Heaven Is not Distant

In previous posts I shared my desire for God to move heaven from abstract images to concrete, life-giving, substance. Yesterday, while touring Saint Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, God pulled back the veil.

There is a mural painted by Frank Duveneck . My first walk through, I saw only Jesus on the cross and the person I thought might be his mother (actually Mary Magdalene) pleading for a different outcome. I began to cry, her position at the cross is one I’m quite familiar. I came back to the painting later, this time I noticed God behind Jesus’ out stretched arms! Suddenly I realized that there is a heavenly perspective of our circumstances, not just our view at the foot of the cross.

God is not helplessly watching our vulnerability, he is actively, intimately aware of our sorrow, pain, and longings. He not only knows all things work to our good, but how they work to our good. His arms are outstretched even as our arms are outstretched. For example, when Stephen is stoned, “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) Heaven is present at this horrific moment and Jesus is standing to receive Stephen. When Saul is about to ratchet up persecution, heaven opens and a blinding light, stopping him in his tracks.  Jesus questions Paul directly. “Why are you persecuting me?” Even when heaven is not revealed to us, God is near! The comforter has come to rest, like a dove, on all who believe.

I’ve been struggling with the level of burden God has given to us. But, seeing the record of those who have gone before us, reminds me that heaven is not distant even when I can’t see. I have security, strength and a power to do what he has called me to do. We can paint earthly reminders of those who have gone before us. We can create vaulted ceilings to reflect the beauty and majesty of the heavenly realms and it is breath-taking. How much more so is heaven’s view of us. We are God’s beautiful stain glass window, a glimpse of heavenly glory is revealed in the way he walks with us.

Frank Duveneck Mural

Mary Magdalen at the foot of the cross.

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Keeping my Eyes Fixed on Heaven, Where the Sun Never Sets

Hebrews 12:2 …fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

How do we turn the page on the darkness of suicide? Sometimes it feels like we are fighting an invisible and silent monster that steals our children, our spouse, our friend right out from under us. It can happen in an instant or a long drawn out torture over years. Suicide is brutal and depression relentless. My depression started at age 6, and I still feel its claws attempting to draw me backwards into oblivion at age 40. The monster keeps us from our purpose in this life being fulfilled. It may be my thorn in the flesh, but Christ is my light, my sword and my compass. The relationship he has built with me since the age of 20 has proved to me that there is purpose in my sufferings.

Christ suffered our most pervasive sorrows. He hungered, he thirsted, and he was wounded. He was deeply burdened by the state of humanity, he got very little sleep, he was persecuted, and abandoned by those who should have loved and understood his mission the most. The cross loomed before him and he grew more deeply depressed the closer he got to the cross. In a way despair was the final temptation of Christ. It almost killed him before he made it to the cross. And from the cross he cried, “Daddy, why have you abandoned me?” Isn’t that at the heart of our rejection of God, we want to be rescued from our despair. And if he doesn’t we believe he isn’t able or a cruel God. But . . .

Joy is set before us. What did Jesus have as his finish line? His joy was being with his father! Oh dear reader can I share that joy with you? When the Lord and his pleasure in us is set in our minds we can bear any cross! If you have never experienced your heavenly father in such a way to motivate you in this life, here are just a few reasons why he is our joy.

  • Hebrews 2:9-10 We will be crowned with glory and honor in heaven and are made perfect.
  • John 14:2 God’s house there are many dwelling places prepared for us.
  • Ephesians 1:3 Blessed us with every spiritual blessing
  • Revelation 21:22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.…
  • Isaiah 60:20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.

Oh for such a day when sorrow ends! I can take hope and not lose heart when my eyes are fixed on the things of heaven. I encourage you to taste and see that the Lord is good in your suffering. Jesus said that if you have seen me, then you have seen the father. (John 14:7) The monster of suicide and depression is no match for the light of heaven. Lets set the joy of being with God before us.

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