Even as I load this post into Engage, the stock market is plunging over a cliff. I,000 points down, which must have triggered a rebound. Now roller coastering back up. Now plunging again in just the time it has taken to type this paragraph.
Sometimes reading my Facebook page feels the same way. A friend's three-year old dies. Another gets a stunning prognosis on lung function.
I've spent hours this past week talking with women in the throes of such horrific trials that all we can do is grieve together and pray.
Sometimes I get bogged down in chronic weariness over our political trench warfare or going on year 38 of living with rheumatoid arthritis. When you are feeling world-weary what torches your hope?
Lately I've been reading John Eldredge's new book, All Things New. Rich in Scripture, deep in insight, vivid in Kingdom imagination, it has turned my thoughts towards Jesus and all that awaits us, renewing my hope and joy in exactly the way Jesus intended. John writes:
If you believed that a great and glorious goodness was coming to you—not in a vague heaven—but right here on this earth, you would have a hope that would see you through anything…an anchor for your soul 'reaching past all appearances to the very presence of God' (Heb 6:10 MSG).
The challenge is to make our hope real and meaningful. Take it down from our heads into our hearts where it really transforms our discouragement and anxiety in the moment.
This is John’s great gift. Somewhat like C.S. Lewis, God has given him an extraordinary imagination grounded solidly in Biblical truth and the ability to craft it into powerful, heart-grabbing language. Reading it has been like watching a movie about heaven.
Not a movie like 90 Minutes in Heaven (reviewed here), a grand reunion outside the gate, suffused with lights and music. But a macro panorama of the new earth and the new Jerusalem and close-ups inside the gates in stunning micro detail.
Unpacking the words and stories of Scripture, John moves us in the direction of what "no eye has seen nor ear heard" and helps us think deeply about the beauty of a renewed, redeemed earth; restored and healed relationships, living forever young and wholehearted; the unapologetic anticipation of our rewards (no false humility expected or allowed); the overthrow of evil; what it will mean to reign with Christ; the “forbidden attitude,” namely, getting tired of waiting, and the difference it all makes.
Rather than try to tell you a neat summary of the book, here are my ten favorite quotes so you can taste it and see:
For too long Christians have misunderstood their destiny. We have thought we would leave the earth we love and go up to an ethereal heaven somewhere. Not so…[But rather] “the earth you love—all your special places and memories—is restored and renewed and given back to you forever. [“Heaven comes down to us”—N.T. Wright]
Think of it—to be wholehearted. To be filled with goodness from head to toe…think of all you’re not going to have to wrestle with anymore…fear, anger, the compulsions, the battles to forgive, that nasty root of resentment. No more internal civil wars, no doubt, no lust, no regret, no shame, no self-hatred, no gender confusion…”
God seems to be of the opinion that no one should be expected to sustain the rigors of the Christian life without very robust and concrete hopes of being brazenly rewarded for it…houses, cities, kingdoms.”
How wonderful it will be to see Jesus Christ vindicated, after so many eons of mockery, dismissal and vilification. Our beloved has endured such slander, such mistrust, and, worst of all, such grotesque distortion by the caricatures and religious counterfeits paraded in his name. All the world will see him as he is…see him crowned King.
Imagine a world without evil people, where everyone loves God and overflows with his holy love. You look to your right and left and you only see people you can trust completely.
What will we do in the life to come? Everything you were born to do. Everything you’ve always wanted to do. Everything the kingdom needs you to do.’
Not everyone wants the joys of heaven-on-earth for the simple reason that they do not want Jesus to be King.
People want to know, ‘How is God going to make it all right? How is he going to redeem all the suffering of this world…in my own life?’ The answer has never been, ‘By this new ministry initiative!’ The answer has always been, ‘At the renewal of all things.’
*Every time disappointment strikes again, you pray, ‘Jesus, I give my heart to your kingdom; I am made for your kingdom and nothing else will do.”
And finally…“One morning you will wake…as you open your eyes you will realize how young and whole your body feels. No tormenting thoughts will rush in to assault you. You will realize that your soul feels young and whole too. As you sit up and look around the bedroom filled with light, you will hear the sounds of laughter and running water outside and you will know–it’s going to be a wonderful day.”
John has produced a film that captures this scene perfectly. I shared it with Jack when he was preparing his first Advent sermon on hope.
[We are experiencing a glitch with the embedded video. If you can't see the YouTube video above, please please watch it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_5Cga5MtmM.]
To conclude his sermon Jack read some of these quotes. The band closed with “O Come All Ye Faithful” and Jack returned to the front, as is his custom, to close the service. He had decided not to show this video, but rather describe it in his own words. He began to weep as he described the waking and the hand that worked perfectly. Of course he was thinking of me and my rheumatoid arthritis. And looking at me. His were not the only tears.
Friends, when I first read how John described our hope of all things new in The Sacred Romance, it changed my life. Pulled me out of duty and resignation and set me on the path of a joyful, kingdom-building life. Whether you are stuck or hurting, burning with frustration or world weary, I encourage you to enjoy the “deep magic” of this book that dispels the “evil enchantment of worldliness” and torches our affections for what awaits.
When these envisioned truths fill our hearts, we have a real and certain hope that will change the way we feel, the way we live.