Subtitle: “Eternally Grateful”
Trending unit of measure: “thousands”
July 1, 2018… Eleven o’clock worship at Dawson Memorial…
“Bless the Lord, o my soul, o my soul, worship His Holy name
Sing like never before, o my soul; I’ll worship Your Holy name
You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find” *
Another line you may have heard a few times: “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise” **
And another: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years” ***
See the pattern?
Thousands and tens of thousands are numbers that have occurred to more than one writer, speaker, or other person as a way of saying “a whole lot” or “more than I can list” or “more than we can ever comprehend.” I.e., to infinity. I.e., for eternity.
“Ten thousand million trillion to the nine hundred ninety-ninth power” represents our efforts to describe an amount of love or a quantity of something that is inexhaustible, immeasurable, and everlasting.
A recurring nightmare
So, what’s the prayer answer that happened NOW (on July 1 during 11 o’clock worship at church)? Well, before explaining that, I have to try to make clear the THEN prayer question. For me, actually, this is a recurring prayer question. Quite honestly, it’s like a recurring bad dream, and if a prayer at those times it might be understood as a prayer voiced subconsciously – a cry for help every time a certain fear grips me. This particular fear is one that creeps back into my spirit every now and then, without warning, no matter how determined I have been to “faith” it away once and for all. It is this: eternity, or, specifically, the idea of me living forever, scares me. Every time I am assailed by this fear, my thoughts go something like this:
“I’ll get tired of it. I won’t understand what’s happening. My prior experience that all things eventually come to an end will mar my enjoyment of a perfect, endless heavenly existence.” Even “What if I get into it (for, say, 10,000 years) and discover that I don’t want it to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on?”
Then, I try to talk myself out of this fear’s deepest depths long enough to skirt it once again. I give myself routine faith answers sufficiently to mask it, and then I determine to focus on some other line of thought or I begin doing some activity that makes the fear go away temporarily. That scenario goes something like this:
“This is happening all because it’s impossible for finite people to understand infinity and eternity. My thoughts are not like God’s. I trust God. I believe His word. He created me involving no knowledge or decision of my own, and my life (first mortal, then immortal) is forever in His hands. That has to be enough ‘explanation’ for now. God, help me to trust You in this. And soooo… good. That’s that. I’m getting my knitting out now. Or watching reruns of The Partridge Family. Better, happier thoughts ahead.”
When the level of my coping plummets to its absolute lowest, the reasoning becomes this:
“Face it. You are going to live forever. There are only two places to do this: hell and heaven. You absolutely have made the only sane, informed choice by desiring to follow Christ to His original and rightful home – because the alternative is absolutely unthinkable.” As if heaven, as if being with my Savior, as if the thing we have longed for since taking our first breath as babies – perfection – were merely the less undesirable of two undesirable outcomes! Absolutely absurd. This lowest of the low, this flawed and doubt-filled view of what God has created and has yet to finish creating shows how off-course we can get when we attempt to resolve the unresolvable, to explain what is presently incomprehensible, according to human reason.
That takes care of explaining the prayer question. Now, what was the answer?
And note: the answer I received on July 1 has not convinced me that the question will never plague me again. But I certainly hope to remember this answer and to give it back to the father of lies, to that persistent author of confusion, as many times as it takes – seventy times seven, or ten thousand times.
As we sang “Bless the Lord, O My Soul” in worship, this was the final stanza:
And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore*
Suddenly, unexpectedly, my eyes were opened to a clear answer I’d never considered before on this matter about living forever – and the question was not even on my mind at the time! Thank you, God, for never forgetting about my prior prayers. Very simply, the answer was this: existing eternally in God’s wonderful home isn’t going to be about how I will like it (even though I am certain to like a life that has no more tears, death, mourning, crying or pain. Revelation 21:4).
It isn’t going to be about whether I will understand it (even though I see now “through a glass darkly, but then face to face”…so, I will understand it. 1 Corinthians 13:12).
It is going to be about never in ten thousand million trillion years to the 999th power being able to say to Jesus enough times, “You died for me! How can I ever thank you for suffering what You did so I could have life abundant and eternal? Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!” (times infinity)
*Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman
**Carl Gotthelf Glaeser