1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. 7 Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters.
We in the church talk about eternal life so much, it’s easy for us to stop thinking carefully about what it is we’re saying. But when you experience a loss close to you, you’re forced to reckon with what you really believe.
Here’s what I’ve observed through my most recent loss: the notion of eternal life is so much more of a comfort for those who are dying than those whom they leave behind.
Of course, it’s good for us, as we approach death, to know that we can entrust ourselves into the hands of the One who gave us life. But for those who are left behind: when you are missing your Mom, your Dad, your brother or sister, your spouse or partner, looking for that reunion that is promised one day doesn’t seem like enough. We want them here with us now. And it’s hard to wrap our heads around the idea that eternal life should comfort us when our loss is so real, the absence in our lives so profound. When we’re hurting so badly, the Church’s message can seem far too simplistic. That far-off reunion strikes us as a pie-in-the-sky hope that ignores the very real pain we feel right now.
But the scriptures don’t ignore or shy away from the real cost of death for the living. God sees and knows our pain. Jesus knows what it was like to weep at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. That’s why the promise of Revelation, the promise of the new world God is preparing for us, is this: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore…”
When the solution that God has offered to us feels like a lot of waiting for a far-off reunion, it’s passages like this that remind me that God knows and feels our pain right here, and right now. The ultimate solution God offers is not just eternal life, but the literal defeat of death. This is why I can trust God to see me though what I’m feeling in this moment. God’s care is not just for those who have gone on to glory. It’s for us too. God sees our pain and sees us through it – right here, and right now, because death is God’s enemy too.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Can you imagine God being alongside you, attentive to your pain and grief? How might God care for you when you are hurting? How might you help God care for others?
Prayer: Dear God, when we face losses and pain, be with us in our grief. Be near us in our hurt to comfort us. And when the promise of eternal life seems to ring hollow, remind us that what you have offered us is not only endless life, but an end to death. Remind us that you are with us, right here, right now. Amen.