“Until we’re honest about the pervasive, painful presence of loss throughout our lives, we won’t be drawn in by Jesus and His promise of eternal life. We need to see with the eyes of the heart that we have nothing unless we have Jesus. Everything else is passing away.
Earlier in the chapter, I raised what seems to me a common objection to the Christian focus on eternal life. Sometimes talk of eternal life seems like a distraction from the challenges and opportunities and obligations of this life.
At best it sounds abstract and otherworldly. At worst it seems escapist, like some sort of excuse to ignore problems of the present. Or, perhaps, a consolation for those too old or sick to have anything left to live for.
I hope by this point it’s clear that this objection is dangerously shortsighted and ironically off the mark. If eternal life sounds otherworldly to you, then you’re the one not paying close enough attention to this world and its concerns.
Jesus focuses on eternal life because He is more attuned to what life is like in this world than those who settle for less. In this world everyone loses everything.
Eternal life only seems like a distraction from what you really want or need if you pretend you’re not dying. That’s why the objection is shortsighted.
But the objection is also ironic. Jesus’s promise of eternal life is actually the thing that enables true and resilient joy in our experience of good things that don’t last.
When talk of eternal life seems like a distraction, it’s because we’ve failed to appreciate the tremendous challenge of loss to any joy we might experience in the present. We’ve failed to honestly confront the questions raised earlier in this chapter.
How can we enjoy what we hay, when we know we’re eventually going to lose it?
When we’ve learned to feel the weight of this question, we’re prepared to see the true and wonderful relevance of Jesus’s promise for living now. Jesus’s language of eternal life, so far from an otherworldly or ascetic distraction from the goodness of this life turns out to be exactly what we need to make the most of our time under the sun.
Jesus’s death and resurrection, and His promise that He will give life to us too if we believe in Him, reframe how we experience the transient things of this life. The way to fully taste the sweetness of eternal life is not to pull back from enjoying the good things of this life, but to leverage these good and passing pleasures into longing for the endless feast to come.
Loving this life and all its goodness, knowing with truth and honesty that we’re going to lose everything, can actually deepen our love for the life to come.
Jesus’s promise of triumph over death, a resurrection to eternal life, is an invitation to fully enjoy the beauty of life in this world, no matter how fleeting. In other words, the way to deal with the painful problem of loss is not to pull back from loving the transient things, but to press further in.
To love them freely for what they are: precious gifts of a Father who loves you, foretastes of glory divine.”
–Matthew McCullough, Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 141-142.