by Joni Eareckson Tada, from the Beyond Suffering Bible
This is what God wants—hearts burning with a passion for future things, on fire for Kingdom realities that are out of this world. God wants his people to be aflame with his hope and to have an outlook of pure joy that affects the way they live their lives. God wants each of us to be “like a city on a hilltop” (Matt 5:14) and “a lamp . . . placed on a stand” (Matt 5:15) so that everyone around us will be encouraged to look heavenward.
A perspective like this doesn’t happen without suffering. Affliction fuels the furnace of heaven-hearted hope. People whose lives are unscathed by affliction have a less energetic hope. Oh, they are glad to know they are going to heaven; for them, accepting Jesus was a buy-and-sell agreement. Once that’s taken care of, they feel they can get back to life as usual—dating and marrying, working and vacationing, spending and saving.
But suffering obliterates such preoccupation with earthly things. Suffering wakes us up from our spiritual slumber and turns our hearts toward the future, like a mother turning the face of her child, insisting, “Look this way!” Once heaven has our attention, earth’s pleasures begin to pale in comparison.
What has suffering taken away from you? Don’t allow your heart to dwell on such earthly disappointments. God permits suffering to draw our attention to heaven where that which was lost—and more—shall be restored. Suffering forces us to look forward to the day when God will close the curtain on all disease, death, sorrow, and pain (Rev 21:4). Until then, we have work to do!
Jesus says, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work” ( John 9:4).