“When I get to college, then I'll be able to live my life how I want!” Have you ever said something like that to yourself? What about, “When I pass this stupid calculus class, then I’ll finally be able to spend my time how I’d like”? Maybe you've thought, “As soon as I graduate, I can finaly be who I want to be.”
I think like this often. In fact, during the past few months as I’ve been experiencing hard circumstances that I never expected, I find myself thinking that if I could just change my situation, then things would be better. From time to time, we all believe that if we could just get beyond whatever we’re struggling with, then we’d be able to live how we want. What’s sad is that even if we get to the place we long for, or accomplish the goal we’re striving towards, it’s not long before the reality of our broken world sets in and we just look toward the next horizon for hope.
We should work hard to prepare for the future and try to find help in trials. But when we put our hope in fixing our current condition, we can easily become trapped by thinking, “If I could only make new friends...If I could only find a boyfriend/girlfriend...If I could only have a little more money”. This pattern of living in the near future traps us in a cycle of longing and disappointment that ultimately robs us of peace and causes us to be self-centered. All the while our life just passes us by.
Only God can free us to live for today, as he calls us to. He knows that our tendency is to distrust him and despair when things are unknown. He knows that we fail to see the good he is working through our hardships. He knows that we try to take matters into own hands to create the destiny that we think is best. He knows that we’ll never achieve the satisfaction we yearn for simply by changing our circumstance.
The strength that our Father provides in order to live in the present is given to us in the good news of Jesus Christ. It is by looking at the eternity he’s promised us, we can actually be freed up to live like he is in control. Instead of focusing on self-conservation and happiness maximization, when we see the hope that Christ has purchased for us, we can have peace, look to the interests of others, and worship God today.
In the middle of the difficulties that I’ve been going through lately, stained by disappointment and my own distrust of the Lord, Jesus’ words about eternity have been that bright hope in a dark place. In John 14, Jesus reminds his disciples,
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Here is astonishing hope for anyone who believes in Christ! Jesus reminds us that he is in control of everything. He promises that God will welcome his people into his own home in the end. Christ was put to death and rose again to prepare a place for us there. Think about it. No matter what you’re going through now, and no matter what tomorrow will bring, you are secure. If you know Christ, there is an actual day coming soon when you will finally see the face of your Father. He will wipe away every tear from your eye. You will be with him in paradise. All your yearnings, struggles, and sorrows will be replaced with satisfaction, peace, and joy!
It’s certainly a process, but we can be changed as we learn to plant this real hope into the fabric of our hearts by meditating on it and rejoicing in it together. God’s Spirit will start to set us free from striving to achieve heaven on earth. The reality is that this world will always have pain and longing until Christ returns or takes us home. But when we begin to see a God who will give us all things one day, we’re freed from a life of trying to get all things now. When we realize that our deepest longings will be satisfied by Christ in heaven, we start to live like we have nothing to lose. When we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen, we can find a peace that passes understanding even if everything seems to be miserable. When we’re confident that God will wipe every tear from our eyes, we are finally free to, with eyes still full of tears, comfort those with tears of their own.
The author of Hebrews put it this way, “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” The crucifixion was horrible. Jesus sweat blood and cried out in agony as he was thrust into unparalleled suffering. And yet, Christ was able to endure it. He endured not because he was scheming how to get out of it all, but because the joy of eternity was set out before him even in his worst moments. He endured it so that we would share in his joy.
My prayer is that you and I wouldn’t waste away our lives longing to achieve the next level of security and fulfillment, but that we would fix our eyes on the ultimate security and fulfillment that already awaits us because of the cross. I pray that we would be a people who set our minds on the hope that is coming to us, so that we would share our hope with a world that is trying so desperately to find it outside of Jesus. May God give us the grace to delight in our remarkable eternity so that we would joyfully give our lives today for the sake of his glory.