I feel at home on the planet Earth. I love the gorgeous views, the sweet friends, the fun stuff to do, and the incredible family life. In fact, I love life in this world so very much that it’s difficult for me to look forward to the next one.
Am I allowed to say that?
I think this may be a widespread problem among Christians today, especially Christians in a place like the United States. I know we talk a lot about how life is hard (and I’m not denying that, especially as someone who has never buried a parent or a child). But, day-to-day life, for most Christians in 2013 in this great country, is easy. We don’t have to work and toil and struggle the way, say, the pioneers did. When your whole life is back-breaking manual labor, loss after loss after loss, pain and heartbreak and just an all-out grind, day in and day out, I bet you have a different perspective on eternity.
I bet it helps you remember that this world is not your home. I bet it helps you long for the moment when you can leave the pain behind and head for Jesus.
The fact is that we have the easiest lives of any society in the history of the world. Technology. Education. Fast everything. And here we live out our Christian lives. And we love them. Even though we’re only half of what we will be in eternity. Even though we’re still struggling with our sinful desires and we’re still hampered by our own selfishness and physical ailments and our pride and our worries. Even though we live in a world that hates God.
We still love it here, and we find ourselves worrying about what life in Heaven will be like.
There are several things wrong with this type of thinking:
1. It causes us to doubt the goodness of God’s plan.
When we find it hard to imagine that Heaven is better than our current life, we are failing to believe that God has a wonderful design for our eternal existence. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:3) Do we really dare to think that any place Jesus has prepared isn’t going to be up to our happiness standards? When we fret about whether we will be married in Heaven or whether we will get to eat Grandma’s coconut pie or whether we will be able to see art or have a dog or whatever else we worry about, we are essentially telling God that we just may not care for the way He has arranged our eternity. We’re letting our very human faith issues distract us from the fact that God is good and that He does the unimaginable. We’re forgetting that He knows us better than we know ourselves, and that whatever He has prepared for you and for me will suit us to a tee.
2. It causes us to forget what Heaven is really about.
When we think about Heaven, we tend to let movie scenes flood our mind. Fluffy clouds, angels with shiny gold wings, the big gate with St. Peter standing by, or big escalators in the sky, or harps or whatever else comes to mind. We do this because we can’t imagine what it’s actually going to be like. So, we buy into Hollywood’s version of Heaven. And, truthfully, Hollywood’s Heaven seems, well, boring. We tend to think of Heaven in terms of our physical experiences because that’s what we know and what we identify with. But, we fail to consider the most wonderful thing about Heaven, which is being in the presence of God. Living out eternity with Jesus. And we just can’t imagine what that will be like. So, it’s hard to look forward to. But, when Jesus wipes away every tear from our eyes, when there is no more death or sorrow or crying or pain, when all of these things are gone forever, as the Bible promises, we will experience a new reality. (Revelation 21:4) It’s a reality that’s difficult to imagine, yet even the happiest person who currently lives on earth can see this description and recognize that Heaven is a place far superior.
3. It causes us to think of Heaven in selfish terms.
Worrying whether Heaven is going to meet our exacting (and unimaginative) standards is almost like asking God for a rewards menu. Ok, God, I’ll take the silver mansion with the emerald and ruby furniture, and don’t forget to throw in a side of fried chicken and that gorgeous singing voice I’ve always wanted. It seems a little silly when we think of it in those terms. Ok, a lot silly. We get so wrapped up in what we want and what we think we deserve and how we think things ought to be that before we know it we’re thinking of Heaven in terms of some lavish vacation that we have earned instead of an incredible gift of God that is beyond our comprehension. It’s pure selfishness that makes us think that we just can’t enjoy Heaven without this or that. It’s simply our flesh talking. And, the great news is that once we get there, that side of us will be dead forever. We’ll see things as God sees them, and none our earthly fears will matter a bit anyway.
I’m not suggesting in any way that there’s anything wrong with being happy here on Earth. In fact, I highly recommend it. I’m just reminding myself that this world is an extremely small part of God’s plan for Christians. We shouldn’t put so much stock in our time here that we let it outshine the glories of Heaven in our minds. And, when we do face suffering of all kinds, let them point us to the hope we have in an eternal future that is free from pain, worry, or crying.
If I’m the only one who struggles in this area, just nod and smile and pray for me and say, “Bless her heart.” Thank the Lord that whatever I can imagine that Heaven is doesn’t even begin scratch the surface of what Jesus has prepared. One thing I know: He is good. And I’m pretty sure He’s more imaginative than Hollywood. So, fluffy clouds and harps are probably not going to be part of the Heavenly landscape.
But if they are, well, I bet I’ll love them.