No matter how many times it happens, I still have hope. I believe that my seven children will all love the meal I make for them. When I said that in my sermon Sunday, one man shouted out, “Then, order pizza!” Nope! That won’t work. One of my daughters doesn’t like tomato sauce! Another child complains about too much cheese! In spite of that, I hope beyond hope that everyone will like the meal.
I suspect I’m not the only one that is looking for a perfect meal. We are all looking for a perfect something. We think our marriage or vacation or job or church or children will fulfill all our hopes and dreams. The reality is generally far different. Everything disappoints.
One of the key promises of the Bible is that Jesus will come again. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Why is Jesus coming back? To bring to completion what He started. He will bring in perfection, the restoration of all things.
An important corollary to this truth is that there will be no completion in this life. There will always be something lacking. Every hobby will have its boring moments. Every relationship will have its hard moments. Every church will feel unwelcoming at times.
It is important to recognize this for two reasons.
First, it is easier to be content when our expectations are realistic. For example, people often share with me their struggles with debilitating anxiety. One of the most important things to come to grips with in dealing with anxiety is that you can never totally escape from anxiety. The simple recognition of this fact can help relieve that snowballing effect of having anxiety about your anxiety. So it is with other areas of life.
The second reason is that disappointment should lead us to look forward to something better. When we expect completion here, we will miss the real hope that we can have in completion at the coming of Christ. One reason we probably don’t “eagerly wait for a Savior” is that we don’t let our disappointments lead our hearts to the perfection that Christ will introduce at the end of history.
We have so many ways of drowning out the pain of disappointment in our society. We get lost in Facebook, blogs, drugs, alcohol, binge-TV watching, etc. Not all of those things are bad in themselves, but we can use them to numb ourselves to the passion we should feel for something much better than we have, something that Christ will bring about at His return.
We need to move beyond illusions about what we will experience in this life, but we should not let it drive us to despair. When we find out that people or organizations are disappointing, it’s easy to withdraw. When things get hard, it’s easy to just give up. How many people have you heard says, “I don’t want anything to do with politics”?
But it’s wrong. The world will only arrive at perfection when Jesus comes again. That doesn’t mean it can’t be better. That’s what the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost teaches us. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In other words, you have God’s presence to be witnesses to Christ and make this world what it should be. It won’t be perfect, but it can be better.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus speaks of the whole world, but He could have spoken about any area of life: family, marriage, business, community, neighborhood, school. None of these will be perfect, but have we asked how we can make them more of what God wants them to be by the power of the Spirit of God? Maybe your marriage is far from perfect, but can it be better?
The coming of the Son and the Spirit give us an important framework for thinking about life. The second coming of Jesus teaches us to avoid illusions, not to expect completion, perfection, or any sort of utopia in this life. The coming of the Spirit on Pentecost teaches us not to despair, but to believe that things can be better than they are.