Heaven should be one of those topics that brings peace and joy to one’s heart, but I think I’m a little strange. Heaven was the topic at church this past Sunday, and for at least half the sermon, I was squirming in my seat. I actually have given a lot of thought to heaven, probably too much, wondering how far past the clouds I’ll have to travel to get there, if the streets are really made of gold, and if I’ll get bored at some point during eternity (I know, I know–silly, right?). And the concept of eternity? Yeah, thinking about it can send me into a mild panic attack.
When I try to think about time that doesn’t end, something that lasts forever and ever and ever, I start to freak out. Everything’s supposed to end. How can something not end? And at this point in my thought process, my body gets tingly and jittery feeling, and I have to shake my head to get rid of the thoughts and take some deep breaths.
I am willing to admit I’m a little crazy.
I know I need to trust that I won’t want heaven to end, just the way that I don’t want my time here on earth with my family to end. I need to have faith that a God who is good and merciful and love has figured this heaven thing out so that when I’m up there with Him I won’t spend eternity trying to figure out how eternity actually works. And I need to trust that panic attacks don’t happen in heaven.
But apparently I’m not the only one who has issues with heaven. During his sermon, our pastor offered that most people want to go to heaven but not now. I could raise my hand in agreement. Yes, even though I know heaven is a perfect place with Jesus (shouldn’t He make it worth it for me?), I’m happy to stay down here enduring the hell of carpool lines at two different schools every day.
Our pastor suggested one reason is that we don’t live our everyday with eternity in mind. We forget that our stay on earth is really a passing through point. We were made for eternity, and we are to live with eternity in mind.
We looked at the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven…
(God’s in heaven right now and always has been)
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
(My life now should be consumed with doing God’s will here on earth)
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever…
(This life is temporary, but God will reign forever)
My life here on earth is sandwiched between eternity, but I have the tendency to live my life as if it’s the main event. Perhaps this point of view contributes to my fear of that wonderful home that’s prepared for me.
The fear of the unknown also contributes to my nervousness about heaven. Everyone has a different opinion on heaven. Some think we’ll spend eternity singing praises with the angels to Jesus. All the time. That sounds nice, but I have to admit, I’ve wondered if that would get boring (I know that’s horrible–I’m just admitting the very human thought that entered my mind).
One pastor told me that he doesn’t think we’ll have any recollection of our relationships from earth because, if we did, we’d notice who wasn’t there in heaven with us. Knowing we had family or friends in hell would make it impossible to live in joy for eternity. I guess that view makes sense, but it leaves me feeling sad and empty.
I want to remember my family and friends. I want to open my arms wide and help welcome my children one day, and I want to feel the sweet embrace of my husband again. Yes, of course I want to see Jesus, but one of the comforts that Christians find in death is knowing that death is not the end. We hope to see our loved ones again. I cling to that hope. When I think of friends who have lost a spouse or a child, I find comfort imagining their sweet reunion one day.
In the second part of the sermon when I wasn’t squirming as much, we watched an interview with Colton Burpo and his father, Todd. Colton was almost four when he got very sick and nearly died. The book Heaven is for Real is his account of entering heaven. Colton’s mother had had a miscarriage earlier but never told her son; however, he told his parents that he met his sister as well as his great-grandfather who had died 30 years before. He described them in astounding detail and counted spending time with them among some of his favorite parts of heaven.
Colton also describe sitting in Jesus’ lap as one of his favorite memories. What an image–sitting on the lap of Jesus. After hearing this little boy’s testimony of a powerful God and loving Jesus and beautiful animals and welcoming family, a wave of peace washed over me. Oh how I wanted this little boy’s account to be true!
And then I realized something. Whether or not every detail of this child’s account is exactly what heaven will look like for me doesn’t matter. What matters is that the God I worship wants me to realize that He has prepared a home with many rooms. He knew what He was doing before. He knows what He’s doing now. And He’ll know what He’s doing for all eternity.
My life wasn’t made for this earth; my life was made for communion with Him, and when I reach heaven someday, I’ll finally feel at home.
So maybe it’s best if I stop trying to figure out how long eternity actually is and how it works. Maybe I should stop trying to figure out what heaven will look like and instead focus on what I do know: God is good. God is love. God is merciful. And He will always be all of these things, even when I’m a nut. So I think I’ll take a deep breath, relax, and trust Him.
Would you raise your hand as one who wants to go to heaven but not now? Has thinking about heaven ever caused you fear? Linking up with Michelle and Jen today!
