I’m never sure how to answer when someone asks how I’m doing health-wise. I’d like to say, “I’m okay for now,” or “I’m not sure,” but those replies seem to make people uncomfortable. There is an ongoingness to my autoimmune disease that’s hard to explain. It’s like the wind. Sometimes it blows hard, and other times it stands still . . . and you never know when the next gust will come.
One author wrote this about her autoimmune disease: “A spinal cord injury can paralyze you in a moment, but the paralysis of my disease is a long story. Worse, then better, then worse, then better. For years.”
When I was first diagnosed with lupus, fear of death hit me hard. Not so much because I fear being dead, but more because of what it would do to my young family. Sometimes fear still creeps up on me.
But I’ve come to see that the corruption of my body does not undermine the fact that I am still living. Nor is it at odds with God making all things new (Rev. 21:5). Everyone is dying, but sometimes it takes a diagnosis to remember what our purpose is in the meantime.
Although it’s trendy to “live in the moment,” it’s hard to make sense of our difficulties without reference to the future.
There’s a scene in the movie Shadowlands between C.S. Lewis and his wife, Joy, where she expresses this sentiment well. He is in denial about her cancer diagnosis, and she wants to be able to talk with him about it.
Lewis says, “Now I don’t want to be somewhere else anymore. Not waiting for anything new to happen. Not looking around the next corner, not the next hill. Here now. That’s enough.”
Joy replies, “That’s your kind of happy, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Yes it is.”
“It is not going to last, Jack.”
“We shouldn’t think about that now. Let’s not spoil the time we have together.”
“It doesn’t spoil it. It makes it real. Let me just say it before this rain stops, and we go back.”
“What’s there to say?”
“That I’m going to die, and I want to be with you then, too. The only way I can do that is if I’m able to talk to you about it now.”
“I’ll manage somehow. Don’t worry about me.”
“No, I think it can be better than just managing. What I am trying to say is that the pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.”
The pain then is part of the happiness now. These words hit me every time I watch this movie. She is saying that the pain of future death intensifies the joy of life today.
For the Christian especially, death causes us to appreciate God’s grace, not only in this life, but especially in the one to come.
In the “shadowlands,” the sun isn’t shining. Clouds of pain and sorrow fill your horizon, and life feels hard. But even here the Christian must acknowledge that victory has swallowed up death (1 Cor. 15:54). Darkness has not won.
The apostle Paul rejoiced “in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2), not because his life was easy but because there was glory in his future. And because of that, joy invaded the present.
Hope of Future Glory
God’s blessings in this life are a foretaste of heaven, but without the pain we forget that blessings are merely pointers. We need the pain to remind us there is something better than this world. We wouldn’t long for divine love if human love was perfect. We wouldn’t long for feasting in heaven if there wasn’t starvation, eating disorders, and financial hardships here on earth. We would settle in our sin and take what we could get with no thought of what we are giving up.
The smell of rain, the sound of children laughing, the taste of a fresh blueberry, the pleasure of a friend’s company, and the comfort of a spouse’s arms—these blessings intermingle with pain and uncertainty and make us long for something better.
Ongoing illness is a beast to contend with. So is foster parenting, job insecurity, marriage troubles, persecution, and a host of other unnamed difficulties. But each “affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).
Trials are those blessings in disguise that prod us out of our complacency and expose the inadequacy of our favorite worldly comforts.
Jesus invites us to find spiritual rest in Him (Matt. 11:28–29). Unlike its earthly counterparts, the rest Jesus offers transcends the shadowlands and defies our circumstances. As Augustine famously said in his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
To my fellow shadowlanders: I feel your pain, but we need the hard places to remind us that we are not home yet. They wean us off of lesser hopes and push us into the arms of True Rest, where we were always meant to be.
Jesus offers you rest today. Will you trust Him with your future?
Current Pain Reminds Us of Future Glory was originally posted on reviveourhearts.com.