“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate [or Helper] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
- John 16:7
“It is for your good,” says Jesus. Why are the hardest things in life always ‘for our good?’ Because in the moment, it certainly never seems that way.
At first, I imagine that it would have been incredibly difficult for the disciples to hear Jesus saying those words. I can picture them looking at him—eyes as wide as a deer in the headlights—and thinking, “You got to be kidding me.” After having spent three years of intimate and focused time with Him, it would be difficult—it not impossible—to imagine life without Him.
Yet as Henri Nouwen once put it, “In Jesus’ absence, a new and more intimate presence became possible, a presence which nurtured and sustained and created the desire to see him again.”
As a result of Jesus’ departure, those who would follow in his footsteps were able to connect with Him on an even deeper level. He knew that they would be able to love Him even more deeply in how they could long for Him, and in how the Holy Spirit could help them to do so.
The Holy Spirit within us creates a longing for Christ. And there is no other person who can fill the void or grant us the peace we know we ache for.
Advent is the season when we allow ourselves to long, to wait, to ache, and to anticipate the coming (and re-coming) of our Lord. During this time, we are invited to remember Israel’s longing for a Messiah, to look back on the prophets and hear their anticipation, to sit in the waiting and trust that God will present Himself.
“Come thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in Thee.”
This season, we are waiting for so many things—but what if we waited for Christ with the same determination? With the same hope? With the same level of angst and grit? What if our hearts yearned for Christ in the same way that we yearn for a new season? In the same way that we intensely long for a uniting of families and friends, of church gatherings and communal worship?
Waiting and longing seem like second nature to us now. So perhaps we can enter into the Advent posture a bit easier this year than in previous years—of longing for the world to be different, of acknowledging that things are not the way they’re supposed to be, and of hoping for our King to come and make all things right.
Our King came, and then He left. But in His stead, He gave us His Holy Spirit to comfort us and help us in our waiting. It is by the Holy Spirit that we sense His presence with us.
And it is by His Holy Spirit that we ache for Him to return.
Prayer: Father God, we come into this Advent season feeling a whole host of different things—wishing for things to be different, hoping for circumstances to change. But we know, Lord, that only by Your Spirit can we find our true rest. Help us to sense Your presence within us granting us peace, comfort, and assurance. Nurture and sustain within us a longing for You. Amen.
Song: When I heard about the new restrictions last week, I found myself needing to proclaim that “all shall be well.” And although it's a bit early for Christmas music, I gravitated to this song for some peace and assurance. I pray that it may do the same for you: https://youtu.be/SreTFyfTf3c.