“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” —John 14:18

I don’t have parents yet…I’m still waiting for my case worker to find me some.” These piercing words from my nine-year-old-orphan-friend have been left ringing in my ears over and over these past weeks. “I’m still waiting”—these few words so heavy for a little heart to carry, so hard for my heart to hear, yet they seemed strangely familiar to me. Her yearning for adoption, her cry for the wrong things to be made right, her desire to be accepted and known, felt recognizable to my heart too. It is the cry that is hidden deep within all of our souls.

This Advent season as I am meditating on the One who came my heart is crying out like my orphan-friend— I’m still waiting—eagerly anticipating the Day when He will come again. The word Advent comes from the Latin noun adventus, which means “coming.” The verb of the Latin word for Advent is advenio.  It means simply: “I arrive.  I come.  I am coming.”

As I look back to the manger and meditate on the One who came—that Promised Seed, that Root out of dry ground, that Rod from the stem of Jesse—my heart longs and waits for the Day of His return.

As I hear this little girls’ silent cry, I don’t have all the answers to give her nine-year-old-aching-waiting heart but I do know the Answer. Even though I don’t understand why one small child has to carry so much pain, I do know that there is One who cares. And so I wait with her. I look into her dark black eyes and tell her that there is One who came and there really is One who is coming.

We do not wait without hope because one night a small Infant was laid in a manger. We do not wait in vain because one day a Man was laid upon a crossbeam.

Last night as I held the communion trays at service, holding those small pieces of bread for the endless line of people coming to receive. I felt the remembrance. As each one came to take the bread as their own promise of life, I felt the gift that He gave to each one of us. Face after face appeared before me and I had in my hand the gift ready to give them. And without this gift none of us would have life, we and that line of people would simply die and that would be then end of our story. Yet I held in my hands the evidence that He came— I held my hands tightly around the reason why we wait and do not give up—He is coming!

So when the tears come or hard words hit our hearts this Advent season we do not have to grieve as those who grieve without hope. We do not have to stutter for a response or search for a reason when we experience pain because we have The Reason to rejoice. There is a real Day ahead when He will return for us. And our God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, personally addressing the individual pain in our hearts bringing healing.  This is our hope. This is Advent: He came and He is coming—we will not be left as orphans!

~Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord~

“There is a piece of Him that we can only get when the night is long.”

Do we really believe that God has our good in mind—all of the time? Do we really trust Him even when the night is long? I’m learning to tell my own soul what is true about Him, especially when I don’t understand His ways.

A couple stories from the Old Testament are helping me find perspective of His ways. The story of Joseph and the story of Elisha, which both took place in a town called Dothan.

These men were in need of deliverance from their present circumstances. The first, Joseph, found himself surrounded by his angry brothers. And the second, Elisha, found himself surrounded by an angry army. I can imagine their cries as they prayed for rescue; they were in desperate situations!!! And God heard their cries— but He responded to their same prayers, in the same place, entirely differently. For Elisha God answered immediately with chariots and fire but for Joseph there was silence and then captivity.

This is where the tension comes. It is normal to desire the Elisha-type rescue when we pray but there are times that the Lord chooses to deliver us like Joseph. Similar to how Joseph likely felt when he cried from that pit, we might feel like God is not responding when we cry out to Him. But in the seeming stillness, God was moving on his behalf. We know Joseph’s story well. It is evident that God was with him, orchestrating the events that took place with precision though it looked like He was silent. God’s watchful eye followed Joseph into the pit, into captivity, into prison and then eventually (years and years later) into deliverance.

Joseph’s deliverance was long and mostly painful but his heart was transformed in the process. By the time his brothers were on the scene again, Joseph had tears of love toward them. (I’m guessing this was a slightly different response than what Joseph had when he was bragging about his coat, sharing his dreams, or being sold into slavery) The pit and prison were key agents in Joseph’s full deliverance. The Lord knew the exact means necessary to deliver him not only physically but also from pride and independence.

There are times when God uses the sudden visible and at other times He uses the silent hiddenness. The key is remembering, He chooses the way that He delivers. We can rest knowing that He will deliver us because He loves to set us free, completely. When we pray for rescue from our circumstances we must remind our souls of His watchful eye, whether we go into prison or walk through a miraculous deliverance. It is the Lord who delivers. In the night—when we can’t see clearly what is happening—we must speak to our hearts reminding ourselves of who He is and His great love for us, believing He is working all things for our ultimate good.

Tim Keller (one of my favorite preachers) has a quote that sums this up so well:

The Joseph story tells us that very often God does not give us exactly what we ask for. Instead He gives us what we would have asked for if we had known everything He knows. We must never assume that we know enough to mistrust God’s way or be bitter against what He has allowed. We must assume that behind everything that happens is the goodness and love of God. —Tim Keller