In the past, I have often suspected a bit of negativity when I hear someone ask Jesus to come back soon. For one thing, there are plenty of people who would be in a very bad way if Christ were to return, say, this morning. The Scriptures even tell us that it is for the sake of those still in their sins that He is delaying His return, in order to give them time to repent (2 Peter 3:9). Second, it would seem that if someone is asking for his life on earth to end, he must not be enjoying it much. Sure, we have an unimaginably perfect and beautiful existence waiting for us in the world to come, but shouldn’t we take a certain amount of joy in this life as well? And if we do, why would we want it to end sooner?
The truth is, I’m divided on this issue. And, right or wrong, which side I lean toward usually has everything to do with how much I’m getting clobbered on a given day. Being a living sacrifice is at times positively excruciating. The process of being surgically separated from my idols, defense mechanisms and character defects is an awful business. Sometimes it hurts so bad that I become angry with God and accuse Him of cruelty. I’m thankful for the fact that, even in these moments, I often have the presence of mind to ask God to have His way in my life just the same, to help me stay put.
There are times when I look out at this dark world and wonder if good ever prevails. The question isn’t so farfetched; just watch the news for 15 minutes. We deal daily with examples of civilization gone mad. Even many mainline denominations of the Church, which should be a repository of truth and wisdom, are caving in to inane ideas. And across the globe, every hour on the hour, lost hordes are claimed by starvation, car wrecks, drug overdoses and exploding grenades.
But whenever I’m tempted to wonder if God might not be doing such a good job, I think about all the ways I’ve dragged my feet through life, all the times I’ve been deliberately disobedient, and God keeps coming after me. Just the fact that I’m alive and healthy and proclaiming Christ as Savior is a miracle. If God displays this kind of patience and compassion for a recalcitrant ne’er-do-well like me, I have to believe that He has a vast and far-reaching love for every one of His creatures. His arm is not slack; I just don’t have all the information. In spite of this unprecedented global plague of madness, there are still all kinds of people and organizations who are on the right track, trying to feed the hungry, spread the Gospel and reach out to the lost. God isn’t dead.
At the worst junctures, I choose to believe that God is sovereign over everything in heaven and earth, even making crude tools out of human roguery (Rom. 8:28). In an age when many evil insurrections are taking place, God insists He is using events both pleasant and awful, turning both the devotion of His saints and the acts of rebels to accomplish His good plans.
Christians would do well to count themselves like workers going through a very long day in a soot-ridden factory, feeling their entire bodies ache with their exertions, covered with grime, bleeding from a dozen cuts—but smiling just the same because they know that at the end of the day they will each enjoy a hot shower, and their cuts will be dressed with clean bandages. They will put on clean, comfortable clothes and sit down to a sumptuous feast with their Father. They will surely find that the occasions of turmoil and calamity they experienced in their earthly lives will make amusing dinnertime conversation.
Maybe this is what people are thinking about when they exclaim, “Don’t tarry, Lord Jesus!”