“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
2 Corinthians 5:1-10, ESV
Here is a moment of transparency for you: I don’t cry very often, but when I do, tears are more often than not likely to appear at very inconvenient times and places. Today, for example, I was weeping in the grocery store while standing before a selection of Pop-Tarts. (Because, another honest confession, sometimes I eat like a five year old and have toaster pastries and whole milk for lunch. Today’s healthier option will keep until tomorrow.) Yes, tears have been close to the surface for a few days because let’s be honest, 2017 has been a long year for a lot of people with transitions, change, questions, unknowns, death, and loss. And sometimes those “groans of creation” that Romans 8 talks about just hit all at once with overwhelming force.
This year has provided a lot of opportunity to think about the weight of mortality. How messy life is, with its unfinished business and unforeseen circumstances and unknown futures and unresolved conflicts, and how hard it is sometimes to figure out how to live a life pleasing to God in the midst of it. The tension of living between the “already” and the “not yet”, as Paul David Tripp says, has challenged me. I like tidy. I like security. I like control. I like to see the full picture. I don’t like failure. And yet, I also desperately desire to know that I have “made it my aim to please him” (verse 9).
Passages such as this are life-giving in their acknowledgement of our present condition and their reminder of our future hope. Yes, we are to live soberly and purposefully, as stewards of the responsibilities and gifts that God has given us. But His grace for our human frailty is abundant. Yes, there can be a certain, frustrating lack of resolution to stories here on earth. But outcomes and timelines are God’s, and belong to the greater Story that has a conclusion stretching into eternity. We ache for a “fix” for mortality here on earth. But ultimately, the only way to really look earthly reality in the face is to look up and ahead at the same time, where what is mortal will be swallowed up by grand, glorious life.
By all means, may our lives be burdened with the purpose of being about the business of heaven. But may we also find rest, knowing that all of our failures and any of our unfinished business will one day find its redemption there, too.
As one of my favorite blogs just shared this prayer today, I share it here as an addendum: “I thank Thee, O God, for the relief and satisfaction of mind that come with the firm assurance that Thou dost govern the world…even the tumultuous and irregular actions of sinful men are, nevertheless, under Thy direction…Thy Providence, who art wise, good, and omnipotent…and have promised to make all things work together for good to them that love Thee.” (Susanna Wesley) The praise belongs to Him, who has written the end of the story.