This week Jason and I have been eyewitness observers of an extraordinary range of life experiences. Tuesday we visited our friends the Brittons who just had their first baby, a beautiful little boy named William. This Saturday we will attend the wedding of two young people from our church. On the other end of the spectrum, yesterday we went to a memorial service for a young man who died tragically last week. We also have been praying for our dear friends the Almengors who have been practically living at the hospital with their baby, Judah, due to unexpected elevated pressure on his optic nerve, causing a great deal of frustrating uncertainty as to why this is happening, and how to treat it.
On the car ride between the memorial service and luncheon that followed, Jason and I were talking about the amazing fact that the joy of gifts like a child or a spouse, and the pain of severe trial like death or disease can have the same end: greater longing for God in Heaven. If we receive gifts and blessings and fall in love with the blessing itself, not looking to the hand of Love from which they come, we are more tied to this earth. Gifts are intended to increase our affection for the Giver, and thus increase our longing for Him. The ultimate blessing will be an eternity in His presence in Heaven. All of the good things we encounter here on earth are mere foretastes of what awaits us in Heaven.
Pain and suffering also potentially create a longing for God. This world is fallen and full of trouble. Tragic events like the pain of losing a beloved son remind us that we are not home. We long for a better place where there will be no more tears of sorrow. We long for Heaven, not just from the relief of suffering, but for the joy of living in God’s presence. Trials and suffering wean us from this world, and help us to long for our true home: Heaven where the Prince of Glory dwells.
I am well acquainted with the blessings of life. I pray that I will remember the Giver of the gift, and grow in love and longing for Him. Profound suffering is still foreign to me. Yet I know that if I live long enough, hardship will come my way. I pray I will be like Sandy and Sal Barranco, Lawrence and Briana Almengor, and so many others I have watched long for God more in the midst of suffering. May our hearts echo what we sang at Tim’s memorial service yesterday:
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name.