Lately I have been wrestling with something that I think I have been struggling with my entire life without even realizing it. I first began to realize my struggle when the words “Each day is a gift from God” came as a shock to me. And then the fact that they came as a shock to me was even more of a shock, and a disconcerting one. The truth is for a while now I have not been living as if I believed that each day was a gift from God. I have been living as if each day was another 24 hours to wade through, bringing me one day closer to heaven. I can relate to Jesus saying “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). I have been living with my guards up ready to take shelter from “what else” each new day will bring. Once I am able to process each individual “what else” I come around to see them as blessings, opportunities for growth, gifts from God. I really do. I can now say with certainty that Romans 8:28 is true. God DOES “work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”. I can also say that the troubles that each day brings are often part of that good. I really can and do see the “what elses” as good gifts from God, even when they seem to pile on. But the truth also is that often times I see each day as a necessary evil or a way to buy my time until I get to go to heaven. Yikes.
I know this sounds bad. I really do love my life. Daily I thank God for all He has given me-the people, the opportunities, the provisions, the many blessings. I don’t want to blame this way of thinking on my constant battle with Depression. I don’t want to chalk it up to some really difficult life events. I know it is my sinful and warped way of thinking that is the cause. But never-the-less it remains a struggle for me. So I wrestle with it. I wrestle with how do I balance longing for heaven and viewing each day here as a gift? How do I balance never feeling completely at home here on earth with enjoying life here on earth among all the blessings God has showered on me? How can I do both well?
I don’t know the answer completely. I don’t know if anyone can ever really live this out perfectly this side of heaven. But I DO think that the answer is found in Easter.
Today is “Good Friday’. Why is it so good? Well the simple answer is that because Jesus died, I didn’t have to. Surely he was “pierced for (my) transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). It wasn’t the hands of the Romans held Jesus' hand steady for the nails; it was God’s hand. It wasn’t Pilate who condemned him to death; he went willingly. It wasn’t the nails that held him there; it was love. (Isaiah 53 says this better than I ever could.) That is it really-the crux of it. And even a few weeks ago I would have left it at that. I would have said “weeee!!! I can go to heaven because of Jesus’ sacrifice! That is what Good Friday and Easter are all about!” I may even have added some Jersey style fistpump or if I was feeling really wild a raise the roof circa 2002.
But I think there is more to it than that. I think that the truth of what happened this weekend almost 2000 years ago holds the answer to my struggle. Yes, because Jesus died I know my debt is paid. Because Jesus rose I know my hope is secure. And that is infinitely more than I deserve. And that causes me to be eternally grateful. And worshipful. And I find myself longing for heaven. Because of what Jesus did I can do that, and should long for heaven. But there is more than that.
Good Friday is good and Easter is better because they give me joyous victory not just for eternity but for this life too! They hold the answer to how I can long for heaven and still enjoy his blessings here and now. What is that?! I can actually find pleasure in my family and friends?! I can go out on a date with Peter and enjoy it? (Wait…what is this word “date” I speak of?) I can actually….wait for it….have fun?! Without feeling guilty?! Whoa. (In case you are unfamiliar with the word “fun” I looked up a definition of it when I was looking up the word “date” for myself. Dictionary.com defines fun as “something that provides mirth or amusement: A picnic would be fun” . Why, yes! A picnic would be fun! Maybe a picnic date?! Okay, okay I won’t get too crazy.)
Jesus didn’t give me days here as roadblocks to eternity. He gave me days as an opportunity to serve Him and love others. He gave me blessings and He wants me to enjoy them, life and He wants me to enjoy it-even though this life is not all there is. Jesus isn’t a joy-sapper. He is the joy-giver.
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”
It should not be a shock to me to hear that each day is a gift from God. True, the greatest gift of all took place on this weekend long ago, but because of that greatest gift-and what it unwraps in heaven for me- I can enjoy God’s other gifts here and now. I can find joy in the blessings He has given me and still long for heaven. I can take pleasure in this world and still store up treasure in a better place. After all “it is for freedom that (I) have been set free” (Galatians 5:1a) and Jesus “came that (I) might have life and have it to the fullest” (John 10:10b). Easter enables me to say this. Easter is the answer. Okay, now I am going to go plan a picnic.