Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Visions of Heaven

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving--and I'm very thankful that, after ten days and three service calls, the cable problems that cut off my Internet service have at last been fixed. We don't need to suffer major tragedies to be convinced we live in an imperfect world; nearly every "normal" day has at least one frustrating moment that can tempt us to curse life.

God's refusal to completely remove hindrances from our existence is, whether we appreciate it or not, for our own good. Not only does struggle build character (cf. Heb. 12:5-11); it keeps us from getting too fond of this world where we are "aliens and strangers" (1 Peter 2:11; Heb. 11:13). Jesus said that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mt. 19:24, NIV), almost certainly because the rich are comfortable enough already and have trouble picturing even the Kingdom as being better. If relative comfort in this world can hinder a person's spiritual progress, how much damage might total comfort do?

Not that knowing this makes discomfort that much easier to bear. We needn't actually reach the point of being suicidal to have moments when we want to scream (or groan), "Take me out of this world; I can't stand it any longer!" This isn't necessarily a wrong attitude, if we're motivated by a genuine longing to see God's eternal Kingdom come (cf. Rom. 8:18-25), rather than by a selfish desire for personal relief. In fact, most Christians spend too much time praying about individual problems--and too little time praying for the return of Christ, which will put a permanent end to all problems and establish God's total rule once and for all.

From then on, every day will be Thanksgiving.

When, in this life, you have trouble,
And are crushed under evil's great load,
When every day is a struggle
And each hour brings new holes in your road,
Lift up your eyes to the Father
And ask Him to show you the view:
He still gives visions of Heaven,
Where everything will be made new.

When, in this life, you have plenty
And the load set upon you seems light,
When every day seems all beauty
And each hour brings new joys fresh and bright,
Still keep your eyes on the Father
And ask Him to show you the way:
He still gives visions of Heaven,
Far grander than earth's loveliest day.

Life, at its best, is but fleeting;
Yes, and life, at its worst, soon will end;
But Christ, through His death, has defeated
Death's dark power, for all who call Him Friend.
Lift up your eyes; it is coming,
That Day of God's glorious Light,
When all our visions of Heaven
Forever will change into sight!