The Heartache of Heaven
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Cor. 5:1-5)
If the temporary is removed, then the eternal arrives.
If the hands of man have no part, then the permanence of heaven is promised.
If we are exposed in our human weakness, then we can be clothed with divine hope.
To obtain the promise is to move through the pain. To have what is yet requires leaving what is now.
To receive the things above it is necessary one departs from the things below.
And in all of this we cannot ignore the reality that Paul normalizes one aspect of the Christian journey – we groan, yearn, long and are burdened for the things of God to finalize the overtaking of the things of man. We are not speaking here of crushing depression in which you do not want to get dressed in the morning or make relationships flourish with others or move the kingdom forward because of crippling fear, doubt, anxiety and insecurity for which there is neither pill nor prescription powerful enough to resolve. That is darkness. This is the burden of the light – to carry with oneself a persistent tension of holding heaven and earth together through Christ living in you. This Jesus was both crucified and resurrected, both honored and reviled, despised by the many, glorified ultimately by all. A king in a stable, a Prince of Peace in a world of war, Son of God in a place full of the voice of Satan. And so we too, in the path of the Master, walk a narrow road of divine peace between towering cliffs of public chaos along our short but trying journey into rest.
Now we have two options. We can either propose that there is something wrong with us that we feel what we feel in the context in which we live, or we can embrace some of our emotions in the pursuit of internalizing the eternal purpose of our lives, to yearn for a God desiring to be loved by people made holy by the gift of forgiveness they could not earn and do not deserve. Of course the world is a mess as it rejects God and lives into lies. Of course created for paradise we find this pain grieving us most of all as Christians, knowing what could so easily be and knowing that for most it shall never become. Having and holding grace we feel the weight of its rejection by a humanity desperate for its cure but in rage against its Creator. And so, Paul says, as we journey out of lies and into Him who is Truth we experience the invitation to live by the power of the Spirit rather than the weakness of the world. In fact, to experience this burden is part of our universal calling of transformed character – not character in the sense of impressing the many with our spotless resumes but loving the One with our entire devotion.
Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come…
Caught between the hardship of the now and the promise of the next we need supernatural power to navigate the devastation of earth by the power of heaven. This power cannot come from us, for from us came the pain to begin with. The disease is not the cure. So this power comes from heaven – the Holy Spirit, who assures us by His presence that what is next is certain because He is present in what is now. Having God in our lives in this moment is what carries us to another. We are both being led towards Father, and Father is the One leading. Each step is made sacred not by the awfulness of our context but the abiding of our Christ. Note that we are created for this – for what? The purpose of moving into the divine union by removing earthly excess by the power of the Spirit, who raised Jesus to life from death and who helps us die so we can have life. The Spirit who has the power to revive is the One who has the power to roll the stone over our humanity so when it is rolled away again what is revealed is the same us with new beauty, true power and unfettered freedom in relentless love.
This world is a like a spiritual car wash being used by its awfulness to take away our contribution to it so that we emerge being seen as we truly are – as God sees us and as only God could make us, ready to be who we are in truth because we have lost our lies. The enormity of the outcome is matched only by the unpleasantness of the process. It is not as though we were created for this originally – we were created for union with heaven in a peaceful earth in persistent and abundant relationship to the Creator. But now – in Christ – we are a new creation, and now we are as God’s dear children fashioned indeed for a fresh purpose, a new life, a transformed intention, and that intention says the scripture is that by the power of the Spirit we may proclaim the salvation of Jesus who alone ushers us into the presence of the Father. This journey of speaking truth and feeling tension is impossible from our perspective, which is precisely where we can most thrive as people utterly inadequate for the journey and so totally dependent upon the One who has already walked it. Knowing that we cannot we can finally receive Him who is. Since we cannot accomplish this without Him our lack of ability has created an invitation for affection.
So fear not when all seems to have failed. Dread not when agenda dissolves. Be anxious for nothing – not even a single something. For failure is what happens when we move towards God through pain and success when we move towards God through pleasure but either way the journey is an inexorable march towards the miracle of the eternal already breaking through the chaos of the temporary. And all that you cannot control as you watch the world should indeed push you to a breaking point emotionally and internally as you stop trying to cope your way out of feeling helpless and embrace the truth that without Christ living in you, you are helpless. Hold to the truth that the burden of heaven as it yearns for a new earth is now yours because heaven is now yours instead of earth. There isn’t something wrong because you see the news and feel burdened. That is something very, very right. It is what you do with that burden and whether you realize that that burden can propel the truth to take hold that you feel like a stranger in your own nation, your own planet, your own neighborhood because, finally, you realize that you are a pilgrim in a foreign land. This pilgrimage does not mean we hold the people around us with disdain – for we love them with the love of Christ Himself – but it means we believe what can save them will not be more of the world which has broken them but access to the One who has delivered them.
It has been an awful year. But what a year to invite more of the Holy Spirit to carry you through in the Name of Jesus towards the Father’s house. It is painful when the less reveals our need for the more, when the lies taken away show our need for the truth, when our comfort dies so hope can live. In the midst of this process – more painful than pleasant, more confusing than clear, more on God to make good from rather than on us to make plans in – we are shown that all that has happened in our lives has not spoken to our distance to God but the increasing realization of our ongoing need for Him.
God has always had intentionality behind your tension. It is time to look at the news and your neighborhood not as a sign of what has failed on earth but what, finally, is creating space for heaven.