Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. – C.S. Lewis
I have been thinking much about Heaven these past weeks. In my last post, I wrote about the sudden death of the daughter of dear friends of ours. A couple of days after her funeral, we received news that my husband’s seminary professor and mentor had died – another funeral to attend within a week of the previous.
But both of these funerals were bittersweet – both had passed from life on earth to life in Heaven. There was much to mourn for those of us left, but I found myself for the first time longing to find joy in the midst of the sorrow – partly because I had wrestled earnestly with the fact that suffering will be a part of life this side of Heaven the year my brother died. I had come to terms that my family will have to walk some hard roads and I don’t have any idea what all of those will be, but they will be just by the nature of living in a fallen world. But I also found myself longing to find joy because this mentor was the most beloved, humble man I knew and he was passionate about Heaven. I wanted to share a little bit in the joy he was now experiencing as he sat with his admired C.S. Lewis (he was a Lewis scholar) asking the questions I had heard him voice in his lectures. (“When I get to Heaven, I would like to ask Lewis what he meant by….”). And I also wanted to move from being swallowed up with a cynical despair (“Well, this is life this side of Heaven-what can you expect?”) to a forward-looking joy that supersedes any fear of suffering and death. I wanted to truly long for Heaven – and let that move me in the way I live my life this side of it.
So to help me, I have been reading Randy Alcorn’s excellent volume, Heaven. Alcorn does a fantastic job joining together Scripture to show us that the Bible really does say a lot more than we realized about Heaven. And much of what we traditionally thought is actually not biblical at all – and not only is it not biblical, but is discouraging – if we ever allowed ourselves to admit it. Alcorn shows from Scripture what Scripture is clear on – and it’s exciting. He also pulls from Scripture some implied “supposed-s” – if that makes sense. But he is good to say , “I am supposing based on how I am reading this text – it may not actually be the case.” So there is no fear of “thinking wrongly”. Whatever Alcorn might not get right, he humbly conceds that someday he will know for sure -and so will we. But what I have found as I am exploring this path more fervently is it is energizing me on this side of life. I am encouraged and not despairing. I want to work more productively for the Kingdom. I want everyone to know that there is more than this life – but this life does matter too- flesh and blood do matter – the work of my hands in this life matter and may even have a place in Heaven. We are not just polishing brass on a sinking ship, but we are doing the work of our Heavenly Father and some of it will carry over into Heaven – and not just what is considered “ministry”.
So I won’t spoil the exploration for the rest of you. I can’t recommend Alcorn’s book enough. I know Joni Erickson Tada also has a book on Heaven that I am sure is wonderful. I only want to encourage you to let thoughts of Heaven propel the work done now on this side – let the place that God has made for His children ignite your hearts with a passion for more than this life, let it energize your relationships, and let it constantly remind you that this life, this side was never meant to satisfy. We were made for more. Long for it. Love it. Live it.