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In The Meantime

Blog-Stockdale

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1a, ESV)

Jesus declared, “...be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).

“When?” we ask.

“Soon!” is the only answer we get.

Not knowing when something will arrive or end makes the waiting tough.

Through the years, many have tried to set the date for the return of Jesus. Edgar Whisenant claimed that the rapture would occur between September 11 and 13, 1988. Then September 15 or October 3. Then recalculated to 1990, 1991, 1992, etc.. Jack Van Impe aimed and missed at 1975, 1988, 1992, and 2012. Even earlier, Cotton Mather predicted the end would come in 1697, then 1716, then 1736.

But what does God’s word say about this? Jesus cautioned, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

So, we wait. In trust, with expectation.

Along comes COVID-19. We hate it. What we thought would be over quickly has raged on with no end in sight. How do we deal with not knowing when this pandemic will end?

In 1965, Navy Commander James Stockdale was taken prisoner during the Vietnam War. For more than seven years, he was held at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp.

Jim Collins shared Stockdale’s story in his 2001 bestselling business book, Good to Great. Collins found the story intriguing, noting Stockdale’s attitude was always hopeful.

Collins asked Stockdale how he remained hopeful during his ordeal. Stockdale explained, “Well, you have to understand, it was never depressing. Because despite all those circumstances, I never wavered in my absolute faith that not only would I get out of this, but I would also prevail by turning it into the defining event of my life that would make me a stronger and better person.”

Those that didn’t make it out? Stockdale said, “They were the ones who always said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’” But Christmas and other holidays would come and go, yet they weren’t released. Said Stockdale, “they died of a broken heart.”

Those who set dates for Christ’s return and the people who followed them were disappointed time after time. Some even turned their backs on God. Stockdale knew that holding to steadfast open-ended, trusting faith was the better way. Perhaps he learned this from David.

For more than seven years, David avoided death at the hands of Saul (1 Samuel). As a fugitive, David cried out to God in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord?”

After enduring the pandemic crisis for fewer than seven months, many are asking the same question of God. “How long, oh Lord, will COVID-19 be with us?”

When the crisis first began to unfold in mid-March “deadlines” popped up. It would be over by Memorial Day, by the first day of Summer, perhaps by the July Fourth weekend. Whatever the proposed end-date, each came and went, COVID-19 is still with us, and frustration mounts.

Just as we don’t know the specific date the Lord will return, we don’t know when this pandemic crisis will end. So, what are we to do in the meantime? How are we to cope?

We can learn from Stockdale’s experience as well as David’s. Psalm 13 ends, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

Part of being ready for the return of Christ means walking faithfully in the Holy Spirit. We are called to live upright lives, worship God, and serve others. And trust.

As for the pandemic, we are called to wash our hands, maintain social distance, use hand sanitizer, and wear face coverings. And trust.

Without anticipating a specific timeline, David declares his trust in the Lord and leaves his plea in God’s hands. He moves forward, trusting, hoping, and believing. We can do no less.

In waiting there is strength, as God’s word promises, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Maranatha! Come soon, Lord Jesus!



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