For the past few weeks I’ve been trying an experiment – I spend some time each day, or whenever it occurs to me, thinking about heaven, for as long as it takes until doing so makes me happy. I find that its one way of reminding myself of the gospel, because every time it reminds me of how incredibly lavish God’s love is. I go back into my day less likely to complain about things that are hard – doing so would feel like a spoiled kid winning the lottery and then complaining that he has to walk half a block down the street in rainy weather in order to pick up the money. That metaphor might not be fair to others who are suffering in more profound ways, but for me that is what my difficulties seem like after a few minutes thinking about heaven. There is a great CS Lewis quote in Surprised by Joy (I can’t find it at the moment) about how living at his terrible school forced him to learn how to live by hope, which is excellent preparation for the Christian life. I think that is a pretty amazing idea – that the Christian life is a life lived by hope – that ultimately everything in our lives geared towards our being with Christ in heaven and there is no final resting point until that moment.
One statement that meant particularly a lot to me during our time studying heaven this summer was from Revelation 21:4: “(God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” As I was meditating on this passage in sermon preparation, it struck me that it doesn’t say that we won’t weep anymore in heaven (though that is certainly true). It says God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. In other words, this is not referring merely to the cessation of earthly grief, but to consolation for earthly grief. Just imagine having God, who has infinite compassion and tenderness, speak directly into the most painful experiences of your earthly life, healing the wounds and dissolving the hurt. I think part of living by hope is believing that that is going to happen – and thinking about it regularly, until it makes us happy.