Calling All Pilgrims
One such heavy providence came into my life approximately two years ago when my four school-age children and I said goodbye to their mother and my wife of sixteen years as her nearly five-year battle with breast cancer came to an end. Just after 7 p.m. on February 2, 2014, Julia Pohlman received the “outcome of [her] faith, the salvation of [her soul]” (1 Peter 1:9).
Not only in the final moments of Julia’s earthly life but throughout her cancer fight, we were reminded of how fleeting is our life on earth. Through surgeries, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, blood draws, and near-weekly chemotherapy treatments, we were reminded that this world is not our home. And when I stood at the graveside of my beloved, pleading with the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort to help our grieving family, never has heaven felt so real.
Cancer, perhaps unlike anything else, has a way of focusing your attention on eternal realities. And this, of course, is good. We need to be mercifully weaned from this world so that we can see something of the glory to be revealed.
At Ease In America
I share this story because I believe the American church desperately needs this perspective on life—the perspective captured in the profoundly simple hymn that sings, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” But by and large, the evangelical church in America sings, “This world is my home and here I’m putting down roots!” The words of the prophet Amos are a solemn warning to us today:
Woe to those who are at ease in Zion. . . . Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp . . . who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! (Amos 6:1, 4–6)
What the church needs and, therefore, what the world needs are Christians who identify as pilgrims, feel like sojourners, and exist as exiles. When people look at us, do they see a people gloriously uneasy in this world because we’re longing for another?
The Pursuit Of God
Of course, we long for the city of God because we long for God. He is our great pursuit. Knowing this helps this sojourner rejoice in heavy providences, for God is using them to nurture in me a worshipful remembrance of Him—the One in whose presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).