Every morning, I make a cup of coffee, pick up my Bible, and settle in for a personal devotional time. Where I sit, I have a wonderful view outside of the eastern sky and our bird feeder on our deck. This time of year, I have the added bonus of seeing the flowers and trees in their summer glory and opening the sliding glass door to hear the songs of the birds.
This morning was not unlike most mornings. There was a cool breeze blowing in, the sky was light yellow with a hint of pink as dawn approached, and the birds, particularly a familiar male cardinal, were there to greet me with their morning songs and gathering for their morning sustenance. It is one of my favorite parts of the day.
As I sat reading and contemplating the early chapters of the Gospel of Mark, it occurred to me that these blissful mornings are a shadow of things to come. This is how C.S. Lewis often referred to this life—the shadowlands. By this he meant we don’t ever see heavenly realities, but we often see their shadows. I believe what I see every morning is a shadow of what heaven will be like. It will be total and enveloping bliss, full of beauty, total peace, and abundant joy. And add to that, no sin or evil from which it originates, no tears, and no sorrow will be present. What a blessed hope!
Our nation, our world, are in tremendous upheaval right now. The combination of a global pandemic that has upset our sense of normalcy, perhaps stolen our livelihoods, and killed hundreds of thousands, and the sudden embrace by the majority of a reality that has long existed among those who are poor and/or non-white, and vocally rejecting the status quo. My friends, we have been shaken by it all. With it, at least for me, comes a longing for the heavenly reality, for the bliss of life without evil. I will not find it here, but I can cling to the hope of it through the glimpses or shadows of it in everyday life.
That was the hope of all our 1st Century predecessors. The culture around them was even worse than our own. Paul describes the lives of himself and his companions in this way,
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.” (II Corinthians 1:8-9)
Yet, the believers never lost hope or motivation to live righteously. Paul later writes in the same letter,
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:16-18)
How do we navigate the turbulent times in which we live? By following the example of the faithful ones who have gone before us.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.” (Hebrews 11:13-14)
Like my brothers and sisters of old, my eyes are fixed on Jesus and his promise of a new world where my citizenship truly lies. The shadowlands are not my home, but they do give me a glimpse of it. As long as I trod its soil, I will cling to that hope while I seek to follow in the steps of my Lord.
© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.