Daily Devotion - Wednesday, April 13, 2016
I woke up with a headache this morning. It's not all that serious, just a dull ache behind my eyes, probably denoting some kind of allergic reaction to something or another in the air. I was feeling a little sorry for myself a bit earlier. "Great way to start the day," I thought to myself. "Awesome."
And then a number of my friends and some of my church members were brought to my mind--people I know who are dealing with chronic pain, struggling through illnesses, and the like. I had the sneaking suspicion that the Spirit of God was nudging me a bit, reminding me of them for a reason.
All of a sudden, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame at my whiny, complaints over my petty issues. Every single one of those people I was thinking of in that moment would have gladly traded for my measly headache.
But even so, I asked myself, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to be free from all of this? For there to be no more pain, no more sickness, no more struggles with illness?" I think of all of the people who were prayed for by our Prayer Chain this past week--people with cancer, serious surgeries, major physical trauma and the like. Not to mention sorrow and grief over the loss of loved ones, as well.
It's overwhelming at times. I long to feel some Resurrection hope in the midst of this.
In the book of Revelation, John the Revelator is given a vision of a "new heaven" and "new earth" that are one and the same, indistinguishable from one another, created and shaped by God. In this vision, the kingdom of God has come to earth at last, and the risen Son sits on the throne, empowered and energized by the Holy Spirit to rule as Lord over all those who have been raised to new life.
And then we read this:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. - Revelation 21:4
The hope of the Resurrection is powerful and life-giving in the present, and it also helps us to make some sense of the past. But it's most powerful and infinitely more life-giving when it forms and informs our future. The vision of Revelation 21 is of a real place inhabited by real people. This is no imagined ideal. The author gets a glimpse of what will be, not of what could be.
This new heaven and earth is the ultimate goal of our good and gracious God--the final restoration and redemption of all Creation, including you and me. And when we are able to lift our heads, and refuse to be beaten by the pain, the sorrow, the loss and the suffering of this life--we usher in just a tiny moment of what it will be like in the next.
It comes slowly to us, doesn't it? And it's hard to believe sometimes. One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott once wrote: I don’t think much surprises [Jesus]: this is how we make important changes — barely, poorly, slowly. And still, he raises his fist in triumph.
No more tears. No more sickness. No more pain. No more sorrow. No more frailty. This is our future. Let the truth of it fall upon you.
May you live into the hope of the Resurrection today by bringing that vision of what will be to life right here, right now. May you experience eternal life, the promise of ultimate healing and defiant hope. May you raise your fist with Jesus in triumph. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.