Will This Never End?
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” ~Psalm 43:5
Waiting can be tough, especially when the current situation is not the ideal one. And if the waiting goes on for very long, you can begin to lose hope that your circumstances will ever change.
We all know a thing or two about waiting, don’t we? This global pandemic has not taken the turn any of us wanted or expected this far into it. We thought we were on the other side of it when the vaccines became available. We thought the social distancing, the mask-wearing, the over-filled hospitals, the deaths from COVID were coming to an end. And, yet, here we are, in circumstances that look to be going backward, not forward.
The stress of it all is wearing on us. We’re angry because we have to be limited. We’re angry because of other people’s actions, or lack thereof when it comes to being vaccinated. We’re angry at politicians. We’re angry at disease. We’re angry at death. We’re anxious, afraid, and depressed.
When circumstances are this stressful, it’s easy to think that what we need most — the only thing that will help us — is for it to all go away.
But it’s not going away. It’s lingering. It’s hanging on. And many people are despairing in the midst of the waiting.
Maybe the pandemic is not your biggest stressor right now. Maybe it's something else that seems to be going from bad to worse. No efforts you make seem to be helping. You’re stressed out, you’re tired and it seems like your situation is never going to change. It can be very hard to hold onto hope in times like that.
The prophet Malachi was the last of the Old Testament writing prophets. He wrote during an extremely hard time when many of God’s people were so discouraged they wondered if God really cared for them. They were plagued by drought and famine. The walls of Jerusalem and the temple had been rebuilt, but the wicked seemed to prosper while those who were faithful to God did not. On top of it all, the kingdom they were expecting had not yet come, and they wondered if it ever would.
It was into this environment that Malachi spoke. And through Malachi’s word, God promised that he would be coming saying, “But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness will rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day I will act.”
This was a truly hope-filled message — a promise that God would come and make all things right. "Things are going to change! We can do this!”
But still, nothing changed.
This word from Malachi was the last word from God through a prophet until John the Baptist arrived on the scene — get this — four hundred years later. We’ve been waiting for the pandemic to end for a year-and-a-half, but the people of God lived for four hundred years in the tension of an unrealized promise, and they were starting to lose hope that their circumstances would ever be different.
How do you not lose hope when painful circumstances go on for that long?
The book of Lamentations is a book of pain and tears. God’s people were suffering badly. And in chapter 3, verses 19-20, the author, Jeremiah, gives us a window into how he felt:
“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is bitter beyond words. My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.”
His pain was deep.
His circumstances were severe.
His soul was “bowed down.”
But in the very next verse he remembers something:
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘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 that seeks him.”
Jeremiah acknowledged how painful the current circumstances were. He was honest about how difficult it was for him. But he didn’t stay stuck in that mindset. He chose to turn his attention to the goodness and truth of who God is and cling to what he knew was true instead of how he felt.
Listen to me, friends—all of you who are and have been waiting for something to change, all of you who are beginning to lose hope or who have lost hope:
Your peace and healing will not be found in a change of circumstances.
Hang with me here because this is counterintuitive.
A change in circumstances is not what will sustain you in the future, nor will it be what forms you more into the image of Christ. It's not what you need the most. What you need the most is the presence of God in your circumstances.
The Lord has everything you need to make it through even the toughest times. He will be faithful to give you every ounce of patience, grace, good humor, creativity, and strength required for your present situation as you seek him in the waiting.
I know that we would all rather avoid waiting and be on the other side already.
But what if God is there in the waiting, too? What if in that space of unrealized deliverance, God wants to do a work in you that will set you up to truly prosper when the season of waiting is over?
I’m in one of these seasons right now—a season of unrealized deliverance. I’m stressed. I’m tired. Some days I struggle more than others. But in the waiting, I’ve continued to participate in activities that bring my body, mind, and soul health. These practices help me stay focused on the greater reality of God’s presence and faithfulness with me in the midst of this ongoing difficult time.
I dedicate time each morning to be in the quiet with the Lord. This is when I read scripture and journal my thoughts and prayers. I focus on the faithfulness of God I see in scripture and remind myself that he hasn’t changed. He will be faithful to me in my circumstances, too.
Practicing the Examen is a new habit I’m developing. This practice helps me recall how I’ve experienced the Presence of the Lord each day and helps me acknowledge where I've felt disconnected as well. Being honest and aware of what my spiritual and emotional needs are has been very healing and nourishing.
Meeting with my small group from church has been life-giving during this season. We listen to each other and support one another. Knowing they’re in my corner has been a saving grace. They’re not the only friends or support I have, but having the regular time to meet with them is so healing.
I avoid listening to or participating in negative, gossipy conversations — as much as possible—online and in person. I seek to extend grace and forgiveness to others. This is difficult, and I’m not perfect by any means, but setting these things as goals is so much healthier than immersing myself in the putrid waters of contempt, disgust, anger, and frustration.
I continue to make healthy food choices that are good for my body and, therefore, good for my mind. Please don’t underestimate how important healthy food and drink consumption is for feeling healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I've remained faithful to my yoga practice. Not only does moving my body in meaningful ways help me release stress and clear my mind, but the communities I practice with nourish me as well.
I'm working on giving myself the grace to rest — to be okay with accomplishing less than I'm normally capable of — knowing that this too shall pass.
I practice these habits because they keep me healthy, but my true healing comes from the presence of the Lord and his sufficiency. The Holy Spirit is the Healer of my soul. He is Who I need the most.
Friends, God will deliver you from your painful time. He can use the seasons and circumstances that bow you down to make you stronger and more like Christ as you partner with him for your healing. So, be patient, cling to what you know is true — not just how you feel — do what is good and healthy for you, and remember that your God is faithful in all circumstances.
Lord, for any today who feel like they're losing hope, will you reveal yourself to them? Show them where you are working. Show them your faithfulness. Pull back the veil so they can catch a glimpse of your power. Fill their hearts and minds with an understanding of your great love for them. Reassure them that you see them and care for them. Remind them that you will never leave nor forsake those who trust in you. Give them hope that you will see them through to the other side of this trying time. Thank you, Lord, for being good and faithful. We love you. In Jesus' name, we humbly pray and say, Amen.