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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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‘Waiting Forward’ in a Backward World

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For nine months I prayed. Daily. Fervently. I prayed my third baby wouldn’t suffer from the gastrointestinal ailments that plagued the other two. That this time we could have a quieter, sweeter newborn season.

But alas, I again found myself avoiding dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, and gluten, administering high-powered acid reflux medicine to a tiny baby so he could eat without pain. I rocked him for hours on end so he could sleep instead of scream.

While I rocked, I read. In his kind providence, the Lord ordained for me to review Christine Hoover’s book Searching for Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time. Through her words, he showed me why the newborn season he gave me was much better and more beautiful than the one I asked for.

Beauty Hide-and-Seek

We don’t have to live long on this earth to realize that things aren’t right here. Sin, suffering, and injustice are within us and all around us. Hoover—a pastor’s wife, mom, and speaker—calls these “inconsolable things,” things in this life that won’t be made right until Jesus returns. These things can weigh us down, steal our joy, and tempt us to doubt God. We often try to fix them ourselves, to console the inconsolable, and we wind up disillusioned.

Hoover offers another way. She invites us to search for beauty, a game of hide and seek. She shows us that there is beauty everywhere, especially in the unexpected and unlikely places. We just have to look for it.

The foundational truth driving the book is that God makes all things beautiful in his time (Eccl. 3:11). But if we think we understand this truth simply because we appreciate the beauty of a scenic view or the beauty of a material blessing, Hoover challenges us to reconsider.

“Our perpetual problem,” she observes, “is that we don’t know true beauty when it is right in front of us” (58). That’s because we’ve wrongly defined beauty. We tend to think of beauty as the absence of things like negativity, suffering, longing, and waiting.

But Hoover rightly points out that if we expect a life free from these things, we haven’t listened carefully: “Jesus didn’t say he’d save you from affliction. . . . he asked you to go all-in on a promise of unexpected beauty sprouting up through that very affliction” (58).

We often strive after beauty in our own strength. In our “obsession with perfection [we] can pretend inconsolable things aren’t there,” that we can “earn [our] blessing” (56). Hoover says we do this when we think things like:

If I just try harder this time . . .

If I just use a little more willpower . . .

If I pray harder or have more faith . . .

If I can finally get my life in order . . .

In our minds, we can reach some magical state of peace, satisfaction, and joy. But Hoover rightly encourages us to change our expectation—“We cannot expect to change what Jesus has left unfixed for the moment” (55).

But we can expect to find beauty amid the unfixed and inconsolable.

Future and Present Hope

Our problem isn’t that we don’t believe this; it’s that we don’t want it to be true. As Hoover puts it, “We don’t wonder if God can make good out of bad; we just don’t like that it comes that way. . . . We don’t want a God we can’t command” (85).

On this point and many others, Hoover boldly confronts the sin that keeps us from experiencing the beauty God has for us. She’s faithful to point out our idolatry and call us to repent, encouraging us that “as we humble ourselves, we’re no longer blinded by self but are able to see God at work in the present” (91).

Instead of planning our escape, we must learn to ‘wait forward.’

This is where Hoover’s perspective on struggle and suffering is particularly helpful. We often encourage one another through trials with the hope of heaven, the hope of Jesus making all things right. And that is a true and right hope that Hoover points to as well. In fact, she says “the truth that Christ’s kingdom will forever reign, when all things will be made beautiful and right, is the truth we need for our day” (72) because it enables us to face our inconsolable things with steadfastness.

But Hoover helps us see that if we focus only on our future hope, we miss what God is doing in the present. Instead of planning our escape, we must learn to “wait forward.” Waiting, she says, is an active pursuit. We “wait forward” when we “look forward to the end and then live in the present in light of that future” (118).

One day, God will make all things perfectly beautiful. But today, God is revealing himself and his beauty in the midst of the hard and ugly.

God Reveals Beauty

Hoover shows us how God reveals beauty as we surrender to his control; as we follow his lead and tune ourselves to his Spirit; as we wait with faith; as we pursue holiness; as we die to self and invite God to write our story and use our weakness; as we still ourselves to listen; and as we love creatively.

Again, she shows us how God makes all things beautiful in his time.

I thought I would enjoy my third son more as an infant if he were easier than his brothers. If he just ate and slept well and didn’t scream all the time, it would be a beautiful season. But the truth is, while our newborn season with him could’ve been much more restful and peaceful, it couldn’t have been much more beautiful.

Because I had to hold my son so much, I spent a lot of time gazing at the beauty of a baby fearfully and wonderfully made by his Creator. Because I can’t comfort myself with sleep or my favorite foods, I’ve found the beauty of God’s grace sustaining me physically and spiritually in new ways. Because his face wore a perpetual grimace from pain in the early weeks, his enormous smile is so much sweeter now. Because I spent countless hours in the nursery, I had time to read Searching for Spring. And in Hoover’s words, the Father showed me the beauty he was creating through my precious, quite literally, “inconsolable thing.”

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