Last weekend, I started thinking about heaven.
Not even because it was Easter weekend, but just because of life. There are certain moments when I feel a deep heaviness––it’s difficult to comprehend later, in the normal moments––but I would describe it as a truly horrible feeling, the sort of emotional breakdown that leads either to personal implosion or a deeper grasp of life’s most profound mysteries.
It’s one or the other. There is no middle ground. No space for coasting. You must either give up or dig in.
On this particular occasion of weightiness, the only thought that comforted me was the thought of heaven. I felt overwhelmed until I remembered that one day, I was going to see God face to face and be with Him forever.
Whether or not I solved today’s problems. Whether or not I ever fell asleep that night. Whether or not people liked or hated me. Whether or not I ever accomplished half the things I wanted to.
Either way, it was all going to end well.
In fact, it was all going to end perfectly. Remembering that, I finally felt some peace.
One’s concept of heaven can’t really be divorced from one’s concept of God. I suppose if one thought of God as indifferent, of limited intelligence, or simply not perfectly good, then heaven would not be a place to long for. For me, the thought of heaven is incomparably comforting simply because I know He’ll be there.
My thoughts last weekend didn’t end there, however. I got to thinking: How strange is it that in heaven there will be no more conflict? Nothing to dread. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to fear. Nothing will possibly be able to go wrong. There will be no tension, no strife, no tears, no wondering––no stakes.
It began to hit me that not only might heaven seem very boring to people like me, who thrive on drama (I’m certain it won’t be boring, though, so I find that line of pondering endlessly fascinating in itself), but also that there is something uniquely important about this time we are in right now, this time on earth.
It is only now, in this life, that we have an enemy.
It is only now that he will try to derail us with pain and lies and heaviness. It is only now that there are stakes. The battle is now.
And that realization changed everything.
It was no longer just a matter of whether or not I got to sleep that night, whether or not I solved today’s problems, whether or not I felt happy. I started to see the bigger picture. My lens zoomed out, and suddenly I could see that God was looking for volunteers. Whom shall I send into the battle?
And my spirit cried out, Send me!
It’s not that every moment of this life has to be painful. In fact, probably the strongest weapon in our arsenal is trust, otherwise known as faith. So sometimes we sleep in the storm––we know He has it under control. Sometimes we laugh in the face of danger––He is by our side. Sometimes we dance for joy in the midst of heartache––because He is still good.
But sometimes we must travail.
Some battles require persevering prayer, fasting, pain and wrestling and pushing through. I’m talking about the raw, emotional type of prayer that prophets like Isaiah and Daniel engaged in. I’m talking about the kind of travailing that Moses did on behalf of the Israelites, the kind of wrestling and contending that Abraham and Elijah did in the secret place. The battle is real, and pain is often involved.
When the pain comes, are we willing to press in?
So that’s what I was thinking about on Easter Sunday. I was thinking about resurrection and heaven and that fact that those things came at a cost. And I was thinking about how the reality of my inheritance of endless joy and perfect peace makes me certain that I am all in for the battle.
No matter the weight or the cost or the pain, I’m volunteering for the front lines. Put me in! is what I’m saying to God, because later, there won’t be anything to risk or sacrifice. Only now can I give Him this: my offering of pain, my offering of travail.