2 Corinthians 5:1-8

Our Heavenly Dwelling

5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on [1] we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

So, for the last year I have searched the Bible over and over for the answer as to where Elizabeth is right now.  The mom in me needs to know where my child is, even if I won’t be able to find her for a while.  I am still not sure what I believe, as this is another of the great mysteries, so I will leave some scripture to you to decide. 

Elizabeth’s earthly tent was tattered and weathered, well beyond her ten years.  Her “tent” was mended numerous times in her final days by the talented physicians left charge of her care.  They painstakingly patched the weakest parts of her for as long as possible. 

Elizabeth was incredibly burdened by the tent she needed while on earth.  She no longer needs the clothing of her tent to protect her, as her spirit survives sufficiently without a mortal shell.   And, if we take this scripture literally and it an accurate timing, she is away from her body and in the presence of the Lord, where she is meant to be. 

With this belief, Elizabeth’s spirit is living strong in Heaven–right NOW.  To be absent from the body is to be present in the Lord.  If you believe your spirit cannot die, then it is not with her body and must be somewhere else.  2 Corinthians 5 insinuates that the spirit goes to Heaven immediately after mortal death. 

My quandry lies in the TIMING of it all.  It’s not that I don’t believe she, of all people, will spend eternity in Heaven.  My question is WHEN she goes/went to Heaven.  2 Cor tells me she is there now, as does Luke 23:43 (Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” to the thief on the cross by Him). 

Yet, 1Thesselonian 4:16 (For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of  the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first) says that the dead will rise first at the 2nd Coming.  Does this mean that those in Heaven will come down with him and rejoin their bodies or will they rise from a state of rest to make the first trip to Heaven?

While we have no evidence of either theory (or any after death theory for that matter), I choose to believe that she rose to Heaven at her death and will rejoin her body at the 2nd Coming.  I like to believe her body will be ressurected and restored, but the Bible says those who rise will ascend to Heaven.  Seems contradictory, so I am more confused the more I think about it!

I know that we want warm thoughts when we think of our loved ones who’ve died.  No matter if our spirits ascend immediately or lay in a state of rest, I feel better knowing that those are even options for me (and my loved ones).  I am utterly fearful for those who have no faith in Christ and eternal salvation. 

I know I have loved ones who will not join me in Heaven on day because they choose not to believe here on Earth.  I have come to know so many families along this journey of pediatric cancer who had no faith when their child died, and have even less belief in God now.  My heart aches as I read/hear the emptiness in their words as they mourn for their child.  I cannot fathom grief without some belief in a heavenly reward.   Knowing I will see Elizabeth again one day, without cancer, allows me to get through most days.  Those without faith, don’t have that resolution to get through the hardest times. 

Pray for those who don’t believe today. Share the promise of Heaven with them.  We certainly don’t have any substantial proof that there is a Heaven, other than the scripture’s promises, but can we really risk not having the protection of salvation?  It’s as foolish as not having car insurance because I am a safe driver.  I don’t want the joke to be on me, and quite honestly, there is no penalty for believing in something that doesn’t exist.  If we die and that’s it, it won’t matter that I believed in another ending, will it?  Yet, if salvation is the answer, do I really want to miss the boat because I failed to believe something I couldn’t see? 

It is scary, it is hard to have faith, and often it seems there is more persecution for those who do believe.  These seems to be little reward on Earth for being a believer, yet I disagree.  I have seen firsthand, Cancer doesn’t strike because you believe in God.  It doesn’t strike because you don’t believe enough.  Your kids still get cancer if you believe or don’t.  Your outcome can still be undesirable, regardless of what you believe or want.  Yet, the promise of what is yet to come, the future is bearable because of faith.  I am able to see the goodness of others, the silver lining, the rainbow in the rainstorm, and can laugh between tears because of faith. 

