you make me strong
As I long, draw me to your arms
As I stand and sing your praise
You come, you come and you fill this place – Ten Shekel Shirt “Meet With Me”