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Suffering with chronic pain means a lot of waiting. When my muscle and joint pain set in about 10 years ago, I spent hours in the waiting rooms of new doctors’ offices. Waiting for the pain to subside. Waiting for a diagnosis that never seemed to come. Waiting for the day when all of this will be over.

Waiting in chronic pain can wear you down, shrivel your love, fill you with self-pity, and poison your heart. Or it can refine your character, build your patience and endurance, and increase your longing for God. Whether our waiting does the one or the other largely depends on what we believe is on the other side of this suffering.

As the season of waiting, Advent has a particular word of comfort for those suffering from bodily aches. During Advent, the church waits twice—for the first coming (adventus) of the Christ child in the humility of the manger, and then for his second coming upon the clouds in judgment and glory.

By pointing to the coming of our Lord, Advent transforms our suffering by giving us hope to endure.

By pointing to the coming of our Lord, Advent transforms our suffering by giving us hope to endure.

How so? Three texts in particular give hope to the sufferer of chronic physical pain.

First, in Colossians 3, Paul urges his hearers to set their minds on things above, where Christ is (vv. 1–2). Why? Because “your life is hidden with Christ in God,” and “when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (v. 4).

Second, the glory coming at Christ’s return includes your own glory, too. The apostle John confirms this in 1 John 3:2: even though we are children now and we don’t know what that glory will be, “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” This is a mystery beyond comprehension.

Third, in Romans 8, Paul assures us that the “sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (v. 18). For in that glory, all of the futility, all of the pain, all of the corruption of creation will find its redemption, and “we ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit”—who “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons”—will experience “the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23).

And so we have hope in this salvation, even if we can’t see or experience it now. And this hope allows us to “wait for it with patience” (v. 25).

For those of you who groan, who ache, who keep waiting with no end in sight on this earthly horizon, take heart. Advent points us to the day when our resurrected and ascended Lord will return in glory—a glory he will share with his long-suffering people. It is a redeeming glory. It is a healing glory.

And it is a glory that is veiled at present, much as its light was veiled in the humility and pain of Christ’s coming. But we take heart from that first advent, wherein he took on our infirmities and sufferings in order to one day abolish them forever.

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