Maybe someday this post will turn into an entire book, but for now I want to briefly share with you some encouragement. I’m writing quickly as I get ready to walk out the door for a much needed movie date, so forgive me for any less than eloquent speech. But as you walk through suffering in your own life, may you consider this.
Sometimes a blow in life is so devastating that it actually feels unreal. That you will wake up the next morning and discover it was just a bad dream. That this cannot actually be your life. That when you type the words or talk about your story or speak of it out loud, it truly feels like you’re talking about someone else. That it is not actually real.
As I was having those same thoughts today, it struck me: It’s because it’s not. We treat our temporary earthly home as our permanent dwelling, thinking of Heaven only in the ethereal sweet “by-and-by.” As if Heaven is the fantasy and life here is reality. As if eternity is only to be imagined, but life here on this planet is actual. As if in Heaven we will exist in a dream-like trance, while on Earth we feel everything concretely.
But we’re wrong. Dead wrong. This place is not our home. What we experience here (while sometimes having eternal impact or consequences) is only the precursor. The preparation. The precession.
And while we can sing about eternity, believe in Heaven, and read about our citizenship being elsewhere, we often live, act, and react as if this place is the end-all be-all. As a citizen of another kingdom, I must act accordingly, not just in my behavior, but in my approach to the temporary nature of this life. For “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, NIV).
What does that look like, though, as far as suffering? To have our citizenship elsewhere? To live on this planet but live for eternity elsewhere?
It means simply this: That we can rise above what seems unreal, because it is. Life on Earth is not reality. It’s merely a fog. It’s but a poor precursor to reality.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. -1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV
What we know now and feel now and experience now is only what we can know in part. It is not the full reality. The picture isn’t clear yet. We see only in silhouette.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. -2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV
As you face whatever suffering or hardships have come your way, may you keep this in mind. May you remember that this life is not the reality. That our citizenship is elsewhere. That your living nightmare that feels unreal actually is. Pain will dissolve. Betrayals will end. Forsaken ones will be received. And everything will be worth it. All of it.
Because in the end of this earthly life, real life truly begins.
Therefore, we can rise above. Even when life is a very, very bad dream. We choose to focus on what’s real.
Until then and then every day after, Jesus.