As I moved closer to the dusty, swinging doors, my mind was unwaveringly set on one thing: food. At the time, I was working at a Christian summer camp, getting up early, going to bed late, and doing a couple hundred tasks in between. The work was difficult, and I remember being so incredibly hungry each time I walked into the dining hall. My mouth began to water as I moved to the front of the line, and I couldn’t sit down fast enough to start eating. I can clearly recall having the same thought every single meal, “This is the best food I have ever tasted.”
To be perfectly clear, it wasn’t the best food I had ever tasted. At best, these were elementary-level meals made by a few teenagers. But a simple principle made them seem indescribably delicious:
I had to wait for them.
The thought struck me; how much better it is to receive something when you have to wait for it, particularly when the waiting period is difficult. As I continued to think about this over the next several years, I began to see it in so many aspects of life. Getting into a comfortable bed feels so much better when you have been moving around all day. Taking a shower is so much more satisfying when you are completely covered with dirt. Earning a degree feels like so much more of an accomplishment when you work four years for it. The longer you wait for something, the more you anticipate it, and the better it is when you finally receive it.
This thought eventually formed itself into a line that continuously remains true in my life; “How much sweeter the taste of that which is long awaited.”
The Christian life, especially, is one that is consistently characterized by waiting. The word “wait” appears over 150 times in the Old and New Testament combined. Isaiah 30:18 tells us, “But the Lord longs to show you His favor. He wants to give you His tender love. The Lord God is always fair. Blessed are those who wait for Him to act.” We read a similar sentiment in Micah 7:7, “But I will look to the Lord. I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” Hundreds of Scripture references could be mentioned that encourage the Christian to wait. This begs two important questions:
- What are we waiting for?
- How are we called to wait?
We are waiting for the fulfillment of all that has been promised to us, when Jesus Christ will return for His chosen people and make all things new. Revelation 21:1-5 provides a powerful picture of what this will look like:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
This is inexpressibly worth waiting for, and it will be better than our finite minds can possibly imagine.
But we are not called to wait idly, like patients in a waiting room. We are instructed to wait with great purpose, intentionality, and hope. Matthew 28:19-20 captures Jesus’ final words before ascending into heaven, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This cannot be done in our own strength, but with consistent reliance on the Father. Colossians 1:23 encourages us, “But keep your faith steady and firm. Don’t move away from the hope that the good news holds out to you. It is the good news that you heard. It has been preached to every creature under heaven.”
C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity expresses the thought, “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.” As I anticipated each meal at that summer camp, I worked diligently, relying on a strength that was not my own. And each time, I was reminded that the food was so much better because I had to wait for it. We hunger for the wedding feast that will be infinitely more fulfilling than any summer camp meal. As we expectantly anticipate the coming of Christ and the fulfillment of all that we hope for, let us remember “How much sweeter the taste of that which is long awaited.”