I’m listening to a speaker, and she’s talking about a difficult period in her life. Years when her prayers seemed unanswered and God felt distant and uncaring. Years when she gave up and even stopped praying. Years when nothing seemed to change.
I was immediately drawn into her story because I understood how that felt. I remember feeling as if I were drowning, wondering if I would ever come up for air. Gasping for breath, surviving- but just barely.
It was almost a decade before I felt that I could breathe deeply again.
I am thankful that I was finally able to catch my breath. But not everyone can. There are people who live in anguish day after day, month after month, year after year. And nothing changes. Ever. Life on this earth is just one endless struggle after another.
And on a slightly smaller scale, many of us deal with a struggle that will never go away. The death of a loved one tears a gaping hole in our heart. An irreversible debilitating disease reminds us daily of our mortality. Chronic depression ambushes us when we least expect, bringing with it desperation and inertia. Rebellious children, difficult marriages, divorce, financial ruin, loneliness, regret. Some of this pain will never get better. Not in this life.
As I’m thinking about this, it all sounds so hopeless, and I’m feeling despair for the millions of people whose lives are marked by pain. I realize my hope often rests in the assumption that things will eventually get better. And if they never do, could it all be worth it?
As I’m pondering that idea, she says it. The words that change everything.
One day, in heaven, all our longings will be met or will fade away.
Of course. That’s it. That’s what we need to hold onto. That is the truth worth suffering for, living for, and dying for.
Heaven will change everything. Things may or may not get better for us in this life, but one day, one glorious day, everything will be made new. One day, in the blink of an eye, it will all be changed.
I have been thinking about this all week, wondering why I don’t write or speak more about heaven. Much as I have been blessed by knowing God on this earth, and His comfort and incredible love in the midst of great sorrow, it should pale in comparison to the joys of heaven.
The Bible constantly reminds us that our present sufferings must be viewed in light of eternity. Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.”
Paul knew that this life alone would never be able to balance the scales of suffering. But it wasn’t meant to. We were made for heaven, for eternal life. Looking at this life in the context of heaven is the only way to make sense of suffering.
2 Corinthians 4:17… says that eternal glory far outweighs our worst suffering. It’s not that temporary suffering is so small; it’s that eternal glory is so huge. Your suffering may be a boulder the size of the Rock of Gibraltar. But suppose you put that rock on one side of the scales, then on the other side you put the planet Jupiter. In and of themselves our sufferings may be weighty, but compare them to eternal glory, everlasting happiness, endless beauty, and unbroken relationships. The relative weights change our perspective, don’t they?
Reading this comparison, I was convicted about my short-sightedness. I need to remind myself why I am here. I was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever -- with the overwhelming majority of “forever” not spent on earth. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, I get to spend all of eternity in heaven with God.
I realize my picture of heaven is too vague and undefined. I know it will be glorious because God says it will be, but I have not imagined what it will be like. My ideas of heaven are abstract, which makes them less appealing, and sometimes I feel cheated about the joys on earth I may never experience.
That perspective is exactly what Satan wants me to believe. Satan wants us to think that this life holds pleasures that we cannot experience in heaven. That in heaven we will sit on clouds, playing harps, with no physical bodies and no real “fun.” That the excitement of this life is better than what heaven offers.
Those are patent lies. The Bible says we will have resurrected bodies. Physical bodies. Not spirits or disembodied ghosts. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. God created pleasure and He will maximize it in heaven. Heaven will be incredible because God is incredible.
“He made our taste buds, adrenaline, and the nerve endings that convey pleasure to our brains. Likewise, our imaginations and capacity for joy were made by the God… Are we so arrogant as to imagine that human beings came up with the idea of having fun?
When Christians understand heaven is an exciting physical place on a redeemed world with redeemed people in redeemed relationships without sin and death, where there is music, art, science, sports, literature, and culture, it’s a great source of encouragement and motivation…”
This life-giving perspective encourages me to anticipate heaven. Everything I love and long for on earth will be there, only better. And it will more than make up for any suffering I’ve experienced on earth.
Life on this earth can be relentlessly hard and we may live with unending pain. But because of the Gospel, God has all of eternity to lavish His love on us. In heaven there will be no more tears or crying or pain.
As Alcorn says, “’They all lived happily ever after’ is not merely a fairy tale. It’s the blood-bought promise of God for all who trust in the gospel.”
God’s blood-bought promise for those who trust in the Gospel is that we will live happily ever after in heaven. That is a staggering assurance. What more could I ask for?