“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5
Recent surveys by Pew Research and Lifeway Research revealed some disturbing findings. 67% of Americans agreed that when a person is facing a painful terminal illness, it is morally acceptable to seek the aid of a physician in ending your life. 59% of Christians surveyed agreed, as well as 38% of those who claimed to be evangelical. How accurate these findings are is a matter of some conjecture, but they do potentially show a definite ignorance and/or denial of what the Bible has to say about God’s purposes in allowing suffering and the endurance of it in every believer.
The beneficial lessons of waiting, what celebrating this season of Advent is really about, are increased in difficulty exponentially when pain and suffering are added to the equation. To wait while experiencing pain is a suffering requiring patient endurance, something intended by God as a crucible for righteous character-molding, developing trust and faith in His ultimate goodness. There are those faithful believers through the centuries who waited patiently throughout their generation in this world for the revealing of a redeemer, a mediator, a Messiah. God always retains His faithful remnant. Unfortunately, there were so many more who continually fell away from obedience to the one true God. The history of Israel is of a continually rebellious people who must be restored to repentance over and over by a gracious God who forgives.
Advent remembers the waiting required, trusting in the many promises of a redeemer to come, as Job of old who said, “I know that my redeemer lives,” with His equally firm belief that, “In my flesh my eyes shall see him!” It traces the red thread of redemption from Eden to Bethlehem to the cross, when suddenly the Lord, the messenger of the covenant, comes just as promised. And today our “beneficial waiting” looks for the promised return of our Living Lord from heaven. The celebration of Advent looks back with rejoicing, and it looks forward with eager expectation to His coming again. The exhortation of Titus should daily penetrate your consciousness, “The grace of God has appeared…training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
This is good reason for using an Advent Calendar throughout the days of Advent, using a different OT prophecy each day proclaiming the coming of Messiah, His star, His birthplace, those who would come to welcome him, His defeat of the evil one, His redemption of his own. This is a beneficial waiting, a good reminder, a good exhortation to wait patiently and expectantly for His future return. But this is also a celebration of Advent which encourages a patient waiting in the midst of suffering, because the glory that will be revealed Jesus tells you, far surpasses any of your present suffering. After all, he endured life-long opposition and the suffering and shame of the cross for the glory before him; so, he says, can you.
Do not short-circuit what God will give you, the strength to overcome in and through His Son, by taking your own life to escape what he wants to accomplish in you. Suicide is a real failure of faith. It is complicated, I know. We are chemical creatures. Chemistries can get out of whack. But the promises of God can overcome the chemistry in our bodies. It requires staying near God above all other relationships. This is your most serious life pursuit. It is always a life and death issue. If only we would recognize the grave seriousness of our relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All else is truly trivial in the light of the Savior. Advent is all about him. And your celebration of Advent is all about your remembrance and pursuit of him, whom to know is life eternal!
“Come to earth to taste our sadness, he whose glories knew no end; by His life he brings us gladness, our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend. leaving riches without number, born within a cattle stall, this the everlasting wonder, Christ was born the Lord of all.”
(3rd verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, 1744)
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