All is not well with us; all is not well with the world.
In Advent, we hear Isaiah’s dissatisfaction: “Sinful nation, people laden with wickedness, evil offspring, corrupt children!” Convicted by the prophet’s accusation, we see how far we are from God. We see the world mired with sin. Our hearts should burn with sorrow and repentance. Even if we find ourselves depressed, too tired to express our lament, can we not help but be dissatisfied with our lives?
Mercifully, Isaiah doesn’t leave us wallowing in dissatisfaction. His cries ring with a new desire: “If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river.” A river pours life into deserts and clears out stagnant waters. It gives the promise of movement, of direction, of a downhill journey towards the refreshing sea. This prosperity sounds good, almost easy. Does not Isaiah’s hope draw our hearts up in unspeakable desire for something more?
Now Isaiah, the one giving voice to our dissatisfaction, the one who has poured into our hearts a new desire, has a command: Wait. Wait patiently—“in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” An almost shocked quiet emerges, like the atmosphere in a concert hall after the last note fades away. The moment stretches—soon it must find completion in jubilant response. But for now, not even a breath comes from the crowd.
We wait in this moment. Wait. Wait patiently. Do not ignore the dissatisfaction; do not stifle the desire. One moment more, a little while yet.
As you wait, do not cease to be dissatisfied. Each of us is inclined to fall into sins from which we cannot save ourselves. When the shadows seem too great to overcome, ask for faith and hope. When salvation seems too far away, ask for courage.
As you wait, know that you have a great promise: “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” We must be patient, but he is the Patient One. Our patience as we wait for salvation imitates in some small way the patience of our God who saves us. When we burn with dissatisfaction and desire, that is already a sign of his activity in us.
As you wait, do not cease to desire the One who has come and who is to come. In this desire, you will see that all is not in vain. All is not well with us; all is not well with the world. But wait: all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Come, Lord Jesus!
Image: J. M. W. Turner, Yacht Approaching The Coast