Where is Heaven? I don’t know.  When do we go?  Haven’t a clue.  Do I want to miss it?  Not a chance…

Here I am, I’m Home

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2 Corinthians6:3-10

2 Corinthians6:3-10

(3)We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  (4)Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; (5) in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; (6) in purity, understanding, patience, and kindness: in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; (7) in truthful speech and in the power of God, with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; (8) through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters, (9) known, yet regarded as unknown, dying yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; (10) sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, yet possessing everything. 

This scripture spoke to me today.  We have faced many stumbling blocks in our lives, as many have, are, and will.  This part of the letter from Paul says what we do still–we rejoice when we triumph.  It is incredibly hard to rejoice when we are beaten and downtrodden.  Some will choose to let those difficult trials bring them down and keep them down.  To me this looks like the “always look up” passage.

Some ask, “How am I supposed to rejoice when I am so incredibly sad, broken, or disheartened?  How, when my life is in shambles, and there is no end to the turmoil in sight?”

I cannot say that God is going to give you the resolution you desire.  I cannot promise He will act in the time you expect or anticipate.  I won’t begin to promise your time of trial will end because you have faith in Christ.

From our experience, God has simply given us a rope to the float that will give us reprieve through this storm.  Sure, I would love for the boat to come, but God knows that I at least need the life ring so that I can endure the storm without completely succombing to the crashing waves.

God allowed numerous attacks in our lives, that is without question.  Yet, each time, he threw us the life saver rope.  Sometimes he threw just the rope, sometimes, the float, and many other times, he let the rescue boat swing by and swoop us out of the waters.  What were some of our life savers, you ask?  Oh, there have been so many.

In 2006, Elizabeth was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor.  Terrified, knowing the outcome of childhood brain tumors, we felt alone as we traveled 200 miles by ambulance with our sweet little girl.  Friends immediately swooped in, friends we didn’t expect.  Some helped us pack, others provided meals, one even talked with me on the phone during that dreadful ambulance ride, less than 1 year after losing her own daughter, my student, to the dreaded beast.  God didn’t make the tumor go away without treatment, but He certainly gave us who and what we needed during the time to know it would be okay.

Just under 3 years later, when she developed cancer again, we felt the waves crashed over our boat once again.  I was terminated from my job of 10 years just a few weeks earlier.  How were we supposed to take care of our struggling finances with one income and now a child with cancer?  God provided the life ring.  An unemployment check was written to me each week until we received reimbursement from an insurance policy I had taken years earlier.  The policy paid our bills, covering my salary, almost to the penny, until her death.  At her death, her life insurance policies secured our finances and provided funds to begin our non-profit foundation.

Many times, the pain of losing our first-born overwhelmed us.  Each time, God gave us the words we needed through our youngest daughter.  He spoke directly to us through her.  She spoke from faith just like her sister.  She shared wisdom well beyond her six years, giving us faith and courage to face each day without our sweet girl.

Our hearts are broken, never to be mended in quite the same way.  We have been poor, beaten, sorrowful, and have had nothing, but God has shown us otherwise repeatedly.

We can be poor in our own homes, but we can still “give” to others-maybe we can share a meal, say a prayer, or listen to a friend in need.

We have been beaten, but not killed.  Elizabeth’s death broke our hearts and trampled our spirits, but we are still alive and must live for Madeline.

We have been sorrowful in our grief, but we have rejoiced with friends who have welcomed new babies after their own loss.  We have rejoiced in simple joys each day, beautiful sunsets, laughter in the pool, giggles over tickling toenail polish, the accomplishments of family members.

We felt we had nothing-no first-born, no job, no purpose.  God showed us we have a second-born who needs us, no job allows us to put family first, and now I have time for the works of our foundation, Hugs of Hope, Inc.

Where are you in your brokenness?  Is your body beaten, your spirit crushed, your finances depleted, your faith wavering? 

Where are you in your graceousness?  What has God allowed in your life, despite your brokenness? 

God doesn’t promise He will make you rich, heal your body, save your loved one, or prevent you from touching the fire.  He promises to be there with you, a silent partner in your restoration.  The crashing waves will eventually calm, the storm will pass.  He will be there.  Will you thank Him then as often as you curse Him now?