The Serious Business of Heaven
“We know that you are displaying (authentic Christian character) because you have fully grasped the hope laid up for you in Heaven…” (Colossians 1:5).
One of my favorite books is George MacDonald’s children’s novel, At the Back of the NorthWind. That may say something about my level of maturity, but it’s difficult for me to find a difference between MacDonald’s adult and children’s books because, as he himself said, he did “not write for children, but for the childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.” I suppose, to some extent, I qualify.
At the Back of the NorthWind tells the story of a little boy named Diamond, a frail, sickly child, living in abject poverty and forced to exist in a drab, sparse home with very little to comfort or cheer him. Diamond himself slept in a cold, drafty, hayloft above a barn, his only companion an amiable old draft horse.
Along the way, Diamond was befriended by the North Wind, a symbol of suffering and death and the cold, bitter austerities of life. On one occasion, the wind carried Diamond to a beautiful place “at the back of the North Wind,” and he learned he must pass through the North Wind to enter the world beyond our world where there is no sorrow or loss, where “everyone is happy and looks like they will be even happier tomorrow.”
One day Diamond’s mother took him to the beach where they found a book someone had lost in the sand, a book that contained a poem about a river, “singing in the shallows,” and about swallows that were “the merriest swallows of all!”
"That is what the song of the river is telling me,” Diamond murmured. “I can be merry and cheerful, for I have been at the back of the North Wind—and that will help others!”
Thereafter, when Diamond was sad, he thought of the song of the river and determined that hardship would not make him miserable. He would say, "This will never do! I can't give in to this. I've been at the back of the North Wind. Things go right there and they must be made to go right here!” Thus Diamond brought cheer to his family and alleviated some of the misery of his home.
Joy is “the serious business of heaven,” C. S. Lewis said (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer). What you were created to experience eternally is the joy you may experience in measure here on earth. You can, with God’s help, look away from present misery and look ahead to the joy that awaits you in heaven, where you will be happy and happier still with every passing day. You can take some of the happiness of that place and bring it back with you into your home and help others, for enduring bad things joyfully is a way of bringing good things about. You’ll see.
Therefore, “may you be strengthened by God’s immense power so that you may be able to pass through any experience and endure it with joy” (Colossians 1:11).