As parents, we struggled with the same dilemma most moms and dads do—dealing with the tears our little ones shed when we leave them. It’s heart-wrenching, even if you are dropping your children off to spend time with grandma and grandpa or with that great Sunday School teacher at church. Recently, I watched tears stream down our granddaughter’s face as she clutched her mom who uttered those oft-recited words, “I’ll come back.”
Babies and toddlers ultimately get over separation anxiety and soon learn that parents do indeed return for them. Harper experienced the fulfillment of her mother’s promise just a few hours later, and the smile that spread across her face when her mom came back was priceless. This leaving and returning process is a crucial life lesson because, eventually, those kids will grow up and have to offer similar reassurances to their children one day.
But imagine the uncertainty of that initial experience when no relational equity has been established in the “return policy.” This is a challenge faced at some point by all kids, and it has become a reality for each of God’s children. How so? Because long ago when the disciples were gathered for the last time, Jesus made a pledge to return for His followers. Just like a loving parent, He not only promised to return but also explained the reason for His departure:
Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
(John 14:1-3, New Living Translation)
Like children, the disciples had lots of questions about this strange statement. Acting as the group spokesman, Thomas said: “No, we don’t know, Lord … we have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (verse 5).That’s when Jesus provided them with more details, including reminders about all the experiences the disciples had been part of during His ministry. Finally, as any caring parent does, Jesus reiterated His promise: “Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again . . . I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe” (verses 28a, 29).
Yet, it has been a long wait—and in these troubling times, believers seem more eager than ever to have this particular promise fulfilled. Christians in the early church felt a similar longing. In fact, the apostle Peter wrote this reminder about the lengthy delay:
Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”
(II Peter 3:3-5)
Christians in Peter’s day probably had people in their lives sneering and jeering at their hope in Christ’s return, not unlike the experiences many of us have today—and our kids will no doubt have in the future. So, why the prolonged wait? Why hasn’t Jesus come back yet? A few verses later, Peter explained the situation this way:
Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.
(II Peter 3:8-9, The Message Bible)
God’s patience regarding this promise is for those yet-to-be-saved individuals around the world and in all our lives. He’s giving everyone—loved ones, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.—time to understand this amazing promise:
“For this is how God loved the world: He gaveHis one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life”
While the wait for Jesus’ return may seem like an eternity, it’s because of the significance of eternal life that He patiently awaits. God doesn’t want anyone to lose the opportunity to join His forever family—and, with His help, believers can be part of that salvation process. That’s why we need to keep sharing—and keep caring. And may we cling to all His promises, trusting that “Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever” (I Thessalonians 5:10).
Many blessings to you this Spring from all of us at Sonkist Ministries.
Thought of the Season
No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.