Monday, November 30, 2009

Why Not Now?

“David, after he had served his own generation…fell asleep” (Acts 13:36).

I have a dear friend who served as a missionary in Surinam for may years, but in his final years was stricken with a tragic illness that paralyzed him. At times he wondered why God allowed him to linger on earth. He longed to depart and to be with his Lord.

Perhaps life is very hard for you as well—its pressures seem unbearable—and you wonder why God has allowed you to linger. When Jesus said he was going away to heaven, Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?” (John 13:37). You, like Peter, may wonder why your entry into heaven has been postponed: “Why not now?”

God has a wise and loving purpose in leaving us behind. There is work to be done in us that can only be accomplished here on earth: our afflictions, which are for the moment, are working for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”(2 Corinthians 4:17). And there is work to be done for others—perhaps only to love and to pray. And so we cannot go home until God’s intentions are perfected. We are, as Augustine said, immortal until our work is done.

Furthermore, our lingering may be an opportunity for others to learn to love. I read somewhere that the Amish believe that the poor, the sick, the mentally ill, the aged, and incapacitated are given as gifts to the community because their presence enlarges us by teaching us compassion and charity.

So, though you may desire release, to live on in the flesh will mean fruitfulness (Philippians 1:21). And there is comfort in waiting: Though heaven may be delayed, it is assured. Have no doubt about it for Jesus said it, “You cannot follow me now, but you shall follow me afterward” (John 13: 36).


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