Let me take you to the beautiful island of Upolu, Samoa.
As the plane settles in for a landing, you notice the patchwork of colorful houses, green palm trees, and bright-blue water, illuminated by the friendly morning sun. As you step out of the plane, the island welcomes you with a hot, humid embrace. You can leave your cares and stresses behind because you won’t need them in this tropical paradise. The rat race is far behind, and, sipping on fresh coconut juice, you look forward to life at a much slower pace.
Churches crown every village. From humble A-frame structures to ostentatious temples, these edifices stand watch over the landscape and its people. The main road hugs the coast as you make your way toward the capital, Apia. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island here, and it is indeed a land where you will discover a beautiful treasure—the people, the scenery, and the laughter is abundant. Samoa is a proud land, and her culture, like her people, is strong.
Now that you’re acquainted with your new environment, let’s walk through the backstreets of the capital to the Orator Resort. It sparkles with a newness that is uncommon in the tropics, where the salty-sweet air quickly does its work of decay. It is here, in the presence of family and friends from Australia, New Zealand, and around the world, that I plan to marry my fiancée and make her my wife. Welcome to my wedding!
My wife and I met at Avondale College (now University) in the Lake Macquarie region of New South Wales, Australia. I studied communication with an English minor while she studied at Newcastle University. We met because her dad was studying theology at Avondale, and she would often visit her friends on campus. We played netball together for the two years that I was studying there.
After Avondale, I got a job in another state. We talked every day in spite of the long-distance relationship, but it was hard. She soon relocated so she could be closer, about 40 minutes away, and we saw each other often. However, my company again moved me, and we were back to square one. Once again, she left behind her good friends and a job she loved. In our new location, we eventually found a good church community and began premarital counseling. After much prayer and a few years of courtship, I asked for her hand in marriage. She said yes!
my wedding day
On our wedding day, the white marquee protected us from the piercing gaze of the tropical Samoan sun but not from the humidity. The recent rain had made the atmosphere sticky, but the floral arrangement looked amazing. A friend from Australia had arranged some local flowers provided by the Seventh-day Adventist church at Fasito’o Tai. Along with the pastor, the groomsmen and I stood in a line, sweat trickling down our backs, ready and awaiting the entrance of the bride.
An hour passed. The guests began fidgeting uncomfortably in their seats. The young boys, dressed up to play their part in the ceremony, were sitting down. Where was the bride? Some of her family were becoming visibly impatient. At the front, I chatted with the groomsmen and the pastor while my family, sitting in the front row, managed to keep smiling through the heat.
We were all hoping nothing was wrong. The bride stayed at the onsite resort, so no travel was required. Where was she? Had she taken ill? Did she change her mind and get cold feet? This was not the first time I had waited for her, but after an hour and a half, the guests were visibly restless.
Finally, the bridesmaids appeared. The procession began with them walking down the aisle, resplendent in their purple satin gowns. The bride soon appeared. She was beautiful. A feeling of relief swept over me. The wait was forgotten. Deep down, I had never really doubted she would come because I knew her. I knew her character. I knew our shared experiences and the depth of our commitment. I knew she would not cancel or leave me at the altar. However, I cannot deny that the whole experience tested my patience.
how do you wait?
We have all dealt with delays at one time or another, and this reality of life could take a closer look. How well do you wait? Traffic jams are irritating. Delayed parcels are annoying. Tardy friends or family are frustrating. But all of these scenarios can be teachable moments. They teach us something about our characters. My wedding day was made worse by those who could not wait patiently. Some of the guests harassed the resort staff as they waited at the reception, which did not help the experience that day.
The truth is, waiting is an unavoidable part of life. And it is the same in the spiritual realm. We are all waiting for Jesus to come. He told His followers He would return, but that was nearly 2,000 years ago!
In the Old Testament, there are more than 300 prophecies that foretell the coming of the Messiah. They contain details pointing to Jesus: His life, death, and resurrection. The record of the New Testament is that He came as promised, fulfilled those promises, and assured us that He would return to take us home. Of course, such a promise is only as good as the person making it. But that is what makes His assurance so wonderful. He is the God of the universe, and He has never disappointed His people in the past. Because of His track record, I know He will return, just as He said He would.
So, we know Jesus is going to return. And we know how: at His ascension, the angels told the awestruck disciples that Jesus would appear “in the same way you have seen him go” (Acts 1:11). Furthermore, the Bible tells us that He will come in the clouds (Revelation 1:7), “with a loud command . . . and with the trumpet call of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and not secretly or quietly but seen from the east to the west like lightning (Matthew 24:27).
But when will He come? Many have speculated about the timing of Christ’s return, but the Bible only offers one answer. “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). In a word, we cannot know exactly when Jesus will return. However, He did leave clues as to when His coming would be near. His coming will be preceded by signs of the times (Matthew 24; Luke 21:25–28).
I waited for my wife with hope and anticipation because I knew her character and expected a glorious future together. In much the same way, you can get acquainted with Jesus. Without fear, you can look forward to the future. You can wait for Him with joy, knowing that He always keeps His promises.
While the world may look bad right now, we do not need to be afraid of approaching trials. After all, Jesus promised that His return would do away with death, pain, and suffering. “ ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” ( John 14:1–3).
Jarrod Stackelroth is the editor of the Australian and New Zealand edition of Signs of the Times® and Adventist Record.