Christmas is behind us, an ancient memory at this point in March, with Easter just ahead. But if we return to Christmas for just a moment, it might enhance our experience of Easter this year, especially for those who may be in a difficult season or a time of waiting on the Lord.
We tend to associate Christmas with waiting. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining,” we sing. Through those long years, the people of God were waiting, longing for the fulfillment of God’s promises to them, promises of a Messiah who would rescue God’s people and restore his good world. At Christmas, it finally comes. The Savior is born. The difficult waiting is over.
So the Advent season, leading up to Christmas, is marked by expectancy and longing—like a child who knows the gifts are coming and can barely sleep because of the anticipation. Then Christmas morning dawns. The waiting is over. Joy has come.
We don’t tend to associate Easter with waiting, though. Waiting expectantly for Jesus’ birth makes sense. But waiting for Jesus’ death? That’s strange. Jesus’ disciples weren’t eagerly waiting for the cross to come. And neither do we. While Advent is about waiting and anticipation, Lent is about repentance and reflection on Jesus’ death for our sins.
But Easter brings with it a waiting of its own. Not the waiting for the cross to come, but the terrible waiting in the days that follow the cross. I say “terrible waiting” because that’s how Jesus’ disciples experienced it. Actually, they didn’t even know it was waiting—that there was something on the other side of their pain. All they knew was confusion, disorientation, fear, and despair.
That’s how it feels to go through difficulty, to be in a season of waiting, when you’re not sure there’s anything on the other side of your pain.
Looking back on that first Good Friday, we know more than Jesus’ disciples knew in those three days. We know resurrection is coming. We know the three days of unbearable sorrow give way to unspeakable joy. Friday’s defeat turns to Sunday’s triumph.
And the message of New Testament is that this is true not just for Jesus, but also for everyone who shares in the death and the life of Jesus: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5).
The clear witness of Scripture is that the cross always comes before resurrection. As with Jesus, so with those who belong to Jesus.
Waiting is hard. Seasons of difficulty and darkness—when there’s no end in sight—can feel unbearable. I’m pretty sure that’s how the disciples felt in those days prior to Easter morning. But their sorrow gave way to joy. That’s why Easter is a celebration. And that’s why waiting ought to be a part of our experience of Easter. Easter gives us hope in our waiting. There’s something on the other side of our pain. The three days of waiting, brought to a glorious end by Jesus’ resurrection, remind us that all our disappointments, all our discouragement, all our despair, all our waiting will ultimately give way to joy.
That sounds nice. But it doesn’t mean the waiting isn’t still hard. I’ve been in one of those difficult seasons, where it’s been hard to see through to the other side, or even believe there is another side. But God has been reminding me that there is purpose in his ways, even when I can’t see or understand what he’s doing. He tells us in his word that because he loves us, he disciplines for our good, so we may share his holiness. And though the discipline seems painful in the moment, it will yield a harvest of righteousness in our lives (Hebrews 12:10-11).
C. S. Lewis says it this way:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself.”
I’ve been clinging to the truth that God is at work in my waiting, molding and shaping and refining me for his good purposes, to make me more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). In our difficult seasons we can trust that God is good, that he knows what he is doing, that on the other side of our difficulty will be resurrection life, and it will be better than we could imagine. So let’s cling to God and to his promises while the darkness of night surrounds our soul and we await Easter’s advent.
One of the ways God has been helping me do that is through lyrics to songs that have reminded me of his good purposes in this hard season. Let me share a few of them with you, along with links to the songs, in hopes that they will encourage you to trust God as you wait for his light to break through:
- You’re always good, always good,
Somehow this sorrow is shaping my heart like it should
And you’re always good
“Always Good” by Andrew Peterson
- Somewhere the sun is a light in the sky
But I’m dying in North Carolina and I
Can’t believe there’s an end to this season of night
And the rain keeps falling down
My daughter put the seeds in the dirt
And every day now we’ve been watching the earth
For a sign that this death will give way to a birth
And the rain keeps falling
Down on the soil where the sorrow is laid
And the secret of life is igniting the grave
And I’m dying to live but I’m learning to wait
And the rain is falling
“The Rain Keeps Falling” by Andrew Peterson
- Though the winter is long, even richer
The harvest it brings
Though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Your promise for me like a seed
I believe that my season will come
I can see the promise
I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons
And I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God I’m not done waiting
“Seasons” by Hillsong Worship
- You are working in our waiting,
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust”
“Sovereign Over Us” by Aaron Keyes
- Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
“Take Courage” by Kristene DiMarco