My squirmy, eight-month-old grandson was playing in my lap while his momma was taking a much-needed rest. I had my Bible open next to me and was attempting to memorize the passage of Scripture that was my devotional reading for the day. (Side note: kudos to moms with littles who make any attempt to reach out for God during your busy day. You’re doing great.) Every time I whispered the phrases in the verses and prayed along the way, that blue-eyed child, made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails, leaned over and looked me right in the face, as if to say, “Who you talkin’ to, Grandma?”
Before I tell you about the Scripture passage I was memorizing, let me tell you how Christmas break began. My husband’s older brother traveled across the country from Texas, for a long-awaited vacation with his mom and family up here in Montana. That night he promptly came down with Covid and his wife and daughter soon followed suit. They have spent their lovely, two-week vacation sick and stuck in the house, quarantined away from their other children and the in-laws. It has been a heartbreaking disappointment for the family and a worry for their health.
My devotional book sent me to 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, and in these words I have found something solid to lean on –truth that allows for the weight of my emotions, without dismissing them, but also gives my mind something hopeful and bolstering to hold onto, the way my little grandbaby grabs tight to adult fingers and walks forward with wobbly legs.
Please go read all of 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 and then come back.
Now here are the points that stick out to me:
While we are in this “tent”, we groan and are burdened. This is our existence on this earth. We know, because we have been groaning all year. We have groaned about masks rubbing our ears raw. We have groaned because of the virus. We have groaned by the financial hit and the loss of life. We have been burdened by the evil and calamity that have continued to pile up and impact our existence.
And Paul says that’s just how life is going to be as long as we are in this body and not with the Lord. When we hang up our new calendars (and mine is a lovely collection of floral arrangements, thank you, Mom), we can know for sure that in this new year we are going to continue to groan and be burdened, because we long for life in heaven with Jesus instead of this broken world and broken bodies.
But there’s something else in this passage. Paul says we know, we are guaranteed, we are confident that life is waiting for us. A permanent, heavenly home is coming.
Groaning is temporary.
What is mortal is going to be swallowed up by life. Swallowed up!
Paul says God has made us for this very purpose. If this hard year has made us wonder what the purpose of our lives could be, here it is: we are meant to leave here. We are meant to leave virus and evil and death and go someplace good and welcoming and built with all of the comforts of home.
I find it encouraging that I am allowed to groan for our family members who are sick. It’s okay to do that. I am allowed to wake up burdened for the disappointment it has caused during what should have been a delightful family holiday. I am allowed to feel the burden of my mother-in-law worrying about her sick kids and being sad not to gather them all together. It’s okay to let the pain of life come from the heart and out of the throat.
But I’m rolling the word “confident” around in my mind, too.
I am confident.
God has something better waiting for me, not when I turn the calendar page but after I leave this miserable tent. A good life without tears is waiting. I have the Spirit as a deposit, and he has encouraged me with this Scripture passage.
So, you have permission to groan your way into the new year, knowing that you are away from the Lord and will have more hard times, pain, sickness, and disappointments ahead in this broken world and broken body. But enter into the new year with confidence, too. Know that Jesus is preparing a place for you, where the warmth of life and home and his loving presence are waiting.