Monday, April 4, 2011

Heaven, Dear Reader

I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven recently. Lets be clear, these are not suicidal thoughts in any way. I would never be that selfish. Let me give some context as to why I started thinking about this. We were in church about a month ago and it came time for communion. The elder chosen for prayer said something in his prayer about having peace because our sins our forgiven. It got me started on a train of thought that was so glorious. The more I thought about it the more excited and peaceful I felt. I should have eternal peace because of the salvation that I’ve received as a result of Christ’s atoning death. My soul, the most important and valuable thing I have, has been taken care of. It’s security in eternal paradise has been bought and guaranteed. If God can handle the weight of my sin and purify my eternally iniquitous soul, it follows then that he is powerful and gracious enough to handle my pitiful day-to-day trials. This gives me great comfort because like most people, I get overwhelmed with the trials of this life. I get tired and weary of everything that I see and experience on a momentary basis. I’m tired of working, and I’ve been in the country’s work force barely a decade. I’m tired of temptation and sin. I’m tired of seeing human suffering on a world-wide scale. I’m tired of politicians and their sneaky and dishonest ploys. I’m tired of seeing the ones I love struggle and fight for joy on a daily basis. I’m tired of pain and worry. However, the more I contemplate my soul’s guaranteed fulfillment, the more this life and it’s struggles seem to fade in importance. The eternal, as always, matters more than the temporal. I long for the eternal. I long to be united with my Savior and spend eternity being overwhelmed by his glory and goodness. My soul is consistently hungry for eternal peace-it was created there and it’s knocking at the inside of me, begging to go home, reminding me that this life is not all there is. As the old hymn goes, “This world is not my home I’m just passin through.” Let me give you a concrete example of this. I live in Orange County but the rest of my family lives in San Diego County. Every time I go home, I unfortunately have to take I-5, but as soon as I get to the San O power plants and I see the sign that says “San Diego County Border”, I get this overwhelming sense of peace deep inside. It’s like my heart is whispering, “You’re going home. You’re almost there.” It’s a wonderful feeling and I imagine that the moment I pass from this life I will get that feeling on a much, much grander scale. I often think of that old Sunday school song, “When I get to heaven gonna walk with Jesus. When I get to heaven gonna see His face. When I get to heaven gonna walk with Jesus: saved by his wonderful grace.” Every time I sing that song I can’t help but grin. I get somewhat giddy too and I get this great feeling of anticipation and expectancy. Often times it brings a tear to my eye. I really want this feeling to last. It gives me peace in times of struggle to know that this pain will only last a little longer. Most likely I’ll live for another 60 years, but even that isn’t that long in comparison to eternity. It also gives me wonderful hope.
There is, however, another side of this that is hard for me to consider sometimes and I know I’m not alone in this. I know for a fact that pain increases my trust and faith in God, that I'm perfected through weakness and suffering. Christ himself “learned obedience by the things that he suffered.” Furthermore, I know that this life is not completely useless and I shouldn’t just throw it away and wait for Christ to return or for death to occur. I must take advantage of this life, since I only get one shot at it. Also, my salvation is bought with Christ’s blood and to waste my life would be to waste his death. One can’t underestimate the eternal value of Christ’s blood. I’m also very confident that God has some very great things planned for my future, some of them probably very painful, but still good in the end. I’m identifying a lot with the apostle Paul when he writes about being torn between this world and the next. This is the balance and tension that I believe every Christian should consistently seek. It gives one great hope and stimulates one towards perseverance, at least that’s the effect that it’s had on me. As the brilliant author Shaun Keating once wrote, “Hope, true hope, the kind that you sense almost physically like steam rising from your mouth; the kind you know has soaked in the misery from which it promises to save you–does not appear and disappear at random. It also cannot be conjured by any will or inner meditation. Hope is as much a part of human existence as breathing. The very fact that we exist and have free will and free minds: incites us to hope. We hope and have hope because God loves us and, secondarily, that we can improve our station in this world or at least our outlook on the station to which God has assigned us.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. God help us all…to live in hope and to celebrate Christ’s purchasing of our souls, in preparation for the ultimate celebration in the next life. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

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