14 thoughts on “Heaven”
I have the same weird and jittery thoughts about the concept of eternity!
It's certainly a very heady topic! 🙂 I choose to be as minimalist as possible in my understanding of Heaven and Hell. You alluded to several reasons I think that way. I see Heaven as spending eternity with God. Anything above and beyond that, in my mind, is gravy and is ultimately conjecture. Likewise, I see Hell as spending eternity separated from God. The Bible does give several descriptors of both places, but for several reasons, I see those as being largely metaphorical or symbolic. Anyway, you wrote a great article as usual! Have a great day, Jennifer!
Thanks, Jason! I think I need to take your approach. Sometimes I think my head might explode when I try to delve too deeply into the topic. 🙂
Oh yes, i certainly will be in Heaven one day and honestly, with each birthday, the thought doesn’t strike the fear i used to feel. As a child,(and young adult) i was so afraid of death, i can remember feeling Major angst. I also think about all my family being there. I hope dogs go to heaven. And, the promise of a new body, well, need i want for more ? 🙂
Yes, our God is a God of LOVE, GRACE, MERCY, AND THE GOD OF SECOND CHANCES. I’m so thankful for His Son. For me, the more i learn about God, the less fear i have. Great post, Jen. ♥
Thoughts of heaven and eternity used to send me into a tailspin of panic. But I've noticed a change over the past few years. I guess it's because I'm closer to heaven now than I've ever been before, and the hardness of life makes eternity (even if it's all just a bunch of singing with the angels) more and more appealing to me. I'm with you, Jennifer: I've gotta trust that God knows what's best and that my little brain can't even imagine what it will all be like for real.
I've heard a few people say that the thought got less scary the older they got. I'm going to trust that sentiment while doing my best to trust God….
This ushered in a bit of a perspective shift for me today and I am truly thankful for them today: I have the tendency to live my life as if it’s the main event.
This puts my grief of today in a new light. Thank you.
PS I totally think that we will recognize our family…what your pastor said would have made me quite sad and empty too!
I will keep you in my prayers as you are grieving, Jen.
I love your transparency and love your ending thoughts…focusing on what you do know about the character of God.
This was so good, Jennifer. I tend to focus on the here and now too. This is kinda morbid, but I told my husband recently if I thought a little more about hell, I'd be a much better witness. I know it's real but I don't want to think about it. But it's important to look at the big picture. And heaven and hell are as real as where we live now. And what we focus on will impact eternity. Wise words, friend. Thanks for sharing this!
I can relate, Amanda. Even though I believe it exists, I have a hard time with the concept of hell. I don't like to think about it, either. But you're right–we would all be compelled to action if we allowed ourselves to think about eternity more.
OK, I know you can't see me, but my hand is raised… I'm selfish in this flesh, I'll admit it. I long to see my children grow up and have the prayers that I pray for them everyday become reality. I want them to see and experience things I have and other things I want them to avoid and bring God honor their whole life.
I think God brings us along in our time exactly as we need. I trust that my mind can't comprehend like the Mind that created mine…
While you are the mommy of young and growing children, I think the thought of heaven is about as scary as hell, pardon the pun. We want to be the ones to raise our little ones – that is normal and natural. Part of the increasing ease with the idea of heaven that comes with age is the wonderful truth that our children do grow up. As we and they get older, then the whole idea of heaven becomes a whole lot less scary!
I also think it helps to remember that scripture teaches us that heaven is closely linked to earth. It's not somewhere up there – it's right here, right now. Not perfected, by a long shot, but closer to us than our breath. Maybe more like a 4th dimension – just beyond our noses, but invisible. Heaven will be wonderfully familiar to us, not strange. It will feel like home. And we ARE created for this earth – we can't live perfectly in this place, but still, God has designed for us to be here. And through Jesus, we can know that we move right on into heaven, right on home. Thanks for sharing these good and honest thoughts, Jennifer. Well done.
I agree with Diana Trautwein that heaven will be wonderfully familiar to us and that it will feel like home., a real good home! i've been reading the book "Heaven" by Randy Alcott and his belief that Heaven will be here on earth. Why wouldn't it be since God placed us on this planet and if not for Adam and Eve's sin it would have been perfect.
the one thing that concerns me is if we are to sing with the angels praises to Jesus for all eternity. with my voice, and you know how bad I sing, I don't want to make God mad at me. Eternity is a long time.