Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Waiting, Dec 6
The great German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that “the celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.” This may sound strange to our modern ears but it actually contains the echoes of the eternal, timeless message of Jesus when He said in Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” It is the humble who know they need a Savior moment by moment in life. And, it is the humble who experience blessing because they are living under His gracious rule in their lives (“kingdom of God”).
The harsh reality is that living with a sense that we are poor and imperfect doesn’t come naturally or easily. We are much more likely to adopt another, much more self-protective, response to life in a broken, mixed up world. There are generally two paths:
First, we might be complainers. We might not think of ourselves as complainers but do you ever believe that if only situations and people changed, you could be happy? Do you ever consider the difficulties in your life to simply be the fault of others?
Here’s the problem: when we complain, we are holding hard things at a distance rather than embracing the reality that we are being affected. Instead of looking inward at how we are responding to life, we are pushing everything away from us. Complaining keeps us distanced from reality and therefore from God. God lives in the reality of what is, not in our conceptions of the way we wish things were.
Second, we might be in denial. This is the polar opposite of being a complainer but with the same effect. Those in denial act like everything is “just fine” even when it isn’t. There are times and situations that are just plain hard. Like complaining, when we live in denial, we are also not embracing reality.
There is, however, a third way and it is in the middle of these two extremes. It is the way of James 1:19 where we are challenged to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
- Being “quick to listen” means that we stop and ask God about what is going on. Rather than complaining (assuming we know how to assess things) or living in denial (acting like everything is really ok), we humble ourselves by asking God. “God, what do you want to say about what’s going on?”
- Being “slow to speak” means that we stay in a place of dependence upon God. What will be has not been revealed. What His plans are for this situation have not completely played out. We wait rather than spew our incomplete perspective.
- Being “slow to anger” means that we consider the deeper emotions of how we are responding. Anger is a secondary emotion. There is always something deeper than anger. Perhaps, it is hurt or embarrassment or disappointment or shame or fear. There may be times where we need to get angry but it is only healthy when it is not simply a covering for a deeper emotion. When that is the case, the anger can be unwieldy and damaging to us and others.
When we stop, stay, and consider, the result is that we are waiting with God and not rushing away from pain. We are able to confront our own poverty and imperfection. Then, we are living with a contentment that God is with us and He is at work. G. K. Chesterton wrote that contentment is “the power of getting out of a situation all that there is in it.”
Andreas Ebert suggested much the same:
“If we are unwilling to live askew for a while, to be set off balance, to wait on the ever spacious threshold, we remain in the same old room all our lives. If we will not balance knowing with a kind of open ended not knowing – nothing seems to happen. Thus it is called ‘faith’ and demands living with a certain degree of anxiety and holding a very real amount of tension.”
The counsel to slow down and wait places us in a perfect position to listen to God, and this sets us up for the next movement in our journey of “preparing Him room in our hearts.”
Today, as you encounter the hard things of life (whether things close to home or things you’re seeing in the news), ask yourself: do I tend to complain or live in denial? Notice your tendencies, but move away from them. Ask God what He has to say, waiting for His wisdom before you speak, and consider what is going on in your heart, deeper than the anger. Finally, stay in a place of waiting dependence, and once again, pray this prayer:
Gracious Father, humble my heart as I wait on you. Give me the strength to stop and wait so that you can be the One who saves me. Give me eyes to see my nakedness today but then to trust that You alone can clothe me. Use your Word, the world around me, and the words of others that I might see You alone as my savior all the day long. Amen.