Yesterday was glorious, and today is rainy. Yesterday I picked up the beginnings of a tan, and today the coat is back in action as we go about our Saturday business. I thought summer had arrived, and yet this is not it.
Illinois spring is a yo-yo season in which the sun comes out, everyone spills out into the garden and shorts push trousers into storage. But within a day, the temperature can drop, we’re shivering at the park having based our wardrobe choice on the day before and everyone is feeling a little disappointed.
Anticipation builds, hopes are raised…and then come crashing down as wintry weather creeps back in.
Summer is much anticipated. I’m ready for sunshine. And already I can feel my expectations beginning to take shape. Good weather and outdoors fun feature highly, but on a grander scale there’s the hope of a UK trip for us, time with family we haven’t seen for nearly two years and a return to familiar places, rhythms and foods. Having guarded my heart against expectations of being able to make the trip, it feels like the floodgates have opened and hopes are full blown and expectant as we talk dates and flights.
But as I feel my summer anticipations grow, and see my hope begin to rest on possible plans, I’m reminded to pause, look up and remember.
Centuries ago, six hundred years before Jesus was born, a prophet called Isaiah spoke words that hit my heart, this context and maybe anyone else tempted to rest hopes on shifting, changing, unsteady things.
Isaiah says, ‘ The grass withers, the flower fades, but the the word of our God will stand forever’ (40:8)
The contrast between the fading surroundings and the everlasting word of God pushes me to want that steadying, unchanging, rock-like word. That word that anchors in the same way as God himself, for his words come out of his steadfast, faithful character. The word of God is eternal because God is eternal. This word gives unending wisdom and life; it gives that which will not disappoint, or shift, or wrong-step, or fall flat.
While my summer hopes don’t deliberately take the place of God’s word in my thinking, they begin to nudge in there, share the platform and capture my heart with the idea that it’s a summer as I’ve planned that will give me all I need.
But what is this word about? What does God speak of? What does he want to tell us? Why is it so valuable that it lasts forever?
Isaiah comes back to this everlasting word fifteen chapters later, and speaks of it as an accomplishing word. It is purposeful, and achieves what God intends it to do. He says ‘it shall not return to me [God] empty, but shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it’ (Is 55:11).
The fifteen chapters between these two big Word statements tell of Jesus, the suffering servant and God’s king who would rescue God’s people with his sacrificial, loving death and resurrection. The word that never fades or withers, that does not come back empty handed is about Jesus. As it goes out, as we read it in the Bible, as we hear it from others, as we speak of it with others, as we see Jesus through this God-given word…we know of Jesus, we trust Jesus, we cry out to him for salvation, we run to him to have our hopes fulfilled. That is God’s purpose. And it is wonderfully accomplished through His word.
Our church women’s bible study have just finished studying Mark’s gospel, and we’ve been seeing, enjoying, loving, trusting and delighting in Jesus. God’s word, by His Spirit, has been at work and it’s been the most encouraging and beautiful thing to see in action as the year as gone on.
It’s this that stands, and through which God keeps working. It’s in this ongoing, purposeful word that draws us to Jesus that my hopes should be, and in which my expectations rest.
I’m praying that summer plans do go ahead, but I’m glad that they aren’t the be-all and end-all because my hope is in the eternal, working, saving word of God – which ultimately is Jesus himself.
At least if we do make it back to the UK, Illinois spring has sharpened my wardrobe choices for that British summer we’re longing to experience. Coat and shorts will be in the suitcase, but so will my Bible so that those anticipations and expectations rest in the right place.