Advent is a time of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ—and the second coming of Christ. In a sense, it is a season of intentional longing and waiting. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to waiting this Advent, perhaps because we’ve been in an extended season of waiting since the pandemic began. But the truth is, we do a lot of waiting on the regular…
Even when we’re sure that what we’re waiting for will come and will be good, it seems we rarely enjoy waiting. In general, our default in times of waiting is to become impatient and restless. And when waiting is prolonged, with no guaranteed ending, it often leads to frustration, sadness, and even despair. The truth is, whether it seems good or bad, happy or sad, waiting is just hard because it magnifies our longing. Every unmet desire creates a hollow place in the heart that longs to be filled.
Every unmet desire creates a hollow place
in the heart that longs to be filled.
Do you have any unmet desires? If you do, then you have hollow places. I do, too. Here’s the question I’ve been asking myself: What am I going to do with my hollow places?
One option is to ignore them, pretending they’re not there and everything is fine. I’ve done this so often that I’ve become very proficient at it, but I’ve discovered that it’s like driving a car low on gas—eventually the car will stop running, forcing me to acknowledge and address the situation.
Another option is to numb any pain, frustration, or disappointment I’m feeling. I do this far more often than I’d like to admit. It’s so much easier to turn on Netflix or reach for some chocolate than to attend to my longings and the emotions connected to them. But this, too, is only a temporary fix—and one that can lead to other problems.
A third option is to try to fill the hollow places with busyness. This actually can be a helpful coping mechanism in the short-term, when there is a known or projected end to the waiting. I have a friend who busies herself with sewing during temporary periods of waiting, and it not only occupies her mind and her hands but also provides beautiful gifts of love for others. Busyness, however, is not a permanent fix for the long haul. It can never fill the void caused by ongoing, indefinite waiting.
As I’ve considered what to do with my hollow places and how I can move more readily from impatience and frustration to perseverance and hope in times of waiting, I’ve realized that I can benefit from the rhythms of Advent—a season marked by waiting with expectancy and hope. In Advent we light candles to remind us that light has pierced the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. In Advent we give generously to others to remind us that Love expels all fear. In Advent, we sing songs of hope and praise to remind us that God sees us and comes to our aid. In Advent we lean into prayer to remind us that God is with us—always.
Light. Love. Praise. Prayer. These four rhythms fuel my hope and remind me that I’m not alone in my waiting. When I make them a regular part of my life—by doing things such as lighting candles, gazing at the stars, appreciating the sunrise and sunset, giving and receiving love in countless ways, listening to hope-filled music, singing songs of praise to God, and talking with God about my longings and feelings—these rhythms invite me to ache along with the rest of the world for the answer to every unmet desire. Whatever our longings may be, beneath them all is the desire for intimacy with our loving Creator—the One who made us, came to live among us in Jesus, sends his Spirit to dwell within us, and promises to come again to make all things new and right.
Whatever our longings may be, beneath them all is the desire for intimacy with our loving Creator.
In the meantime, as we wait, we have God’s loving presence through the gifts of creation, the Holy Spirit, and other people. God knows it’s not good for us to be alone and we need to experience love in tangible ways. So, just as God came to be with us in Jesus, God also comes to be with us through the loving presence of other people. In fact, when I asked friends how others have encouraged or supported them during extended times of waiting, they all mentioned the gift of presence. They said that whether others sat with them, checked on them, did things with them, texted or called them, or prayed with and for them, the gift of presence was an expression of love that communicated “I’m here with you” and “You’re not alone.” This is essentially the message of Advent: God loves us and has come to be with us.
Waiting is hard, but it can yield good things. Whatever you are waiting for in this season, I invite you to join me in making light, love, praise, and prayer regular rhythms so our hollow places can become hallowed ground where we welcome Christ to be born anew in us.
Our hollow places can become hallowed ground where we welcome Christ to be born anew in us.
Hi, I'm Sally!
I'm passionate about connecting with God and connecting with people, offering spiritual encouragement and companionship. I'm so grateful to be on the journey with you as we walk with God together.