(continued…) How did the young couple with the child born blind respond to Pastor John’s letter? They quit coming to church. This reaction was not to the letter in particular, but to the God of whom the letter spoke. The father said later that he still believed in God, and believed that God was all-powerful. But, he said, if this is what God does with all that power, he no longer wanted to have anything to do with such a God. He wrote an angry letter back to the pastor, and then spent several years in bitterness and unbelief.
On July 4th of 2009, this father wrote a letter to his teenage son, the one born blind, on his fourteenth birthday. In that letter he describes how, after his initial bitterness and anger, he was able to return to faith in God. His wife had reconciled with God much sooner, and through her influence, the influence of his father and his pastor, and by an ongoing openness to God’s Word, he returned to faith and trust in God. He has even reached the point where he can thank God for how his faith has grown by this challenge. And now, with that deeper faith he is better able to handle another sadness and challenge– his wife’s ongoing battle with cancer. He has learned to live with that larger perspective that the pastor had years ago encouraged him to see.
In the letter from that pastor, this larger eternal perspective was first of all proclaimed by several promises from the Bible, but then it was summarized in one little phrase, one little word. The word is ONLY, the phrase is ‘only in this life.’ Only in this life, said the pastor, will you have the sadness and the extra burden of a son who was born without eyes. Only in this life will that son not be able to see.
Keep in mind that word ONLY and that phrase, ‘only in this life.’ You can probably think of ways to finish the sentence for your own life.
Only in this life will I have to endure this ongoing back pain, only in this life will I have to live with chronic illness, only in this life will I have these migraine headaches, only in this life will I be stuck in this wheelchair, only in this life will I be so alone, only in this life will I have this ongoing battle with depression, only in this life will I live with the uncertainty of cancer, only in this life will I have to go again and again to the cemetery to say good-bye to beloved family members, friends, and neighbors…
Only in this life, — and then, as it says in Revelation 21, then we will live with God, and His home will be our home, and there will be no more tears, no more grief, no more illness, or sadness, or death, because as it says, all those former things will have passed away. ‘Only’ is the word to remember– ONLY. Only in this life.
I Corinthians 15:19 — If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
1 Peter 5:10-11 — And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 21:3-5 — I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. Lighten, if it is your will, the pressures of this world’s cares. Above all, reconcile us to your will, and give us a peace which the world cannot take away; through our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. –Thomas Chalmers