Life on Planet Earth
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:2-4
I have heard it said that we should be grateful for problems because they are gifts from God. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something straight out of some masochist’s diary. The majority of my life has been spent doing everything I could not only to avoid problems, but in some instances, running from them. Of course, many of the problems I have faced resulted from my own bad choices, and running from them just made things worse. However, I will admit that the hardest times did teach me some of my most valuable lessons and drew me closer to God, as well. The times I buckled down and faced my problems head-on were teaching moments. That does not mean I would want to go back and re-live them, nor does it mean I would run toward problems at any point in the future. But it does mean that I now see life’s tough and painful moments in a different light.
The Bible tells us that this life is but a handbreadth in the span of eternity; it is not the entirety of our life, and this world is not our real home. It also tells us that Jesus was with God in the beginning, before the world was formed, He lives with the Father in Heaven now, and we are made in His image...so you do the math. We are not a body that happens to have a spirit; we are a spiritual being that is temporarily housed in a mortal body living on this earth for a specific purpose and a discrete amount of time that we call “life”.
Picture yourself in Heaven: God gives you the honor of an important assignment and tells you that this particular task will take some training that will stretch you, educate you, and change you in many ways as you acquire the knowledge and experiences you will need going forward. In fact, you will have to leave Heaven for your training; but the fact that you are considered worthy of such a task overrides any hesitation, and you are eager to begin. After all, however difficult it may be, God says the training will be over in the blink of an eye, and He will always watch over you, regardless of what you may face; and He will walk right beside you through every trial, even when you cannot feel Him there.
I think this life may be something similar to a university education for our eternal lives in Heaven; a series of experiences and lessons we would be unable to learn within the perfection of Paradise. In this fallen world, we have the opportunity to experience sickness, sin, failure, sorrow, loss, deprivation, depression, regret, and negative emotions of every kind: hatred, envy, bitterness, jealousy, shame…all of the things that do not exist in Heaven. Through those experiences we learn compassion, the challenges of healing, and both sides of forgiveness – giving it and receiving it. Here on Planet Earth we have the opportunity to make right or wrong choices, what selfishness is, what sin, consequences, and regret feel like, the effects of temptation and why it can be so irresistible; how it feels to fall, and how hard it can be to get back up. We learn how to forgive ourselves for failing. We cling to God in the midst of these soul-crushing problems even as we experience separation from Him, and we learn how to seek Him with all of our hearts even though He remains invisible to us. We learn the frustration of heartfelt prayer when no answers seem to come, and how to trust Him when evidence of His presence is scarce. In this life we experience the depths of loneliness, despair, and separation from God, but we also get to experience the evidence of His presence and feel the hope that only blind faith and the realization of His infinite goodness can engender. And in special moments, we can feel His love wrap around us to comfort and encourage us through the hard times.
In Heaven, God’s love permeates everything. The very atmosphere is vibrant with life, love, joy and the light of His presence. We will be fully known, loved and accepted. Once we are in our Heavenly home, the trials and tribulations of this life will seem like a brief moment in time. Although it is hard to wrap my mind around that, it somehow makes things a little easier to bear as I deal with the challenges I face in this life He has given me. And when trials come again, as they surely will, I plan to examine them and my role within those circumstances from a different perspective. Then I will thank God for ALL of the opportunities this life is giving me, and ask Him what He wants me to learn before I buckle-down and do the work, knowing He is walking right by my side.
Prayer: Father, your ways are higher, your thoughts are deeper, and your love is purer and greater than anything I know. I believe in you, trust you, and love you. Being in your presence is my heart’s greatest delight. I am grateful for this life with all of the blessings and challenges that you have chosen to give me. Everything I am, everything I have comes from You and I give it all back to you with gratitude for your honor, glory and in your service. Help me learn what I need to learn and help me to serve you fully so I can achieve your purpose before I come home, in Jesus’ name, amen.
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” Psalm 39:4-5
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:18-21
“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” Romans 8:9
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1