In the month of July, I went to three funerals. The first was a graveside service for the father of a friend whom I met at Clemson and had the blessing of leading in Bible study for many years. The second one was for my dad’s cousin. And the third was for a friend I knew from being in the singles’ ministry at my church and who had also attended the Bible study I lead there. She was only 57, born two days before my husband.
Besides those funerals, this summer held many more reminders that we live in a broken world. Several other friends also lost a parent including two women who are in my Bible studies. Two other women confided in me that they struggle with depression. Another woman’s father went into hospice. And I am often reminded of my own parents’ aging, too. So while it has been a good summer with plenty of joys, there has also been a lot of sadness. My heart grieves for my friends in their losses and struggles. I’ve never been one to cry easily or often, but I find that tears come to my eyes more easily and more often these days.
In God’s sovereignty (or irony!), I was studying and leading Genesis 1-11 this summer which includes Chapter 3. The Fall. The whole reason for this brokenness.
But before I even got to Chapter 3, of course, I got to Chapter 2. And part of it includes a pretty specific description of Eden.
“And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.” Genesis 2:9-12
One of the commentaries I was using mentioned parallels between this description and the New Jerusalem. For example, in the New Jerusalem:
- There are jewels (Revelation 21:10-11, 19-20)
- There is gold (Revelation 21:18, 21)
- There is a river that comes from the throne (Revelation 22:1)
- The tree of life is there (Revelation 22:2)
This was the first time I had ever specifically seen these parallels between the Garden and the New Jerusalem. Thinking on it reminded me that we were created for Paradise, and our hearts yearn for it. Whether they believe in God or not, every human being knows that this planet is broken and longs for more deep inside of them. They long for what they were originally created for in the Garden.
We try all kinds of ways to make this broken world more like the Paradise we desire. We pour money into improving our bodies and our homes and our yards wishing for perfection. We seek things that we think will fill our souls whether it’s money or things or food or drink (or chocolate . . . or ice cream . . .). But Larry Crabb is right in his book Inside Out when he says (referring to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:42-43), “We must remember that our Lord’s promise of Paradise today was given to a man about to die.” We will never experience what we long for on this side of heaven. Not on this broken earth filled with broken people.
But thankfully we know the end of the story! Because of Jesus we have a sure and certain hope that one day we will be in Paradise if we trust in Him. And the pain we experience now in this broken world will be gone.
“He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain”. (Revelation 21:4)
“And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” (Revelation 22:3-4)
Instead of funerals, we will have a wedding!
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’ – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’” Revelation 19:6-9
In the midst of a summer filled with reminders of brokenness, the Lord used this study of Genesis to remind me of this hope – the hope we have of Paradise because of Christ.
Does this mean, though, that it hurts less here? Not necessarily. There is still pain and there is still grief as we hurt and miss those we love. But at least there is not hopelessness as I can cling to this truth. And while we are still here on Earth, the Lord is with us. Psalm 34:18 says He is near to the brokenhearted. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 calls Him the “God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction”. In John 14:27, Jesus says He gives us His peace that is not like the world’s peace. These are the things I pray that my friends will experience as they grieve, and they are the promises I cling to as well in sad times.
I am not alone. And I am not without hope. One day it will all be right again.
Thanks be to God.