Growing up in South Mississippi, I never really understood the beauty of Fall (or any seasonal changes really) as it was simply an extension of Summer (the trees remained green and the temperatures remained hot). However, the five years that we have been living in Kentucky have created and fostered an extreme love for seasonal change and the beauty that each season brings with it. This past Fall, during one of our after-dinner walks through the neighborhood, Abigail pointed up and said, “Trees are orange!” I said to her that she was right and that all the trees were dying because it was getting colder. “Don’t worry though! Everything comes back to life when it warms up in the Spring!”
And it was then that I began to realize how much the seasons testify to the gospel of Jesus Christ and his return/our bodily resurrection on the final day of judgment.
Confession time – I love Andrew Peterson. If you have never heard of Andrew Peterson (and even if you have…) I want you to click on this link right now and buy every single CD and book that he has out right now! His music is a blessing as you attempt to foster a holistic Christian worldview in your life. He is a masterful storyteller and his word images are able to evoke a deep emotional understanding of and response to the gospel. He even has a song about Jesus’ genealogy…and its really good – only a genius can do something like that!
I say all of that because his songs have had a huge impact on me and many of his songs speak to this idea of a deep longing that we should have for the return of Christ; this is the great hope of the Christian (Titus 2:13)!
So one of Andrew’s (yes, we’re on a first name basis…) newer songs is called “Come Back Soon”. Here is one of the stanzas:
I sit on the bench at the bend in the trail
And I can feel in the fall the final exhale
The trees of the field all wring their hands
And the leaves go by like a funeral band
I say, “Come back soon.”
The basic gist of this song is that the whole creation is longing for Jesus to come back. And we see that in the seasons across the year. In October, the trees, flowers, etc. die as the weather gets colder but in March/April everything comes back to life again! Jesus died on the cross and three days later he came back to life! Jesus ascended into heaven but he will return soon to complete all things! Nature is groaning after redemption and proclaiming the hope of the Christian – the return of Christ to make all things new and put death to death eternally!
And the Bible tells us that the whole world groans with the pains of childbirth to be made new when Christ returns. In the same way, our hearts groan within us as we wait for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:22-23).
The epistles stress over and over again the return of Christ as the hope of the Christian. It is what we are living for. So what does this mean for my life right now? I mean, Jesus is definitely coming back and that day will be both glorious and terrible as everything is made right and our salvation is completed…but does that really matter right this second? Yes and Yes!
Here’s another snippet from one more of Andrew’s songs, “Day by Day”
So don’t lose heart
Though your body’s wasting away
Your soul is not
It’s being remade
Day by day by day
There are a lot of things in life that can cause us to despair/lose heart and forget that we have a glorious hope in the return of Christ.
There are big things – like cancer and tragic car accidents and an ever-increasing divorce rate and the abortion of billions of babies over the course of history. These things cause great despair and a longing for everything to be made right. And there’s a small part of all of us that questions God’s intentions and motives or maybe even God’s existence. “Why are you letting these things happen?”
Then there are small(er) things – like a long line at the grocery store and a tantrum-throwing toddler and car problems and not having enough food to fix dinner. These things slowly wear on our soul. Its easy to allow these things to grow bitterness and discontentment and, ultimately, despair as we forget our loving, faithful God who is shaping us into the image of Christ and forbearing with the iniquity/unfaithfulness of us and the world.
And then there are even smaller things – like wishing for a different color carpet and wanting to fit into a smaller size and coveting after a friend’s house and thinking that her husband is better than my husband for any number of silly reasons that probably aren’t as true as we think they are. These things slowly harden our heart. Like the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), we let the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke our faith and we prove ourselves to be unbelievers.
So what is the correct response that we should have to these things? What keeps despair away? How do we remain faithful during tragedy and through discontentment?
My answer – through regular prayer and Bible time and through community (good friends and a good church). These practices keep us grounded in our relationship with the Lord and help us to remember the truth of the gospel.
A common theme throughout the Bible is ‘remembrance’ – remembering what the Lord has done and what the Lord has promised to do so that you don’t lose faith. Keeping our hope in (and remembering to keep our hope in) the return of Christ results in a virtuous life full of joy and faithfulness and love for our neighbors.
Look forward to the return of Christ. Remain faithful and content in the Lord’s provision for your life right now. He has promised to conform you into the image of Christ, which means you are not being conformed to the image of the world. It can be a painful process because we don’t know what’s good for us and we sometimes desire to be like the world. Let it drive you to contentment and loving patience and sacrificial servant-hood. Let it result in sharing the gospel with those around you.
Remember the Lord’s faithfulness. He is always faithful and will continue to remain faithful despite our faithlessness.