“When does it stop hurting?” she asked.
“Life?” I paused. I thought for a while. “Well, there are two answers.”
“Is one of them never?”
“Um… No. Well…”
Now came the difficult part: articulating what those two answers are and why I thought they were helpful. I came to some interesting conclusions that I’m not completely certain of but that are worth considering.
What I have to say is rooted in some pretty important presuppositions. Let me articulate a few of them so you all know what you’re getting into. If you disagree with these assertions, I’d love to have that discussion some other time. But for the sake of this discussion, I’m going to hold to the following beliefs.
- The Bible is a reliable, inerrant, and infallible source of truth given to us by God. This is the basis for my other assumptions.
- Heaven and Hell are real places where people will spend eternity.
- The promises of the Bible are true.
All these premises are connected to and rooted in the first, but I wanted to explicitly state the latter two as well.
Now, back to our question: When does life stop hurting?
1) It stops hurting in Heaven.
Revelation 21:3-5 points to the end of time:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
When our community with God is whole, when we are dwelling with God in the place He has made for us–then there will be no mourning or pain. That’s when it will stop hurting. Life on Earth just won’t be pain-free. Jesus warns His disciples of this shortly before His arrest and crucifixion (John 16:33):
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Tribulation is coming. In this context, Jesus is preparing His disciples for the time when He will not be with them as He was at that time. As we’ve often heard in sermons, suffering is a promise. But that is followed up with another promise: Jesus has overcome the world. He is the One we can rest in. He is the One we can trust.
All that to say, our problems aren’t going to go away completely until Heaven.
2) Alternatively, life stops hurting on Earth, only for the pain to reassert itself in eternity.
This can happen if we close off our hearts. If we choose not to risk our hearts by closing off our love for others, we give up our ability to love God. In 1 John 4:20-21, we read,
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
By closing our hearts to others, we wrestle our hearts away from God. We might be able to cut off the pain temporarily but only by maiming our ability to feel. Pain flees, but joy is numbed. And if we refuse to love people, if we refuse to love God, if we refuse to be loved–then we find ourselves alone and outside the wedding feast. We find ourselves without God’s love. We pushed it away. We refused it. Is it any surprise that we don’t feel the good when we denied ourselves the luxury of feeling anything?
And if we refuse to love and be loved–even by God–until our dying day, if we refuse to accept the bloody sacrifice and awesome restoration of life, we will find ourselves confronted by the sins we have committed. We will stand before God with no answer for our actions. We will be condemned for our own sins. And the pain will return–so much worse than we could have imagined. Our opportunity for salvation will be gone.
Having said all that heavy stuff, I came to a choice.
It’s the same choice God gave to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land. God had given the Law to the people, He had clearly explained His expectations and His promises, and finally He was wrapping up. Moses, delivering God’s words to the people of Israel, declared (Deuteronomy 30:19-20a),
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days.”
God offers us the same choice today: life and death, blessing and curse. Yes, there is pain in living, but there is blessing in life. Life is a beautiful gift which God has granted each of us. Life eternally with Him in Heaven is an abundant gift for which we have no response except utter gratitude. Therefore choose life, that you… may live, loving the LORD your God. May we always choose life, no matter how painful, for God is Life.