By: Benjamin Elio
“Until the day when God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words,—‘Wait and hope.’”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
Edmond Dantès, now the Count of Monte Cristo, has completed his mission of vengeance and taken back his previous life from those who conspired to betray him. Yet, he has found himself devoid of joy, unable to live the life he worked so hard to get back.
Dantès realizes he has been consumed entirely by vengeance, pretending to be God, and in doing so has become an empty shell of his past self. In his final remarks he paints a picture of his new, old theology, a regained trust and faith in the ultimate goodness and sovereignty of God. He says, “all human wisdom is contained by these two words, – ‘Wait and Hope.’”
In his swashbuckling novel, Alexandre Dumas masterfully weaves an epic of jealousy, love, hatred, good and evil, justice, and the challenge of waiting for God to bring about justice. There is something profound in the final words of Monte Cristo that causes them to resonate in my heart and mind. Perhaps it is because most of life is spent in the mundaneness of waiting.
We are found waiting in doctor’s offices, waiting for an email reply, and waiting for a new season of our favorite show to come out. We can be found waiting for a new home, for an illness to pass, for a new job, new circumstances, or a new family. We’re waiting for God to move in our hearts, to provide hope and comfort, to save a loved one, to restore a broken relationship, to return in judgment to set things right.
The final words of Edmond Dantès, “wait and hope,” echo a truth found throughout scripture. We see it in the Psalms, “I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Ps. 130:5), we see it in the prophecy of salvation in Isaiah, and the lamentations of Jeremiah, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently, for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lam 3.25-26). Abraham waited for God’s promise of land and children, Noah’s family waited a year for the waters to subside, Moses waited 40 years to come into the Promised Land, and the nation of Israel waited 400 years after the prophets went silent for Jesus to come and fulfill the promises of God. Yes, we truly do share in the waiting felt by every believer since the beginning of time. However, while the commonality of waiting is reassuring, it does little to comfort us as we wait.
In the beginning of The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantès is a meek and peaceful man soon to be betrothed to the love of his life. Everything is copasetic, until he is suddenly betrayed by his jealous best friend and wrongfully sent to prison for treason. Initially, he turns to God, praying fervently, waiting to be delivered. After 6 years, however, he falls into despair and depression. His waiting turns to agony as he loses his understanding of God’s plan for his life. How often do we find ourselves agonizing over the longings of our heart? Weekly, daily, hourly? The problem is that waiting turns into longing, which can become agonizing and confusing if we lack an understanding of God’s purpose for our lives.
We grow weary when God doesn’t answer us on our timetable. Unfortunately, what happens next is exactly what happened to Monte Cristo and some of our own Biblical figures. We assume a position of unbelief (or contempt) of God’s promises and we begin to act out with a false sense of control. Pretending to be God, we break the first commandment, and havoc ensues. We turn from God and look elsewhere. In a society that thrives on immediate gratification, this is all too easy.
Countering our impatience, God’s Word instructs us to wait in hope. Waiting is not a command referring to strict passivity, but rather a call to patiently trust God’s promises. In Psalm 25.3 we are told that “none of those who wait for You [God] will be ashamed.” Why would the people of God need this assurance? When God doesn’t do what we want when we want it, doubt can creep in. Doubt can make us feel like we’re not being heard, that God is distant, or that He doesn’t care. If God was unreliable, faith in God would be “a long wait for a train that don’t come,” as Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly says. And this is precisely why the Psalmist reassures God’s people by telling them that they are not waiting in vain. Not only will God reward us with character and holiness, but he will finally reward us in the Resurrection and life at the end of all things.
So, how do we apply the principles of waiting in hope to our lives today? First we are called to repent and turn from the culture of immediacy, from idolatry of control. Ask yourself, is my prayer, my life, about God’s will being done or my will being done? We must also repent from desiring the things of God over God himself. We often desire good things for our lives, like a job or a spouse or healing. But, like Timothy Keller says, good things that have become ultimate things are poisonous because they replace God in our hearts. Ask yourself, can I live contently if this prayer never comes to pass? Is God enough for me?
Second, we need to believe God. We need to dwell on the person of God, his character and his perfect holiness. We need to look deep into the Gospel of Jesus Christ for security and never look back. We need to submit our time, our hearts, and minds, to reading God’s Word.
We also need to trust God. “He who began a good work in you will complete it.” Phil 1.6. He’s not off in distant places trying to figure out what’s next for each one of us. He has a plan and He’s using everything, good or bad, to work it out. Rom 8.28. He cares about us and he cares about making us look more like Jesus. Do I trust the promises God has made?
Then, we need to look forward. We need to be eternally minded. God has a mission in mind. He has grafted us into the Kingdom family and placed us onto His mission. We need to look at and take ownership of God’s mission of restoration. Mat 6.33
Finally, we need to make plans and pray for the plans we make. Apathy is not the answer to God’s sovereignty. In His mercy and love, he uses our efforts to accomplish his mission. We must pray before we make the plans, pray that God would use the plans we have made, and pray as we go about pursuing plans. It’s good to make plans, as long as we recognize that “ the LORD directs [our] steps.” (Pv 16.9). Ultimately, it’s His will that is accomplished, not ours.
“We shall not grow weary of waiting upon God if we remember how long and how graciously He once waited for us.”- Charles Spurgeon