Someone asked me why I do not talk more about heaven in this blog. If I am a Christian and I have a terminal illness (ALS), it seems that perhaps I should talk more about a longing for heaven.
My mind went to a Christian song I heard sung frequently as a teen at my church in Fort Lauderdale.
- He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
- When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
- Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
- His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. — Annie J. Flint
I know that my last gulp of air in this life will directly precede my first glimpse in heaven. At death Jesus will personally come to escort me, just as he has promised (John 14:1-6).
However, I view ALS as a classroom in the school of life where I am a student and God is my instructor. The course is entitled, “Limitless Grace and Love in the Time of Trial.” Some of the anticipated student outcomes are (as listed in Annie J. Flint’s song):
- receiving more grace when life’s burdens grow greater;
- understanding God’s mercy during an extreme affliction;
- as ALS increases in its control over my body, God’s peace enables me to rest;
- while arms and legs weaken, looking to my Father whose power has no boundary;
- when restless and frustrated, trusting in God’s infinite riches in Jesus.
I do not want the course of study to be wasted by my gazing dreamily out the classroom window at the blue sky above. There is too much good stuff yet to be learned. I have only begun to master the course content.
Hebrews 12 reminds me that “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Two visions that I gain from that exhortation:
- There is a race that has been marked out for me–like a cross-country race course with hills to climb, sandy stretches with loose footing to navigate , logs to jump over, and creeks to slosh through before I get to that last 100 yards leading to the finish line. ALS is terminal, and therefore I know the finish line is up ahead. But I still have parts of the course to navigate. And the more fatigued I become the more mercy, grace, strength, and love from God I must appropriate.
- There are many spectators watching me run, and while Hebrews 12 pictures those in heaven who have finished the race before me, there are spectators on earth watching me, those who are in various phases of the race–my wife, my children and grandchildren, siblings and friends.
Thus, while I do have an eye on the finish line, I have an eye on the present course lest I stumble and fall and hear the spectators groan with disappointment.
It is my goal to show those watching that if a frail weakling like me can run the course because of the mercy, grace, power, and love of God, as Annie Flint depicts in her poem above, so can they. If I can run the course, then so can they.
So, to my familial spectators, Ruth, Paul, Allison, Paul Andrew, Aaron, Christian, Kelly, Karen, Anthony, Tyler, Rebekah, Hannah, Linda, Rob, Jonathan, Lauren, Kendall, Daniel, Eunice, Ron, Jennifer, Michael, Cheryl, Mario, Lisa, Emilie, Jason, Alan, Jane, Rob, Katie, Megan, Steve, Sarah, Christopher, Jessica, Elisabet, to name but a few, keep on the course. Don’t follow rabbit trails that will take you off course.
(Picture in header used with permission from Shutterstock.)