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Suffering Series: Suffering Helps Us See Heaven
Used With Permission From “Heaven, Your Real Home” by Joni Eareckson Tada
You may not be paralyzed with a broken neck, but you could be paralyzed by other limitations. A broken, heart, a broken home, a broken reputation. These things that presently scream for your undivided attention may close the doors to earthly satisfaction but they can swing windows wide open to a spirited hope of heaven.
Samuel Rutherford described heaven and hardships this way: “If God had told me some time ago that He was about to make me as happy as I could be in this world, and then had told me that He should begin by crippling me in arm or limb, and removing me from all my usual sources of enjoyment, I should have thought it was a very strange mode of accomplishing His purpose. And yet, how is His wisdom manifest even in this! For if you should see a man shut up in a closed room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wished to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps; and then throw open the shutters to let in the light of heaven.”
When an accident sent a broken neck my way, God blew out the lamps in my life that made the here and now so captivating. The despair of total and permanent paralysis that followed wasn’t much fun, but it sure made heaven come alive. One day, when our Bridegroom comes back, there’s not a doubt I’ll be more excited and ready for it than if I were on my feet.
Suffering is no failure of God’s plan. True, it is part of the curse, along with death, disease, and destruction. But before God comes back to close the curtain on suffering, it is meant to be redeemed. As Dorothy Sayers said, “Only in Christianity do we see a good God reaching down into what otherwise would be awful evil and wrench out of it positive good for us, and glory for Himself.”
Suffering makes us want to go to heaven. Broken homes and broken hearts crush our illusions that earth can keep its promises, that it can really satisfy. Only the hope of heaven can truly move our passions off this world – which God knows could never fulfill us anyway – and place them where they will find their glorious fulfillment.
You don’t have to break your neck to get grabbed. When you come to know that the hopes you have cherished will never come true, that your loved one is gone from this life forever, that you will never be as pretty or successful or famous as you had once imagined, your sights are lifted. You long and look forward to the day when your hopes will be fulfilled and heartache will vanish. The glorious day when “we will be whole” becomes your passion as you realize that, once and for all, earth can never meet your deepest longings.
The art of living with suffering is the art of readjusting your expectations in the here and now. There are simply some things I will never have because of this wheelchair. Such longings heighten my loneliness here on earth. Some may say I am settling for too little, but asking less is not a loss, and readjusting expectations is not a negative. When I was on my feet, big boisterous pleasures provided only fleeting satisfaction. In a wheelchair, satisfaction settles in as I sit under an oak tree on a windy day and delight in the rustle of leaves or sit by a fire and enjoy the soothing strains of a symphony. These smaller, less noisy pleasures are rich because, unlike the fun on my feet, these things yield patience, endurance, and gratitude, all of which fits me further for eternity.
Editor’s Note: Before you are too harsh on Joni’s perspective of life, and lest you dare say she’s simply given up hope….. think again at what she has gained in her situation. How hard is it for you to sit still and enjoy the rustling of leaves? We are to be still and know that He is God, but stillness doesn’t come easy to those with restless souls.
Joni has gained much in her circumstances and her insight into heaven has certainly blessed my life here on earth.
This article is part of a series that begins here.