Sunday, 21 August 2016

Hope in Eternity

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Tonight I touch down in the city where my firstborn child died, just over eight years ago (something I have written about here). And as I do, I reflect on many things. This is the city where I knew, without a shadow of a doubt that my faith was genuine. It was the place where the words in 1 Peter about trials, which ‘have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold which perishes though refined by the fire - may result in praise, glory and honour when Christ is revealed’, were proven true. It was a place where I saw Christian love and hospitality like never before, as strangers opened their homes and together Christians provided for all our needs. It was a spiritually rich time where we learnt much about eternity. And yet, there is no changing the fact it is a city tinged with sadness as it is the place where our daughter died, early one morning in the middle of an unseasonal thunderstorm. It reminds me of that morning when we realised that never again would we feel fully at home on this earth, but would long for the days described in Revelation Chapter 21: ‘The Lord Himself will wipe away every tear, and there will be no more sickness or sorrow or death’.

I was reflecting on how that grief changes us. One thing that is absolutely clear is that it is hard to plan for tomorrow. I hear others with young children talking about university fees, or desired events a long time hence such as graduations, marriages, becoming grandparents. I don’t think about such things. Part of me doesn’t really believe that I’ll see my children grow up, cannot assume that we will all live to see such a day. I know others who talk about a time in the future when they might know more rest, but I can’t really look ahead to such a time.

I do know that I am here today, and that my husband and children are healthy and safe in our East African home. I do know that my current God-given responsibilities include loving and supporting my husband, raising our children in a God-honouring way, and undertaking my professional duties to the best of my ability, ‘as working for the Lord, not for men’ (Colossians 3:23). But beyond the immediate future, I cannot really see.

Is this a problem? At times, professionally, I am asked about my ‘five year plan’. I can produce a nice chart showing goals and milestones, but it’s hard to really believe any of it. Personally, I have aims and desires that each of my children grows to maturity knowing and loving the Lord with their whole heart, but I find it difficult to imagine them as teenagers or young adults. In our marriage, I am thankful for seventeen years where we have grown closer to one another, closer to the Lord and had numerous opportunities to serve God together; but I can’t imagine us growing old together, slowing down, spending those twilight years giving thanks for all God has done.

However what I can see is the immediate God-given tasks in front of us. Today, as I departed from home, my husband and sons were entertaining visitors from a different African country. Before I left home, I helped them prepare a meal to share, and was able to spent time encouraging my children in the Bible verses they had learnt this week. I can see the work laid out for the next two days – to bring together a team and train them for a specific purpose, and at all times to seek opportunities to share ‘the hope that I have’ (1 Peter 3:15) I can pray for friends around the world in diverse situations, some of whom I know are facing challenges. And I can sleep peacefully at the end of the day, knowing that God is sovereign and is the One who does know the future and all things that will come to pass.

Jesus taught His disciples, as recorded in the Sermon on the Mount, not to worry about tomorrow. In the letter of James Chapter 4:13-17, some people are rebuked for making future plans presumptuously, saying that ‘today or tomorrow we will go to this city or that city and do business’. The reminder is that God is the one who knows the days and the times. Our responsibility is to live for Him today.

Sometimes I feel there are conversations I cannot relate to. Sometimes I am so very aware that we are ‘strangers’ or ‘pilgrims’ in this world. But again, I do not think this is necessarily a bad thing, and it is certainly a worldview I wish my children to grow up with.

So, flying through a city where my human hopes and dreams were shattered, yet where my faith was strengthened as never before, I give thanks. I give thanks to the One who knows all things, who holds the future and who promises a ‘hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11)

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