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Snow in many parts of the American South is a meteorological rarity, so a forecast with the slightest possibility of snow is big news. Such was the scene in our part of the country at the beginning of this year. The forecast predicted snow and ice about a week in advance, and the town was abuzz in anticipation and preparation. From the neighborhood social media page to workplace chatter to the checkout aisle, the looming weather was the topic of conversation. The news caused mixed reactions. Some were giddy with delight, dreaming of a winter wonderland; others were tentative and wary of possible closures and power outages; still others hurried about, gathering provisions. Yet everyone was well aware of the coming wintry mix.

The snowstorm came and went without incident. Yes, snow fell, but the above-freezing temperatures meant that it melted upon arrival on the ground—much to the disappointment and tears of little ones in my home.

This incident made me ponder another coming. Not of wintry precipitation, but one that will nonetheless take place on the clouds in the second coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (Rev. 1:7). What will this day be like? And who will be ready and anticipating such an event?

We know that many, through willful rejection and heedless neglect, will not be anticipating or ready for such a coming, but how about the church of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is there a preparation and eager expectation? Or have we grown dull and comfortable in this world so that our thoughts and affections rarely turn heavenward in longing and expectancy for the return of our Lord?

One of the great thematic arcs of Scripture is the presence of God. It was the distinguishing feature of the garden of Eden that was lost through man’s sin and rebellion as the full manifestation of God’s presence was removed. Yet God through His gracious covenant love placed symbols of His presence before His Old Testament people, such as the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night in the wilderness, along with the presence of the tabernacle and temple. In the New Testament, the presence was veiled in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ as “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Suffering turns our hearts to the return of our Lord.

Remaining faithful to His promise, God has not abandoned us as orphans or left us or deprived us of His presence. Due to remaining sin and corruption in the world, however, God has graciously veiled His full presence. But the hope of all believers throughout the centuries is the coming of the Lord in the fullness of His glory and power. The continual exhortation of Scripture, therefore, is not only of readiness but kindling and fanning into flames one’s anticipation and prayers for the return of our Lord.

This expectation has been neglected in the modern church. So how can we regain this perspective? Here are three ways. First, by seeing this present world and its troubles aright. With the many problems that we have faced recently, it’s hard to be overly enamored of the world. But the modern church tends to focus on temporal solutions to our individualistic or sociological problems. Such an emphasis is not far removed from humanistic thinking that man is the measure of all things and that all solutions are within reach. Perhaps the Lord has allowed such frustrations (individually and socially) in part so that our hearts and thoughts would turn away from things below and look above to “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16).

Second, as painful and trying as they may be, suffering and tribulations turn our hearts and minds to the return of our Lord. The early church had little difficulty in keeping the return of the Lord before them as they endured great persecution, imprisonment, loss of possessions, and even death. Yet as they fled persecution, they continued “gospeling” the Word (see Acts 8:4). As they did so, I doubt that the “best life now” message was on their lips. The Lord used (and still uses) suffering and persecution in this world to develop His people’s longing for the world to come. Peter says as much when he states:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12–13)

Our present suffering, increased hostility, and even persecution are not wasted if they are producing an abundance of joy and rejoicing in the future glory that is ours in the revelation of His glory.

Third, increased love for our Lord would have us long for His return. As we increase in knowledge and revel in the blessing that is ours, our love for our Lord and Savior expands. Likewise, His presence in the corporate worship of our local churches on the Lord’s Day surely always satisfies but never satiates our longing. There is a hunger and thirst for more of Him that will be made complete only when our faith becomes sight, and with every passing day and year, that reality, with increased yearning, escalates. As one elderly woman I know, instead of bemoaning her ever-increasing age, would joyfully respond when greeted with birthday wishes, “One year closer to seeing Jesus!”

C.H. Spurgeon once said: “We are not called down to the grave, but up to the skies. Our heaven-born spirits should long for their native air.” Is this “native air” filling our thoughts and lives here below, as we look for a greater and far more glorious presence yet to come? “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

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