I spent New Year’s Eve with my good friend, Bryan. He’s one of those people who is a clear, tangible act of God’s grace in my life, and his friendship has been a reminder of God’s goodness in so many ways. At midnight, Bryan and I sat out on the brick of my cold, black steps beneath my back door to smoke cigars. I was kind of excited because I had never smoked a cigar before, but we almost didn’t smoke them because we were both so tired. I’m glad we ignited that lighter because under the warm floodlight and the cool clear sky, God spoke through the darkness.
Much of life is really hard. It’s a difficult road, and without any kind of hope, it’s impossible to keep going. If we do keep going without hope, it feels mechanical, and we become less human. I think we need those moments when the doors of heaven crack open and we get a glimpse of the light of glory and pure beauty.
As the sweet smell of smoldering tobacco wisped through our fingers and in front of our noses and eyes, Bryan and I spoke to the backdrop of the occasional pop of fireworks. We talked about God and faith and friendship. I don’t want to give all the details because I almost feel that if I speak of it, I am desecrating a sacred moment when the Spirit whispered revelations of the mystery of the unity of believers to Christ and to one another in the midst of a dark world.
However, something Bryan and I talked about is how our lives are filled with shadows of hell and foretastes of heaven. It is sometimes frightening and at other times sublime. I think that through all of those experiences, God is speaking, showing us who he is and who he is not. He’s showing us what the world is like with him and the death that prevails without him. He tells me that with him, my soul feasts on goodness, and without him, my soul starves.
The moments that make us feel like we are teetering on a tightrope with nothing but the flames of hell to catch us are terrifying. But because of Jesus, the hellish experiences of this life are only shadows of a reality already defeated and shrinking in the ever widening gap behind us as we journey forward, stumbling toward the light and majesty of our God calling us home.
On New Year’s Eve, I was reminded that this is all worth it: the struggle of life, the uphill trek, and the difficult and narrow path to which Christ calls us. The beauty of the home awaiting us makes it all worth it.
You are right. Hopelessness is hell. I remember a line from Dante’s Inferno, “lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate” – leave outside all hope you all who are entering. Life is a mixture of suffering and joy, but the Lord gives us these precious moments.