Life is brief. “Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor” (Psalm 39:5). Death is necessary. “It is appointed unto man once to die” (Heb. 9:27). We are but a moment’s sunlight, fading in the grass.
We view death as the enemy, and indeed, it is. It brings separation, suffering and sorrow. As Christians, we do not glorify death or minimize it in any way when we say that, horrible as death may be, we long for what is beyond it: A home with God.
Many of us have had the experience of being away from home for an extended period. Invariably, there comes a point when we want to go home. On trips to third world countries, the thing that bothers me the most is not the primitive conditions, the strange food, the lack of hot water, the tick bites, the police road blocks, or the cold nights in a tent or unheated building. It’s the longing to be home with family.
In New York in the spring of 1927, Lillian Alling, a poor young immigrant girl, became very homesick and decided to return to her family in Russia. Because she had saved only $100 and would not accept lifts from strangers, she set out to walk the 12,000 miles home. Equipped with maps, a knapsack and an iron rod for protection, this fragile girl passed through Chicago, Winnipeg, British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska, arriving in Nome in July of 1929. It was just the halfway mark of her incredible journey. Soon after leaving Nome, she was spotted approaching the far western tip of Alaska. That was the last anyone on this continent is known to have seen or heard of her. She apparently succeeded, as she had planned, in obtaining a boat and rowing across the 36 miles of the Bering Strait to Siberia. She really wanted to go home, didn’t she? Do we? We should!
Listen to the way the apostle Paul describes the Christian’s desire to go to heaven in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2. He writes, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” We groan, longing for home!
If you look carefully at the text in 2 Corinthians 5, you’ll see that Paul’s longing to go home was founded firmly in the confidence that he had a home to go to. “We are confident,” he says, “yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). This confidence was based on faith in God, and in the recognition of all that God has done to prepare us for the journey from mortality to life. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God” (2 Cor. 5:7, 5).
Nearly everybody will tell you that they want to go to heaven, but how many are willing to walk the long walk of faith to get there? How many are willing to let God prepare them, rather than just assuming that they are prepared already? How many have a confident longing to go home? Do you?
– Steve Klein