Allow heaven to exist
April 13, 2019
Life is hard. Jesus understood that. In fact, he knew that living could be downright vicious at times. At one point, he told his disciples he was sending them out like sheep among wolves (Matt. 10:16), leaving to their imagination what could happen to them as they went about their business. He understood that beneath the veneer of human sophistication, our world is, in substance, not unlike the hostile animal world depicted in National Geographic’s Hostile Planet—the conditions are harsh and often uncontrollable, unexpected things that wound us and derail our plans happen, predators sometimes steal our lunch, we work very hard for small and often unsatisfying rewards, the innocent and vulnerable are victimized, when we “win,” the victory is fleeting, and we are often weary but survival demands grit and resilience. The Bible is full of stories that remind us that our world is broken or “fallen,” yet we can’t help but be disappointed when we experience its brokenness. We feel discouraged and become unhappy or depressed not only because we are experiencing pain in the moment, but also because some place deep within we have not quite come to terms with the important truth that the world does not offer nor can it give us the abiding joy, peace and sense of fulfillment for which we long; it only gives us moments of these.
Jesus understood this singular and complex human challenge and he comforted his disciples by offering them peace amid the struggle not in its stead (Jn. 14:27). He told them that the way to enjoy that transcendent peace and joy while on earth was through faith in him and believing and doing what he said. He also told them to look forward to another home—heaven—the place where God dwells, where they would finally enjoy the kind of perpetual rest they desired, but like us, the disciples did not quite understand “heaven” (Jn. 14:2-5) nor its importance in framing the human experience.
In our scientific age, the idea of heaven seems especially out of place and belonging instead to the superstitious or uneducated and unsophisticated “losers” who have failed to “make it” in the “real world.” Little wonder many of us resist or disregard it and continue instead to ask the world to give us what it can’t (and continue to be disappointed, discouraged and unhappy when it fails to deliver). If Christians ever hope to live above the hopelessness and unhappiness that is all too common today, they ought to begin by doing what a friend advised me to do many years ago—allow heaven to exist.