Waiting with Hope in the Lord, Even in Death
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
—Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)
Have you ever come close to death? When I was in the second year of my missionary career in Uganda, I was involved in a road accident. The double-cab pickup I was driving hit a huge rut at the side of the road and ended up rolling over at least two times before it landed upside down in a ditch. As it was moving out of control, I heard myself cry out, “O Lord, O Lord!” I expected that this was the end of life for me, and I was instantly filled with the thought that I would be going to heaven.
Imagine my surprise when instead I found myself upside down with just a little scratch on my elbow! The vehicle was a complete wreck, with only the driver’s seat completely intact! While most people might expect that I would have been elated to be alive and thankful that God had protected me, I was actually terribly disappointed. Why? Well, I had completely surrendered to the idea I would be seeing Jesus face to face in all of his glory. Instead, I was still on earth with all its suffering, misery, conflict, poverty, disaster, and broken relationships. Seriously, I thought, why did God just turn me over and over just to put my head closer to the earth? I could not help thinking, “Now how long, O Lord, do you still want me here?”
Today, over 30 years later, I realize that my road accident gave me some significant gifts of truth that I live with each day. One truth is that life does not really end; it just changes. Another truth is that I am not in control; God is. This also means I do not control anyone else around me; God does. Imagine the incredible freedom from anxiety this gives!! Another truth is that life is very short, so my joyful duty is to make the most of every day, all for Jesus. Another truth is that there is no fear in death for anyone whose life and soul are surrendered to the Lord. It is an amazing gift to live as though I am waiting in eager expectation for death to come, because I know it is the passage to eternal life and to being home with Jesus. Another truth is that as long as God has purposed me to live in a world of suffering, I need to give my utmost toward alleviating suffering and sharing God’s powerful presence during times of suffering.
Advent is a time when we reflect on our longing for Jesus in a world full of suffering and death. The Israelites longed for a savior to be born as their king to free them from oppressive rulers. Yet Christ came with a different goal, one that included death so that anyone who believes in him would have a life with a different ending – a never-ending life! His saving grace would give freedom from sin, even for today, so that life can be restored, relationships can be reconciled, and strength can be renewed.
One of my favorite passages from Scripture is Isaiah 40:28-31 because it is such a wonderful reminder that hope in the Lord means waiting with a faith-filled longing, knowing that Jesus has power within as well as over suffering and death. Waiting with hope in him means looking for and following his vision and goals for our life, and not succumbing to pressures from other people to be or do something different. Waiting with hope in him means accessing all the power of his Spirit and the gifts he provides to extend his healing to all nations and people. Waiting with hope in him means supporting others to truly live out the story and purpose God has for them without any need to control their destiny. Waiting with hope in him means living each day without fear because we know death is not an ending of a life story, only a changing to an eternal life story.
So what difference does waiting with hope in Christ make for the way you live today?
Prayer: From the lyrics by Charles Wesley (1745), “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus”:
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo serves as director of World Renew-Canada, a role she has filled since 2006. She has served in various roles within World Renew for over 30 years: as a program consultant, Uganda country director, East and Southern Africa regional team leader, and ServiceLink coordinator for the CRCNA. In addition to living out her calling and passion for justice and mercy in these roles, Ida teaches a community development course at Redeemer University College and volunteers as a pastoral elder in Immanuel CRC (Hamilton, Ont.) and as a member of the Classis Hamilton interim committee. She also represents World Renew as a board member in two major international networks: ACT Alliance and Integral Alliance. Ida is married to James Mutoigo and is blessed with three young adult children, Violet, Bryant, and Angela.