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Posts Tagged ‘Revelation 21:4’

Years ago, I was given a poem written by South American Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero that begins with the following lines:

It helps now and then to step back

               And take the long view

Romero goes on to reflect on the fact that what we do for God is just one part of a larger endeavour—we cannot do everything ourselves. Nevertheless, we plant the seed and water the seed others before us have planted too and thus play our part in building God’s kingdom. All he said is indeed true, yet these two lines have stuck in my mind for another reason as well. They have always served to remind me that this life is not all there is, that I need to step back and look at my own life in the light of eternity. And as I do, this changes everything.

When putting my blogs together each week, I always include some sort of photo which may start out very large but, with one click, ends up being shrunk to a much smaller ‘thumbnail’ size. This is the feeling I have had at times as I do indeed step back and take that longer view of my life—the feeling that I am suddenly and rapidly being shrunk down to size. Yet this is not unpleasant at all, because I know God is graciously reminding me that my life here on earth is actually an infinitesimal part of a much, much bigger picture. Or, to use a different metaphor, my life here is like the first one or two tiny millimetres only of a long, long journey to some extreme, far-flung part of the world.

We need to be reminded of this truth often, not only when experiencing hard times in life, but also when things are going well. In hard times, it is so comforting to know this life is not all there is and that, one day, all our struggles and troubles will be over.

He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4 NLT

Yet it is equally important to be reminded of the brevity of life when things are going well too. I know I can become so focused on my own plans and so engrossed in some endeavour or other that I can easily forget how fleeting these are in the big scheme of things. Or I can worry far too much about my own and others’ issues rather than loving and trusting God. I think of the story Jesus told called ‘The Parable of the Rich Fool’ about a man who tore down his barns to build bigger ones where he could store all his grain and goods, then decided to take it easy, eat, drink and be merry—yet, that night, he died (Luke 12:13-21). The parable ends with the following words:

Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21 NLT

Let’s remember our lives here are only a few short millimetres of a much, much longer journey. In the light of that, let’s walk hand and hand with God through each day—and right on into eternity.

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Some things in this life are hard to understand, aren’t they? Often when we hear of some tragic event, we can feel so helpless and dismayed. We may be able to be there for those involved, provide practical support and pray for them, but still those big questions can remain.

This whole matter of life’s hard-to-understand questions was brought home to me recently, as I helped our granddaughter with a uni essay. This involved reading C S Lewis’s The Problem of Pain and grappling with how the idea of a good, all-powerful God could be reconciled with the reality of all the pain and suffering in our world. What a challenge for an eighteen-year-old—and what a challenge for me too, to help formulate a reasoned defence of Lewis’s Christian position!

During this time too, I heard a tragic story about a young mother who had just passed away from cancer not long after the birth of her second child. The mother was so ill that the baby was delivered early—and the grieving father is now left with two young sons to rear, one a premature newborn. It is hard to get our heads around such awful events, isn’t it?

As our granddaughter and I persevered with her essay, however, we came to some basic conclusions at least. We do not claim to be clear, logical thinkers—and we would not want to give any pat answers either. But we decided that God chose, from a position of strength and authority as the Creator of the universe, to give us free will—the ability to choose how we act. In one sense, it could perhaps be said God’s options then became limited, yet God is not intrinsically limited. God is still good and all-powerful, even though we may not be able to see that clearly at times.

Yet we also felt that, while our wrong choices may account for much of the world’s suffering, this does not seem to be the case with the young mother’s death mentioned above. Nor does it account for those large-scale natural disasters in our world, although it could be argued some are the result of man’s not caring for the earth’s God-given resources. We remembered too how sometimes God has judged the world in this way, such as in the days of Noah (Genesis 6). And we wondered too if, at times, God may allow suffering—sometimes suffering teaches us things we might never otherwise learn and refines our faith. Yet right now, through it all, God also longs to comfort and strengthen us in our troubles—God does not leave us to struggle on alone.

It is all so complex, isn’t it? Truly, we know only in part—but one day, we will know fully (1 Corinthians 13:12). And one day too as Christians, we have the wonderful hope of eternal life, where there will be no more pain and suffering at all.

God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

One day, those big questions will be answered—or perhaps then they will not matter anymore. But until that day, let’s keep on trusting and walking with our loving, good, all-powerful God.

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