“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Phil. 1:21
I don’t know how many times I have read that verse. In full disclosure, this hasn’t been one of my favorite verses. It sounds so heroic, and it really is. It sounds so passionate, and it really is. It sounds so unlike something I would say, and that would be a true statement. I read it, studied it even, but I honestly couldn’t relate to it. I could sort of get the “to live is Christ” part. That’s something to shoot for. But to die is gain? Really?
“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.”
Recently, I have begun to understand these verses a lot better. I can totally feel the tension in Paul’s words here. There’s so much still to be done here. So much I feel I need to do before graduating to heaven. So many people who need to hear the good news of Jesus.
But there are times when the grind just gets to me. Times when the stress, the heartaches, the disappointments, the sadness and pain of sin becomes overwhelming. There are times when life sucks. And thinking of going home to heaven sounds, well, heavenly. It doesn’t take much thought to imagine how wonderful it would be to be at home with Jesus. I can imagine that in heaven, the 49ers win the Super Bowl every year. Yes, I feel that tension and I want to tell the Apostle Paul, “I totally get you, bro!”
Whenever I think about how great home in heaven would be, there’s always a tug. A tug that pulls me back to my present reality. Back to where I need to be, for now. Yes, there is much heartache at times. Yes, there are conflicts that eat at me, gnawing at a restless and exhausted soul at 3:00 am. Yes, there are all those “why” questions that never seems to get answered, at least to my satisfaction. “Why is this happening, God?” “Why didn’t this work out, Father?” “Why didn’t this prayer get answered?” Why, why, why? (On a side note, aren’t “why” questions really exhausting?) And yes, there’s that continual battle with sin. For me, that’s all true. Life is tough! But I know it isn’t time to go home yet. I know there are things God has called me to do. And going home right now would be selfish. It would be awesome, but selfish.
In the end, I thank God for where I am, even in the midst of very challenging times. There was a time, not too long ago, when going to heaven was the last place I wanted to go. There was too much for me to experience here on earth. There was a time when this was home to me. This life of mine, here on earth was all there was. I think I would have changed the verse in Phil. 1:21 to, “For me to live is ME and to die is a bummer.” I thank God for His love and care for me. Even in the midst of much stress, heartache, and trouble, He is working something good in my life. Yes, He is! He’s giving me a perspective that is true and right. He’s showing me what my life on earth is all about–for me to live is Christ. He showing me that this isn’t my home. That Jesus has been preparing my home and it’s there awaiting my arrival. My home is in heaven and it’s not going anywhere. Until then, there’s things He has called me to do. Great things. Important things. And He is here to guide me and give me the strength to do everything I need to do and go through everything I will need to go through.
Even in times of discouragement and much anguish, He promises to be there. Like this morning, getting up with a heavy heart, feeling the burden of conflict and stress, that made me wish for home. But God met me right where I was. He was there. I opened my Bible and God was there in Ps. 31, especially verses 7-8.
I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
You have not handed me over to my enemies
but have set me in a safe place.
Until it’s time for me to take that flight home, God will be with me. In times of much trouble and anguish, He sets me in a safe place. It’s not home, but it’s safe. I’ll take it!
thank you, Father!