Everywhere we look, our culture is shouting YOLO (“You only live once”). YOLO, so rent an RV and travel to every national park. YOLO, so fight those encroaching wrinkles with special creams. YOLO, so go ahead and binge-watch that TV series at the cost of sleep.
Interestingly, Scripture agrees with the premise of YOLO, but it leads us to a very different set of applications.
The Bible affirms we only live once on this broken globe in the already-but-not-yet kingdom of God. But instead of pointing us toward experiences of personal indulgence, Scripture shows us how we can uniquely experience God on this side of eternity.
Comfort Requires Discomfort
Our time on earth is the only time we’ll be able to experience the comfort of God and subsequently offer comfort to others. Being comforted assumes discomfort, the presence of pain, or a lack of ease. In the presence of the triune God, we’ll never lack security.
In the presence of the triune God, we’ll never lack security.
During our time on earth, we’re uniquely poised to receive comfort from the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). The sigh of relief when we proverbially crawl into the lap of the Father who holds us and quiets us with his love is birthed out of the temporary discomforts of being away from his presence (Heb. 4:14–16; Zeph. 3:17; Ps. 131:2). And having received such comfort in all our afflictions, we’re entrusted with another limited-time-opportunity: to comfort one another with the comfort we’ve received (2 Cor. 1:4–5).
Hope Has an Expiration Date
The human propensity to hope is astonishing even among those outside the Christian faith. Accounts of survivors from concentration camps repeatedly recognize the power of hope amid atrocious evil and horrendous circumstances. As Emily Dickinson so beautifully writes,
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
I would add, “In this life.” In the new heavens and the new earth, there’ll be no need for hope because the seed of faith will come to full fruition in sight. As Paul explained to the Romans, “Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24–25).
Our time here on earth is our only chance to practice lifting our eyes to look for help from the Lord (Ps. 121:1). When we become like Christ, seeing him as he is, we’ll have no need for hope (1 John 3:2).
Sin Provides an Opportunity
In this earthly life, we’re saved from the penalty and power of sin, but not from its presence. Only in the new heavens and the new earth will we finally and fully be saved from even the presence of sin. This means our days of exile here are our only opportunity to show Christ we prefer him over sin and the fleeting pleasures of this life.
Christ must be present in our lives to enable us to prefer him, since apart from him, we can do no good (John 15:5). Even so, I long to live a life worthy of the calling I’ve received. I long to string together days and moments that show Christ’s surpassing worth, even over the greatest offerings of this world (Phil. 3:8).
Suffering Reveals the Savior
Our days on this broken earth are our only chance to share in the suffering nature of our Savior. As paradoxical as it sounds to our flesh, God grants us the gift of partaking in Christ’s suffering (Phil. 1:29). When we suffer for doing what’s right, we share in his likeness and show our resemblance to our Savior (1 Pet. 4:16–19).
I long to string together days and moments that show Christ’s surpassing worth.
In the book Suffering Is Never for Nothing, published after her death, Elisabeth Elliot writes in depth about the mysterious gifts of suffering. On the loss of her first husband, she says, “Jim’s absence thrust me, forced me, hurried me to God, my hope and my only refuge. And I learned in that experience who God is. . . . And so I can say to you that suffering is an irreplaceable medium through which I learned an indispensable truth.”
Endless days of wholeness and satisfaction in the presence of our Savior await those who are in Christ. But there are only limited days to know his comfort, to experience hope, to show preference to him over sin, and to meet him in his suffering.
YOLO, my friend. Lean into the experiences of God only offered on this earth.
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