I’m not sure there’s a day when either my wife or I have ever longed for Jesus to come back more than this Easter Sunday. On March 27, 2016, Taliban suicide bombers targeted Christians while they celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, leaving more than 60 people dead and hundreds more injured.
In a moment—for all of those people and more besides—their joy turned to sorrow. The celebration of life turned to mourning.
When news of such events manages to make its way to Westerners like us (which doesn’t happen as often as it should), there’s this moment where you’re dumbfounded. Or at least there is for me. There’s this realization that there is nothing I can do at this moment to help these people. There is nothing I can do that is within my power to put an end to the evil schemes of those who perpetrate such crimes. I’m not a politician. I’m not a person of worldly authority or influence. I’m a normal guy from a nowhere town.
And for a moment, it’s easy—tempting even—to lose heart.
God’s “not yet” and the temptation to lose heart
If you have any doubt that ISIS, the Taliban, and other extremist groups are evil, you need only look again to the events of this weekend. And the bombing in Brussels a few days earlier. And priests who have been kidnapped in order to be crucified around the same time. With the escalation of events like these (with undoubtedly more to come), it’s hard not to be reminded of Matthew 24:6, “You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet” (HCSB). Those last words are important: “the end is not yet.” We are looking at the birth pains (Matthew 24:8), but not the inauguration of the new creation just yet.
But waiting is not easy, is it? Particularly for those of us who live in a culture of immediacy, it is hard to see what is happening in the world and not wonder why Christ has not yet come again. Why he has not returned to put an end to it all.
There it is again: the temptation to lose heart.
And the temptation grows as we lament various governments’ apparent inaction against terrorist organizations like ISIS. We know that the authorities of this world have been given the task by God to execute justice on his behalf; they act as “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:6, ESV). Yet it seems as though they are doing anything but.
Sanctions. Statements. Warnings. Boilerplate condemnations. Our hearts go out and whatnot.
It is no wonder so many have lost hope in governments’ abilities to do what is right, and how alluring a political candidate can be who makes the audacious claim that he alone can solve this problem.
And once more, the temptation to lose heart grows.
While we wait for God’s “not yet” to become “now”
I say tempting because that’s what it is. Tempting. But I find that, as easy as it might be, I can’t lose heart. I don’t want to give in to this temptation.
Instead, I find that I have to reconcile the fact that in this world, joy will always be mixed with sorrow. On Sunday, we celebrated the resurrection with our church family. I played with the kids. We had pancakes for dinner. I read three chapters of The Last Battle with my middle daughter. It was, by all accounts, a good day.
But at the same time as I was enjoying my day, and giving thanks for the blessings I’ve enjoyed, I found myself grieving with those who had lost their loved ones. Their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.
And all of it makes me long for Jesus to come even more quickly. I want the evils in this world to come to an end. I want the Taliban, ISIS and other terrorist groups all around the world to face justice. But my hope is in the One who I actually know can—and more importantly, will—put an end to all this evil: Jesus Christ. These tragic events only make me long to see him come that much sooner, and to eagerly look forward to the day when he does arrive to make all things new.
But today is probably not that day. And so as I wait, I see joy and sorrow continue to mix. To weave together. But I do not give in to the temptation to lose heart because I know that joy will win—because the man of sorrows is my source of joy. Jesus, the one who is intimately acquainted with grief, will wipe every tear from every eye, and joy will swallow up sorrow forevermore.
Until that day comes, I will wait. I will pray. I will grieve. I will celebrate. But I will not lose hope.