About a week before my husband Jeff died, a friend of ours brought a gift: a wooden plaque with the words "The best is yet to come." I admit that I was a little baffled that she would encourage us with those particular words at that particular time, but Jeff understood it immediately. He was facing heavenward, and knew this truth: what God has prepared for us is beyond imagining. In fact, I wonder if it doesn't take some restraint on God's part to keep us earthbound, when He must so enjoy the moment when one of His enters heaven and sees Glory revealed for the first time ever.
In the meantime, we are here, and this life can be so very difficult. I don’t have to list all the unbearable hardships we face, all the inexplicable injustices in the world, all the sin that burdens and wearies us. Sometimes it feels like a battle to hold on to hope for the future. Yet because God keeps us here, we know there is meaning to life on earth, even when His purpose seems obscure.
C.S. Lewis is always so sensible: “The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.” (emphasis mine) *
In other words, heaven is our “true country,” and what keeps us from despair in this life is realizing that we aren’t yet home. The fact that we have a home to go to after death, a home where every unsatisfied desire and unmet need will be gloriously fulfilled, gives us incredible hope. Gratitude for “suggestions” of heaven gives life joy and richness; recognizing that these “suggestions” are not meant to fulfill protects us from frustrated expectations. This life has meaning and purpose to the degree that we persevere toward that “true country” and reach out to take others with us.
When I was little, I always thought that Christmas Eve was more fun than Christmas Day. I just loved knowing good stuff was coming. This is where we ought to live right now: in a Christmas Eve state of mind, on the edge of our seats with anticipation of glory to come. Only God is so very much bigger than a fat fictional elf, and the reality of heaven is going to blow our minds. He is making all things new, even the hearts and dreams and relationships that are broken. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) Go ahead. Try to imagine how wonderful heaven will be. Dream about it, study about it, talk about it all you want- God promises we can’t even conceive of the glories of Home. Rest assured, you will be eternally delighted. The best is yet to come!
Use the Scripture below and insert the name of anyone you want to pray for, or for yourself. I use the NKJV unless otherwise noted, and alternate between "he" and "she." These are just a stepping stone to get you started.
Father, I pray that _____ will see Your promises from afar and be assured of them, embrace them and confess that he is a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth. May he declare plainly that he seeks a homeland, desiring a better, that is a heavenly country. You are not ashamed to be called his God, for You have prepared a city for him, along with all those who love You. Hebrews 11:13-16
Lord, help _____ to trust that, since the beginning of the world, men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for ____ when she waits for You. You will meet her who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. I pray that _____ will proclaim Your great goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You! Isaiah 64:4-5, Psalm 31:19
Father, I pray that _____ will know that we are citizens of heaven, where You live, and we are eagerly waiting for Your return as our Savior. You will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like Your own, using the same power with which You will bring everything under Your control. Philippians 3:20-21 NLT
Lord, I pray that _____ will be clothed with strength and dignity. May she laugh without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25 NLT
Father, I pray that _____ will understand that he can make many plans, but Your purpose will prevail. Help _____ to trust that Your thoughts toward him are thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give him a future and hope…. I pray he will seek You and find You, that he will search for You with all his heart. Proverbs 19:21, Jeremiah 29:11, 13
Dear God, I pray that _____ will seek Your Kingdom above all else, and You will give her everything she needs. She has nothing to be afraid of, for it is Your good pleasure to give us the Kingdom! Father, help _____ to understand that Your Kingdom is not of this world. In fact, Your kingdom is not eating and drinking (the things of this world) but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Luke 12:31-32, John18:36, Romans 14:17
Lord I pray that _____ will not consider the sufferings of this present time to be worthy of comparing with the glory that You will reveal in us. May _____ also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because Your love has been poured out in our hearts by Your Spirit which was given to us. Romans 8:18, 5:3-5
I know you know this music- it is probably among the best-known pieces of music in the Western world- but the Hallelujah from Handel’s Messiah draws from Revelation to celebrate the resurrection and coming kingdom of Jesus. I can’t think of better piece of music to get us excited about our future.
There are some interesting legends surrounding Messiah, and the Hallelujah in particular. When the piece debuted in Dublin, the crowds were so large that it was requested that ladies not wear their hoop skirts, in order to allow more people to crowd into the concert halls. John Wesley is thought to be one of the first concertgoers to hear Messiah. There is the famous legend that King George, overcome with reverence for God, rose to his feet when he first heard the Hallelujah, prompting all the audience to rise because no one was allowed to remain seated in the presence of the king. Audiences today are familiar with the tradition, and stand to honor Jesus as it is sung.
One of my favorite anecdotes involves the composition process. Struggling with financial pressure and depression, Handel secluded himself to write Messiah, and was so inspired by the Scriptural libretto that he wrote 260 pages of music in just 24 days. Scholars estimate that if he wrote 10 hours a day for those 24 days, this means he composed about 15 notes per minute. In addition, the original manuscript is almost free from errors or changes. A servant went in to check on Handel at just the moment he was finishing the Hallelujah, and reported that he found the composer with tears streaming down his face, proclaiming that he had just been given a glimpse of heaven. When I listen to the music, I am inclined to think Handel had really seen our “true country.”**
Maybe this isn’t the most musically perfect version, but it makes me so happy. Watch and you will love it too: