“For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:8).
ANTICIPATION IS NO SMALL PART OF THE ENJOYMENT OF ANY GOOD THING. Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the year, both to cook and to eat. But as much as I enjoy the satisfaction of it, I almost enjoy the anticipation of it more. There is nothing quite like the aroma of good cornbread dressing baking in the oven!
If you haven’t learned it by now, you need to learn that longing is not inconsistent with joy. When Paul said that he “greatly longed” for his brothers and sisters in Philippi, we do not hear that as the complaint of a sad, miserable man. No, we hear it as the exuberant expression of a man who knew how to enjoy the goodness of the things he longed for, even while he was longing for them.
It is often said that we live in an age of “instant gratification,” and I suppose that is true to a large extent. But imagine a world where there was nothing but instant gratification, a world where you could have anything you wanted . . . and have it instantly. Would you want to live in such a world? I don’t think I would. Of the many things that would be lost in such a world, one of the most tragic would be the joy of anticipation. Imagine never knowing the childhood joy of looking forward to Christmas morning!
On a much more serious note, however, it is heaven that is our greatest anticipation. That is what we look forward to more than anything else; we deeply long to see our Father’s face. But might it not be true that our Father is preparing us for that joy by sending us through a time of anticipation in this world, a time when our primary joy comes from relishing the thought of what will one day be ours? I think that is not unlikely. And if the joys of this world are meant to be “appetizers,” let us enjoy them exactly as such. Let us appreciate that they make us more eager for the main course.
But even with the lesser joys of this world, may we let ourselves enjoy the blessings of anticipation. Not every day on the calendar can be a day of fulfillment; some must be days when we’re looking forward to a fulfillment — and those days of anticipation can be days of great joy if we let them be. It is, after all, the space between the holidays that makes those days such happy occasions.
“Every day cannot be a feast of lanterns” (Chinese Proverb).