Here’s the fourth and final installment of my Advent series, The In-Between. Be sure to check out parts one, two, and three as well!

We experience indescribably great joys in this life, but we are also war-torn and weary. Jesus told His disciples (and us) that we will have trouble in this world. Do you know why He told His disciples to expect trouble, to anticipate really hard things? So that they would have peace! In one breath, He told of trouble to come, and in the next He said, “Take heart!” (John 16:33).

Peace and suffering co-exist here, but only one will last. Only one triumphs. How do we have peace in the hard in-between place, the place where we groan beneath the weight of suffering?

Peace is ours because we know the One who has overcome the hard in-between place. Through the pursuit of holiness, resting in our Savior, and helping others, we carry on between the victories.

1. We pursue holiness.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:13-15

As we travel the long road of the in-between place, we are active, intentional. Pursuing a goal. Pursing holiness. It is our life-long work: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12). But, it is God who works in us, “both to will and to work for His good pleasure,” (v.13).

Advent beckons us to pause and consider the miracle of Christmas: the Holy God came down in the form of a baby, lived a perfect life, and defeated death and hell to bring us back to Him, to make us like Him. We share in His holiness as He makes us more and more like Him, and it is only through Him that it is possible at all. Which brings us to our next point: we rest in Him. 

2. We rest in Him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 5:28-20

This may very well be the best news of Advent! Our enemy strives to keep us striving, but Christ came at Christmas to secure our rest. We are constantly wrestling and weary, but Christ invites us to rest by taking on His yoke. What does that mean?

Taking on the yoke of Jesus means we take on His teachings and instruction and let go of our own way. We give ourselves to His way, and pray like the hymnist, “Bind my wandering heart to Thee.” By surrendering our burdens and worries to Him, we can cease the endless striving. We feel the strain in this world between the victories, but rest is available to us right now if we return again and again to our gentle, humble Savior.

Our “meanwhile” is a long deep sigh, perhaps a place where we hold our breath, waiting, longing for what is to come. His grace and truth help us keep breathing in-between. The Prince of Peace came to a weary world at Christmas, and He keeps calling to our over-burdened hearts now, “Come to Me, and I will give you rest.”

3. We help the hurting.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Pain and suffering: as much as we want to avoid it, none are immune. Suffering is part of the human experience. The problem with pain is that it threatens to take us hostage. It screams so loudly that we struggle to hear the voice of God above its noise. It even casts a shadow over the parts of life that should be merry and bright.

Christmas can make this reality even more obvious. Kaitlin Miller put it this way: “The more joys and sorrows I live through personally and see in those around me, the more convinced I am that Christmas — over any other season — tends to make life’s sweet things sweeter and hard things harder.” 

But pain can be made to serve our greater good. While the enemy intends it to harm, suffering can drive us to know God more deeply, to cling more closely. When we suffer with hope, a hurting world sees Christ Who is greater than our pain. And just as our Father is near to the broken-hearted, we, too, can lean in to comfort others with the very comfort of Christ.

The Christmas season may highlight our hurts, but it also lends itself to seeing and meeting the needs of others in real and tangible ways.

As our Savior stepped into our brokenness on that first Christmas, we can ask Him for eyes to see how we might step into the needs of others. We can be willing, present, and generous in this season and beyond as we walk the hard in-between place.

This is how Christmas sustains us in a world between victories. 

We celebrate His first coming and the victory which purchased the salvation of our souls, and with joy, we point to His final return. In between, we live in way that draws others to our Savior.

One more thing: Even as we long for a better country and travel the long in-between road, remember this: The longing that feels like an ache, is also a gift. We are promised that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled, (Matthew 5:6).

That promise starts now and continues. We live now, fully present, because God is a very present help, (Psalm 46:10). We can rejoice now, in this day, because “this is the day that the Lord has made,” (Psalm 118:24).

We rejoice in Christ’s first coming: He left the throne of heaven, not content to be a far away King, but instead to be our close, ever-present friend — still Lord, still full of glory, still fully God, but also fully man, made of flesh, humble to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8) to put sin to death.

Meanwhile, we live.

We remember what He has accomplished for us, we look ahead to His triumphant return. But we don’t miss the life we now live in the flesh by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us, (Galatians 2:20).

How do we live in a world between victories? Look around at the beauty of this in-between place. We don’t have to hurry down the path He has us on. In the midst of the brokenness we experience is still this world He made and called good. And there’s you and me, His fearfully and wonderfully made-in-His-image crown of creation.

We are part of His plan to bring hope and light to the darkness. Let us consider each other in order to provoke love and good works…and encourage one another even more as we see the Day drawing near, (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Even the sun and moon were given to us as a reminder of the glory of God, for the “meanwhile.” We need only look up at the radiant morning sun or the steady glow of the midnight moon to remember: a new dawn and a new day is coming. A day when all things, every broken thing, every hard place, every wound will be made new and holy and complete and whole.

No longer will there be any curse…on that day, there will be no more night. We will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give us light. And we will reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 22:3-5

Oh, Lord, hasten the day!


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