He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
- Ecclesiastes 3:11
Generally, I’m not a fan of Christian music. While many people who came to Orthodoxy out of evangelical Protestant backgrounds may listen to Christian music and dislike it because of the unpleasant taste it has left in their mouths, I dislike it for the simple reason that I have not found many Christian artists who are actually any good. One man alone, however, stands out for me as a talented musician and poetic lyricist: Josh Garrels.
His lyrics are at once challenging and hopeful. He frequently captures the deep longing that I experience as I look at the world around me and ask, “How long, O Lord?”
How long will people kill one another?
How long will people exploit each other?
How long will You wait to come and establish Your Kingdom?
These thoughts that tell us all is not right in the world find beautiful expression in Garrels’ song, “Farther Along.” He sings:
Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man dies, the bad man thrives,
And Jesus cries because He loves em’ both.
We’re all cast-aways in need of rope,
Hangin’ on by the last threads of our hope.
In a house of mirrors full of smoke
Confusing illusions I’ve seen.
His lyrics are beset with grief, lament toward the world in which we live. It’s truly baffling even for the Psalmist who almost stumbles in his trust for God upon seeing the “prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:2,3). Yet amidst this confusion, amidst the uncertainty that comes with following Christ, Garrels’ chorus roots us in eschatological confidence in Christ.
Farther along we’ll know all about it.
Farther along we’ll understand why.
So cheer up, my brothers. Live in the sunshine.
We’ll understand this all, by and by.
One day when the sky rolls back on us,
Some rejoice, and the others fuss
‘Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess:
The Son of God is forever blessed.
His is the Kingdom, and we’re the guests,
So put your voice up to the test.
Sing, “Lord, come soon!”
Listening to Garrels actually offers me some relief that I’m not the only person who finds himself waiting for things to get better in eternity. As the Ecclesiastes verse above states, we are made to hope for eternity.
We don’t want things to be like this forever, and somehow, deep inside us, we know they won’t be. We are made for holy longing. And as I listen to the words of Josh Garrels, I feel this longing activated. Even amidst his confidence that the Lord will come again and the Lord will win, Garrels admits that he finds himself “hardpressed on every side/between the Rock and a compromise/like the Truth and pack of lies fighting for my soul.”
Our God-given desire, holy longing given that we might desire Him who is the source of desire, can often be co-opted, led toward sin through the destructive thought pattern of despondency.
Despondency, Fr. Gabriel Bunge writes, is “marked above all by its contradictory character. Everything that is available is hateful to it; everything that is unavailable is desirable.” This leads us to feel restless, distracted, bored. We may be tempted to escape our anger toward the present moment by throwing ourselves into acquiring all kinds of material possessions.
Deep down, what we are afraid of is emptiness. We are afraid that when everything is quiet, when everything is still, we will be confronted with the reality that everything is not okay, and so we do everything we can to run from this.
We throw ourselves into busyness to distract ourselves, filling our calendars with appointments and visits with friends so we never feel the sting of nothingness. We are yoked to our cell phones so that we don’t miss a text or a tweet because we can’t bear our own existential loneliness in the face of this absurd world. Busyness, in all its forms, keeps us from feeling the sharpness of the void we experience every time we hear about another bombing or riot.
We know that things aren’t alright. But perhaps the response to the destructive impulse toward despondency isn’t just busyness. Perhaps, rather, we must learn to be patient. We must learn to wait for God to fulfill His promise that one day the sky will roll back, and every knee will bow and tongue confess that Christ is Lord.
We have been made to long for Christ. Perhaps the difficult call of the Christian is to lean into this longing. To admit that we know things aren’t alright and that they won’t be until Jesus returns. But we have confidence that He is coming again, confidence that should lead us into the world to bear the suffering of those around us, emboldening us to be the light in a world beset by darkness.
We must live in the tension between that which is and that which is to come. So the next time we feel the twinge of longing that the evil one co-opts and causes us to be afraid, let’s instead hold fast to holy longing, looking to Christ and praying with the Spirit and the Church, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
 Gabriel Bunge, trans. Anthony P. Gythiel, Despondency: The Spiritual Teaching of Evagrius Ponticus on Acedia (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2012), p. 66.
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.
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