The man who lives in the Swiss Alps is probably not terribly impressed when he visits North America and strolls through the Adirondacks or the Smokies. The woman who has spent her life snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef is probably not too enthusiastic about snorkeling off the East Coast of Canada. The person who has grown up on the beaches of Maui is probably not going to break the bank to vacation on the beaches of Lake Superior. There is nothing wrong with the Adirondacks or the Smokies, nothing wrong with the East Coast of Canada or the beaches of the Great Lakes. It’s just that they are not nearly as good, not nearly as impressive, not nearly as awe-inspiring as the alternatives.
It does us good at times to ponder heaven, to ponder the future God has promised to those who love him. He has promised that we will be with him forever in a new heaven and a new earth—a re-creation of this world in which all sin and sorrow, all pain and danger will have been removed. Here we will live out the purpose for which God created us—to spread out over the earth and enjoy it with him and for him.
As we make the pilgrimage from here to there, as we endure this long journey, we expect that it will be difficult. We expect that we will experience the consequences that have come with mankind’s fall into sin. We expect that we will endure sickness, bereavement, persecution, chastisements, and so many other forms of suffering. This is all inevitable in a world like this one.
While we do not wish to suffer, we must be confident that God always has purposes in it. And one of these purposes is undoubtedly to prepare us for what is to come, to shift our hearts from earth to heaven, from what is temporal to what is eternal. The sorrows here prepare us for the glories there. And this makes me wonder: wouldn’t it be the ones who suffer most on earth who are best prepared to enjoy heaven? Wouldn’t it be the ones who were deprived of so much here who will be most satisfied there?
Just think of the wonder of a stroll in the garden for those who were long confined to the sick room, a hike in the mountains for those who spent their lives in a wheelchair, a place in God’s mansion for those who lived in nothing more than a hut.
Imagine the music of the heavenly choir to those who ears were deaf, the splendor of the New Jerusalem to those whose eyes were blind, the joy of crying out praise to those whose lips were mute.
Imagine never hearing a sound for your entire earthly existence only to have the heavenly choir as the first notes to ever reach your ear. Imagine never seeing anything on this side of the grave, only to have the face of Jesus be the first sight that ever meets your eye. Imagine never being able to form a word here only to have your tongue loosened in Christ’s presence so the first words you ever speak are an expression of love to him.
Surely it’s not the man who lived in fine palaces who will be most amazed by the streets of gold, but the man who lived in poverty. Surely it’s not the woman who enjoyed fine dining every day of her life who will be most satisfied by the heavenly feasts, but the woman who lived in deprivation. Surely it’s not the person who traveled to the four corners of the earth who will be most satisfied to explore the wonders of God’s creation, but the person who was unable to leave his hometown, or perhaps unable to leave his bed.
Those who were lonely in this world will marvel at the joy of fellowship, those who were abused in this world will be satisfied to experience perfect safety, those who were estranged in this world will rejoice to know full acceptance. The one who had so many loved ones taken from her arms will be most satisfied to know that pain and death and sorrow and sighing shall be no more.
We know that heaven will be a wonder for all who are admitted, a place of perfect peace and perfect satisfaction for all who enter its gates. But surely heaven will be a greater wonder still for those whose joys were fewest, whose sorrows were deepest, whose earth was most distant from heaven.