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Seven years into marriage, my wife and I learned that we could not bear children together. We had been waiting, hoping for years that we would conceive. My wife’s lifelong dream was to be a stay-at-home mom and a pastor’s wife. Several years into our marriage, we found ourselves waiting on God and being stretched spiritually as we did so. We began down a trail of medical inquiries that proved to be costly and humiliating—with no resolution.

Finally, one day, all our waiting came to a climactic moment at a hospital. My wife had undergone one final surgery attempting to repair what we had learned was the reason for our infertility. She had survived a ruptured appendix as a child that was misdiagnosed. It should have killed her. Instead, her body walled off the infection, rendering her unable to conceive. Now, many years later and seven years into our marriage, I waited in a hospital room for her to come back from this “last chance” surgery. It seemed like forever, as I waited and wrestled with God in prayer, pleading for my wife and for children I might not ever know. Eventually, the hospital staff rolled her back into the room, still sleeping. The surgeon came and sat down beside me and explained very clearly and gently that it was conclusive—we were never going to bear children. The doctor asked if he should tell her when she woke up or if I wanted to. I told him that I would do it. He left, and I sat beside my sleeping wife . . . waiting . . . waiting to tell her that God had given a clear answer, and that it was not the one we had hoped for.

Waiting can be remarkably difficult, yet it is something that everyone in this world must do, whether we enjoy it or not. For the Christian, however, the manner of our waiting (doing so in hope) is one of the things that set us apart from the world. And it is often amid our waiting that we tend to learn the most about ourselves and grow in our relationship with God. As we wait, we learn that the things of this world are frail and fading and that the eternal things of heaven are our ultimate hope—and worth waiting for.

As we wait, we learn that the things of this world are frail and fading and that the eternal things of heaven are our ultimate hope—and worth waiting for.

In Romans 8:18–25, Paul makes a remarkable parallel between the Christian and creation: both are awaiting future glory. The church in Rome was experiencing the beginnings of persecution. Like the outer bands of a hurricane, these events indicated that matters would only intensify, and the faith of the young church would be put to the test. Paul consoles the church, yet not with trite platitudes of “don’t worry, be happy” or “hang in there; it will all get better.” Rather, he points the believers to the hope of heaven and declares that the sufferings of this present evil age are simply unworthy to be compared with the glory that is yet to be revealed in us (v. 18). Paul does not deny the reality of suffering in the life of God’s people; nor does he make light of it. But however much our sufferings might weigh on a scale, those things pale in comparison to the quantity and the quality of all that awaits us in heaven, so much so that the former is not even worth weighing next to the latter. There is simply no comparison.

Paul also shows that in this, we have something in common with creation itself. For it is not simply the Christian who longs for the end of the age; so also does creation. It might strike us as an odd argument at first, but upon reflection, it is deeply encouraging. Paul’s point is that creation was designed with an end in mind. It was designed to be the habitation of eternal glory in which mankind would glorify and enjoy God together. Creation may reflect the glory of God (Ps. 19; Rom. 1), but it can only reflect God’s glory; it cannot contain it. But creation is infused with a goal. Like a stage designed for a play or a home built for a family, creation “waits with eager longing” (Rom. 8:19) for that day when it finally reaches the destination for which it was made. And what is that occasion for which creation longs? Paul makes this very clear: it is the revelation of the sons of God.

Perhaps the house image fits better here than that of a stage, for Paul is now speaking in the language of family. The revealing of the sons of God that Paul refers to in verse 19 is quite likely the day in which the last Christian has been adopted into the family of God and the entire family is consummately revealed in glory. Paul is teaching us that creation will reach its final destination in glory when the last of God’s children has been brought home. In other words, this present evil age will end when God has adopted the last of His covenant children into His forever family, and they are all eternally united to Christ and one another by the work of God’s Holy Spirit. This is what creation longs for and what we long for as well—the rest of our covenant family.

Having stated that this is our goal and the goal of creation, Paul goes on, with pastoral honesty and sensitivity, to point out that while our goal is great, waiting for it is not easy; it is not easy for us any more than it is easy for creation. Paul speaks of creation’s futility and frustration in verses 20–23. Creation is described as being like a person who has been enslaved yet longs to be free. Bondage in corruption will eventually give way to freedom in glory. But before that, creation also groans as though it were a woman in the pains of childbearing. The pain is intense, but the outcome will be glorious, in due time. In like manner, the church waits; and as we do so, we are “groan[ing] inwardly” (v. 23). Paul pastorally describes the difficulty of waiting in the language of personal anguish. He does not minimize our pain any more than we would minimize the pain of a woman in bearing a child. This pain is real. But there is something more real than the pain itself—more real not only in the sense of being better but also in the sense of being eternal. Just as childbearing is temporary and gives way to life, the church’s waiting will give way to an eternal weight of glory that will never end but will abound in eternal life.

This is why Paul ends this section by focusing not on hurting but hoping, not on pain but patience. Christians, even more than creation, abound with hope. Creation is the context of our relationship with God, but for Christians, God Himself is our inheritance and consolation, and even the finest things of creation will pale in comparison with Him. Our hope is not in what we can see (creation) but in Him whom we cannot see (our Creator). This is why Christians of old often talked about “godly farsightedness.” Like a person with reading glasses, we struggle to see the things right in front of our faces, yet more and more our gaze focuses on the things of heaven, where Christ is seated in glory. And while we hope for that which we cannot yet see, “we wait for it with patience” (v. 25). Even in this life, our waiting in patience can bear much fruit and even receive blessings from God amid this present evil age.

The same year that my wife and I learned that we could not have children, I bought her a table. It was made by an Amish carpenter in Lancaster, Pa. I ordered enough chairs to seat my wife and me and the kids we had dreamed of having. In God’s providence, the same year I bought that table, we learned that it would not be filled—not our way. A year later, we began the process of adoption. We would eventually adopt four amazing children. My wife found the most beautiful way of summarizing this. God had very graciously and gently broken her body in order to build the beautiful family that we now have. In doing so, He taught us a lot about ourselves and a lot about Him—and we would not have it any other way. We too are His adopted children. Jesus is the One who was broken for us, that many more sons and daughters might find a seat at God’s table. And until the last of God’s children are brought home, we, along with creation, wait with patience for that glorious day when we enter into glory with our forever family. This is and will be the end of waiting.

Waiting with God’s Promises and Word

Discernment without Judgmentalism

Keep Reading Waiting on the Lord

From the April 2024 Issue
Apr 2024 Issue