As a pastor who has been to a lot of funerals, I’ve heard it said many times. As someone around a lot of “church folk” I’ve heard the lofty conversations and speculations. I’ve even said it myself.
It bothers me every time.
It’s the way we talk about Heaven. Whether we are simply conjecturing, dreaming, wishing or all of the above, our expressed views of Heaven are usually missing one major thing…God.
When a loved one passes away, we immediately turn to the warmth of memories to cover us from the cold of loss. Memories are good things. They are the lingering proofs of personhood. Perhaps we will be remembered by words we said or things we did that will create echoes far greater than the sounds themselves. There are things intricately woven with our personhood that help define us to those we love.
Thinking about what makes someone supremely happy is instrumental in how we form our definition of them.
Bob loves golf. Susan loved gardening. When we think of Bob in glory or remember Susan fondly, something to the effect is said, “I’ll bet Bob can’t wait to get up there and tee off with (insert relative or celebrity)” or, “I’m sure Susan’s up there right now tending fields full of flowers.”
While I certainly understand and embrace the sentiment, there is a danger in characterizing Heaven as finally being the place where we get everything we want. To a degree, this betrays an often-overlooked view of God we may hold in the soil of our hearts: God exists for me.
We know God loves us. We believe if He loves us, He will make us happy. For me to be happy, I should get what I want. For me to have an eternal supply of what I want is the ultimate joy – it is my heaven.
There are many things the Bible tells us about Heaven, but the idea that we each create our own is certainly not one of them. There is an objective Heaven, and it is extraordinarily amazing.
I like coffee. I like music. When I die, I have a fear that people will say, “I’ll bet he’s up there in one giant coffee shop,” or perhaps, “Ryan is smiling right now holding a guitar that never goes out of tune.”
There may be coffee in Heaven and I would love to contribute music to the songs of Heaven, but if people think that was, or is, my greatest joy, I have done something wrong.
I want my greatest joy to be Jesus Christ. As the song says, He is my light, my strength, my song. What I am looking forward to about Heaven has nothing to do with décor, activities, or superpowers (flight please). It’s Jesus.
When I die, I hope people say, “Ryan is there right now with Jesus. He must be so happy finally seeing Jesus! I’ll bet he can’t stop smiling at Jesus! Ryan opened his eyes to see Jesus! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”
This is not to say enjoying something is necessarily idolatry. We should enjoy activities, nourishment and relationship and do it all for the glory of God. But let us hope people don’t believe the things from which we derive happiness are our gods who fill us with supreme joy.
Coffee may be the official beverage of Heaven. There may be long green fairways, gardens, great concerts and a plethora of other amenities. But honestly, I can do without them all. If heaven turns out to be the opposite of every one of my preferences, but Jesus is there, I’m good.
What is heaven like? There is a lot we don’t know. But we do know Jesus is there. That is enough.
I want to issue a challenge to you, Christian. When people think of you now or look back on your life, what will be said about “your” heaven (as if you could make one)?
Will it be an eternity filled with lesser things and creature comforts? Will it be games or activities?
An eternity full of anything but God is not Heaven. It’s Hell. It is an eternity of lesser things. Even an eternity of your favorite thing without Jesus would be torment – separated from the giver and sustainer of all life.
You can have the coffee. You can have the guitars, Thunder games and music.
You can have all of this world. But give me Jesus.