Living on earth can take a toll on us.
Pandemics. Natural disasters. Poverty. The exhaustion of politics, corruption and social causes. This life can be painful. And some days it can feel like the pain will never end.
As a person living with chronic illness, the pain is literally never-ending.
Don’t get me wrong. Some days the pain is not too bad. Some days I wake up and have a burst of energy. On those days, I catch a glimpse of what it is like to be normal. And I know I have a life brimming with blessings. For these gifts, I never cease to be thankful.
Other days, however, are just horrible from start to finish.
On those days, when the pain is as relentless as a summer heatwave, and the fatigue surrounds me like a thick fog, and I have tried everything to make me feel better without result, and my resilience quota is used up for the month, and I feel like no one understands – on those days, I remind myself of what is true.
What is true is I am a stranger on earth. And this life will not last forever.
I am a stranger on earth.
I long for something beyond this current life. I long for wholeness. My body and soul yearn to be restored. There is something in me that craves more than what this life has to offer.
Earth is not our final destination. Heaven awaits us. In that eternal home, God promises to wipe away our tears and dispel our pain for good. God also promises to give us new bodies – perhaps not new as though from a catalogue, but new as in restored, refreshed, made young again.
This is good news. In a world focused on seizing the day and living for now, it is comforting and even countercultural to live for eternity rather than simply for today.
It is comforting and even countercultural to live for eternity rather than for today.
Even so, it raises a pertinent question. What do we do in the meantime? How do we get through the remaining years on earth, years potentially filled with hardship and suffering and loss? How do we survive?
We use it.
We use suffering as a reminder we are strangers on this planet, heading toward our eternal home. We use it to fuel our longing for God and his Kingdom above all else. We use it to draw near to God for the comfort and grace we so desperately need.
And we use it to infuse our earthly work with passion and fervour.
Our suffering can infuse our earthly work with passion and fervour.
If you are a writer like me, you can use suffering to search for more beautiful and articulate and stirring ways to convey the good news of Jesus to the world. If you are artistic, you can use your art to explore tensions of beauty and pain, joy and loss, elation and despair.
And if you live with very real pain, you can channel that pain into reaching out to others. You can offer the comfort you have needed yourself.
During our darkest days and longest nights, let’s remind ourselves of God’s promises to us. He promises to be near to the broken (Psalm 51:17). He promises the poor in spirit will find more of God (Matthew 5:3). He promises he will transform our mourning into joy (Luke 6:21).
God promises to be near to the broken.
God does not promise to save us from earthly harm; indeed, those who follow God often experience more suffering, not less. But he does promise to be close to us when we need him most.
Yes, we are strangers on earth. But God is no stranger to us. And he awaits our heavenly arrival with longing – the same longing we feel to have every tear wiped away, to be restored to full health, and to be joined with him forever.
What are you looking forward to most about heaven? Have you experienced God’s closeness to you in times of suffering? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.