I sat at the bedside of a dying woman this week. She knew her time was limited and had asked for a pastor to come to see her. She’d been confined to a bed, and had oxygen running through a line to her nose.
Life can be brutal sometimes.
After a few pleasantries, I asked her what she wanted to talk about. Since she knew she was dying, I was curious what might be utmost in her mind.
Mostly, she wanted to talk about her regrets.
She was sorry she’d wasted so much time. She was sad about things she hadn’t done, but just as sad for things she had done. Though she trusted in Christ, she was still looking to make peace with a lifetime of missed opportunities.
Just like the rest of us.
As I searched for words to say, I felt God saying to me, “Tell her the best part. Tell her what I’ve got planned for her!” So we began to talk of the land where she’d soon be arriving—a place so vivid and dynamic, it would make any regrets about this world seem insignificant.
This life is not the end, only the beginning. As far as eternity is concerned, the oldest of us are merely children. And the enthusiasm of heaven will hit us like a sugar rush from a trip to the ice cream truck on a hot summer day…
Remember playing outside all day, until the street lights flashed on at nightfall?
It seemed like the days were endless. No threat of deadlines, no responsibilities—our only curfew was the setting sun itself. Days of continued discovery, rampant joy, uncontrollable laughter.
We were loved, we were cared for, and the worries of adulthood were still several years away. Heaven on earth…for a season.
Most of these pleasures fade away with adulthood. Now we reach again for them, only to long for them just out of our reach.
Why does God choose to watch us struggle from one trial to the next? Our lives end with few of our questions answered, like a movie that suddenly just stops. No denouement, no loose ends tied up, no obvious moral to the story. Just death…like what waits for my friend here in hospice. Why?
Because the answers of life are not found here, but only in the hereafter.
Sure, I know what some of you are thinking…
“Yeah, the good parson comes to tell the dying woman reassuring words about an imaginary land. Anything to give her peace. Right?”
No, I wouldn’t tell her lies just to make her happy. I believe too much in the power of truth to do that. But I could confidently talk to her of heaven because I believe in it with all my heart. In fact, without heaven, all meaning and purpose in this life falls completely apart.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” – Ecclesiates 3:11
Nothing in this life is complete without heaven, so much so that God has “put it in our hearts.” The very desire for it comes from him.
In fact this world, without eternity, would just be a jumble of injustices and lost causes. That’s why I never look for ultimate satisfaction in this life, because we were never meant to find it here.
We were meant for a yet undiscovered country, where we will finally see with our eyes the things for which our hearts have always yearned.
Pray for healing now…but healing will leave eventually. Everyone Jesus healed eventually died. Why? Because that eternal healing is meant not for this world, but the next.
Pray for holiness now…but true holiness will evade us. Even the mature will give in to selfish desires. Why? Because we will never be completely like Jesus in this world, but in the next.
Pray for justice now…but justice will be incomplete. No earthly payment for crimes will balance the scales in this world. Why? Because only God can right all the wrongs, and that won’t happen in this world, but in the next.
In the hereafter, we will find the “endless summer” we lost as children. We will play in a sunlight that will never set, never needing to run home because of nightfall.
“There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” – Rev. 22:5
My friend died within five days of our conversation. It’s still hard to imagine how someone you just spoke with can be gone so suddenly. But today, I know she is only “gone” from this earth.
She is in heaven—a very real, dynamic heaven that looks a little like the life she knew before, but now on steroids. She’s complete and whole, and looking around in child-like wonder at a world made new for our wonder and adventure!
There in heaven, we will all truly be children once again—we know this instinctively, because we never feel that comfortable in the trappings of adulthood. Our faces and bodies change, so that strangers stare back at us from the mirror. But inside, we are still 7.
We will be held, and loved, and treasured, and thrown into the air once again by One who loved us enough to make the greatest sacrifice to bring us back home. All who are in him will be safe, and perfect, and whole, and wise…yet see all things as new with the eyes of a child.
We will finally look into the eyes of the One who made us, and every longing of our long, dreary, world-weary existence will be filled by just that look.
And in the reflection of his eyes, we will see ourselves laughing…no, even giggling with joy. And that joy will last forever and ever, world without end…