Heaven has been on my mind for a long time. In fact, I started writing this post more than a year ago. At first, I thought about heaven because I was tired. Tired of watching my husband live in pain, tired of searching our future for a sign of hope, tired of getting up every morning and facing unsolvable problems again. I came back to this verse:
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
As soon as I read it, I “got” heaven. Heaven is not being weary. Heaven is the glory and the joy and the presence and nearness of God being more than enough to renew you.
The more I thought about it, the more I ached. Some days I felt an almost physical longing to leave this world. It seems morbid to tell people you can’t stop thinking about heaven and even weirder to tell them you want to go there ASAP. When I was younger, I was afraid of heaven. I thought heaven was a bright, sterile place that took me away from every one I loved and all the good things I had here (at that point, I was thinking mainly about my paper doll collection). Plus, being in heaven meant you were dead. Dead is scary.
Brad’s illness and pain definitely helped change my perspective, but that’s not all. In my few years on this earth, I’ve seen girls my age lose their husbands to cancer. I’ve seen women I love sobbing over miscarried children. I’ve had friends look me in the eye and tell me a baby, a precious soul, is just a mass of cells and doesn’t count. I’ve seen couples I thought I knew turn against one another and against God. I’ve seen open wounds and scars on the hearts of those I hold closest. I’ve felt hate and other ugly things in my heart toward people Jesus died for.
By God’s grace there is so much good in this world. But I can’t look at hurting people, hear about genocides, or hold a crying person and think This is how it was supposed to be. And it’s not. The Old Testament Survey we finished in the spring etched the simple truth of history in my mind: God creates, a creation born of love and His glory. Then sin enters the world and everything is stained–our hearts no longer effortlessly commune with God, our bodies become broken vessels for our souls, and the physical earth cries out to its Creator with earthquakes, floods, tornadoes.
And then this:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
For the icons of our faith–Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses–unpolluted communion with God (“the things promised”) was just as far away as it is for us now. But they persisted in acting by faith because they had “seen them and greeted them from afar.” They heard whispers and saw fragments of “a better country.”
Think of that: A new earth completely untouched by sorrow, pain, brokenness, and wrong. There is beauty in brokenness, but there is an undeniable rightness in holiness. And when this planet is redeemed, it will be a world in holy submission to God. Submission is redemption, even in the here and now.
So there’s nothing for me to fear. When I get to a better country–and yes, I long for it for me and for those I love–I’ll be tired. I’ll be broken and probably scuffed up. I’ll be undone. But when His glory is reflected on my face, I will never be more alive.