I grew up the year I turned 30. That may sound like a late time in life to grow up, but in spite of being married and the mother of two by this time, I still felt young, as though life stretched on with endless possibilities. However, when I turned 30, my nephew died at the same time as when my father turned gravely ill. He also died within two years of my nephew's death.
Something irreversible happened to me with those two deaths. I had to face my own mortality. At that point, I had been a Christian for 17 years. I clearly understood that Christ had conquered death and offered me eternal life. I looked forward to that life—someday. But having two of my loved ones enter eternity so close together made it seem as though it could happen tomorrow. I was
astounded to find the prospect terrified me. As I tried to figure out why, I found two reasons. One, I liked my life and couldn't stand the thought of leaving my children, so the idea of parting to another life without them held no appeal. Two, I feared the suffering the end of my life would likely bring since I'd just watched two people I love suffer.
Wrestling with those two things, I came to the conclusion that I held a very low opinion of heaven if I thought my life here was better than my life would be there. I also had a low opinion of God. If he called me home to heaven, he would provide for my kids. So I've been trying to gain a better love and understanding of what our lives will be like in heaven and what it means to truly trust God.
I'm gradually beginning to realize that whatever I have to go through here to get there will be worth it. These thoughts have grown as others I have loved entered eternity and how I've watched others suffer and/or lose touch with reality as they near the end, something that still terrifies me some. I wonder what losing touch with reality is about, and I struggle with why some have to have such a difficult journey.
But I take courage in these words from "Commuting to the Valley of the
Shadow of Death," by David Schiedermayer (Christianity Today):
"Because life is dignified, we prepare for its passing. And when life ends, we marvel at its passing, and we look up to God, who gave it so miraculously, and receives it back so mysteriously. But in the meantime, we honor God today; we do not shrink from choosing that which has ultimate, lasting value."
When we look at our lives and we see all those times we did shrink from choosing what will have eternal value, it can be daunting. And yet tomorrow yields new opportunities, opportunities to show we are being changed, we are becoming more like the one who gave our lives for us, and less like the world that surrounds us.
I love 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT) which says:
"“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Try as we might, we'll never get to the place where we can conceive it with these finite minds. I imagine all of us will be speechless when we arrive and understand everything clearly. That prospect helps me face death bravely and even expectantly. I am preparing to be astounded!
JoHannah Reardon is the author of numerous novels and a family devotional guide. To join her mailing list, click here.