In the spring of my junior year of college, I was blessed with the opportunity to study abroad in London. The program was structured to allow all the students ample time for traveling on weekends. We even had a ten-day break in the middle of our studies to take adventures to more far flung destinations.
I’ll never forget our first weekend trip. My friend, Kristi, and I packed up our large travel backpacks and headed to Paddington Station in central London. By the time we arrived at the station, our backs were already aching and our shoulders were sagging under the weight of our large loads. What we quickly realized was that the full size bottles of shampoo, multiple pairs of shoes and outfit changes we’d packed led to unbearably heavy baggage. A few weeks later when we packed for our longer trip, we had learned our lesson and brought as little as possible. The things that had seemed so important to bring lost their value when we realized how much they weighed us down.
My lesson traveling in Europe seems to fit well with Sheila Walsh’s final chapter in The Shelter of God’s Promises. As she explores The Promise of Heaven, she likens our time on earth to a short camping trip. She says: “I think we will all be more than happy to pitch our tent and be in a mode of traveling light because what is ahead is so much better!” (p.196) What things do you need to jettison from your baggage so that you can travel lighter on the journey?
For many people, focusing on this life supersedes thoughts of the life yet to come. Yet, God’s plan all along has been to use this life as a training ground to prepare us to spend eternity with Him. Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” When we fret over earthly things, we are losing sight of truth. When we focus all of our energy on making life here and now perfect and comfortable, we’ll be disappointed repeatedly. Sheila Walsh puts it well when she says: “We will always have an experience here of It isn’t quite what I hoped it would be, or It isn’t quite as fulfilling as I thought it would be. That is because we were not made to live in our earthly tents for very long” (p. 196).
I have had the privilege and the heartbreak of watching three different family members go home to Heaven in the last 9 years. It may sound strange to read the word “privilege” in response to seeing a loved one die, but those experiences have had a profound impact on my faith and my understanding of God. It’s hard to put words to the experience and of the intimacy of watching someone move from this life to the next. There is a sense of relief knowing they are no longer suffering, but also the realization that they actually have the better end of the deal. Something about it makes everything seem more real, more profound- God’s word and promises, our faith, our relationships, the love we share, the hope we have because of who Jesus is and what He has done. The fussy things of this life seem shallow and meaningless by comparison. The hurt and the pain are raw and powerful, but the hope and peace are deeper still. They bring an unspeakable comfort that words cannot adequately express.
Through the journey of grief, I found powerful healing and comfort through songs with themes centered on Heaven. Some have become like well-loved companions holding my heart in times of intense pain. I thought it would be fitting to include a few of my favorite titles and artists. They can point you toward the promise of heaven in a way words alone cannot. I hope you’ll take time to listen to them, to download the ones you love and to share your own favorites by commenting below.
I’ve included links that will play the songs and show the lyrics. Carve out ten minutes for a “worship moment” to listen and praise God for the promise of Heaven that gives us ultimate joy and hope.
I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me
I’ll Fly Away traditional hymn sung by Jars of Clay
Deep Enough to Dream by Chris Rice
Take Me Into the Beautiful by Cloverton
Softly and Tenderly traditional hymn sung by Amy Grant
Untitled Hymn by Chris Rice
I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin
Finally Home by Mercy Me