Always Longing

We can tell a lot about ourselves by what we long for, by what we desire, by what we dream about, by what consumes our thoughts when we lie in the quiet darkness of night. You can tell a lot because what consumes our thoughts is a good indication of what consumes our hearts which is, in turn, a good indication of what we value most. If we dream of riches it shows that we have set our hope on money. If we dream of sexual pleasures it shows that we have raised sex to the status of an idol. And so we should often ask ourselves: What do I dream about? What do I long for? And what does this tell me about myself? Our God or “gods” are never far from our desires.

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I don’t think I’m wrong in suggesting that few of us spend much time dreaming about Heaven. Most of our longings extend little farther than what we can see, have, and experience here on earth. And yet the consistent message of the Bible is that there are treasures and blessings beyond this earth that are so beautiful, so wonderful, so desirable, that the best of earth’s joys will pale by comparison.

This longing is the subject of Stephen Morefield’s book Always Longing: Discovering the Joy of Heaven. He, like so many of us, has always known that Heaven is good, but has still preferred to focus his thoughts and desires on this world and this life. He has always known that Heaven is a wonderful place, but he still didn’t want to go there because he had other plans, other dreams, other things he wanted to accomplish. “Sports, college, ministry, marriage, kids—those sorts of things. I had too much to do to want to go to Heaven. I also had a healthy fear of death. Who wants to die? Not me. No thanks.”

But as time went on he came to understand some very good news. “I was completely wrong about Heaven, and you probably are too.” He was wrong in what he understood about Heaven and wrong about wanting to be here more than he wanted to be there. He realized that we live best when Heaven consumes our thoughts and fills our desires. We live best when we live with a longing to be absent from the body and home with the Lord.

He begins the book by asking simply, does Heaven matter? He follows Randy Alcorn in showing that we were made for both a person and a place, and “that person, experienced in the presence of that place, will meet every single need we could ever have. Complete satisfaction is possible. All of our longings tell us it must be. But only in this divine gift of a person and a place will we ever find it.”

The second chapter faces the reality that we must all die and considers what happens after death. He balances the horror of death with the beauty of finally being in the presence of God. “For the Christian, death is used by God for a greater gain, despite its wicked advent.” He distinguishes here between the intermediate Heaven—Heaven as it is now—and the New Heaven and New Earth—Heaven as it will be after Christ’s return. He dedicates one chapter to considering how history will end—a chapter (and follow-up appendix) that is beautiful but may not make him a lot of friends among those who hold to a Dispensational perspective. As the book continues he considers where Heaven is, what we will do there, and the posture we should maintain as we await our time. The final chapter deals with the reality of Hell which leads to a conclusion that includes a strong call to trust in Christ.

We would be lying if we said that this world is only full of sorrows and woes, for that is not the case. We experience many blessings here and enjoy many pleasures. And it is good and honoring to God when we embrace them. Yet these pleasures are not meant to captivate us, but to point us to the fulfillment of our longings—to the presence of that person in that place. And this book does a commendable job of directing our longings in just that way. “Cheer up,” Morefield says. “And as you cheer up, make sure you don’t turn back, sit down, or tread water. Press on. Hit heaven in stride. Jesus’s grace is not only enough to save you now; it’s enough to bring you home and to do so with joy and faithfulness. Run, and run hard. And as you press on, smile. You were made for a person and a place, and both of them will be yours by his grace alone.” And that is worth longing for…

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