I recently lost a good friend. Her name was Brianne, and she was one of the greatest people I’ve known. She was a good influence on everyone she was around, including me. She loved children, and went to South Africa to help at an orphanage there. She loved with her actions, caring for people with concrete acts of kindness given with great joy.
Brianne died young, and suddenly. She was hit by a large truck that ran a red light, and that was that. The cute husband and I had both prayed over Brianne while she was in our small group and when she came back to the midwest for a short time before returning to South Africa. We laid our hands on her, and we believed we heard God speak great plans over her life. Plans for marriage and motherhood, for a great ministry and love for a thousand children. So when we heard that she had died, we had to ask ourselves; did we hear wrong? Were those just our hopes for Brianne? Was God tricking us, not wanting to break the news too early that Brianne wasn’t going to be around for long? If God had plans for Brianne that hadn’t come about yet, how could she die?
We have an image of heaven as an empty white landscape where everything is soft and squishy and nothing really matters. We get to live, and it’s kind of nice, but nothing happens. We picture heaven as the end of the story, when all the action has happened in our physical lifetimes, heaven is the static reward. We do not get this idea from the Bible. The Bible describes heaven as a place where things happen. The Bible’s description of heaven is of a pulsing, gorgeous city, of gardens and towers and mansions. The Bible describes heaven as a place where angels ask questions that get answers, where people are sent out on missions and then come back. Where time passes, and new things happen, where there are seasons and light and healing being done.
My faith depends on the words God speaks to me, on the words written in my holy book, and on the reflection of my community. If I am to believe in these things, I must believe that Brianne still lives. I must believe that in heaven, things still happen that matter. I must believe that even though Brianne’s time with us was cut short, her life is still being created by the loving hands of God.