I am sure that everyone has stayed up all night at some point in their lives. The longer you are awake, the weaker your body feels, and even a bit shaky from the caffeine you are drinking. But you keep trudging on, rocking your baby, typing sentence after sentence or sprinting through the airport to your next connecting flight. And then after the paper is finished, the hotel checked into, or the baby finally goes to sleep, you crash. You sleep long and hard, and then the next morning you wake up refreshed to the welcoming smell of your morning coffee. You are glad that you pushed through the night, especially when you get your paper back with a comment that says “well done.” You almost forget about the treachery of the night before and are instead humming and singing as today is a new day. Their past pain is more-or-less forgotten.
Our last six months in France has felt like one grand all-nighter. While we LOVE France, our church, our school, and our friends, these 6 months have been a lot of work and we typically feel worn out. Thankfully, the Lord has recently given us such a break. Some friends of ours from Kentucky had a meeting in Marseille and “stopped by” Albertville for a couple days. Being with our friends was comfortable, refreshing and fun. They also had two 4 year olds who had been adopted from Ethiopia and the kids had a great time together. We could speak freely and understood each other. They reinforced what we have been teaching to our kids and encouraged us, both by their lives and their words. We prayed together, sang together, and did a lot of hanging out.
We all went to our church together last week, and while I was worshiping the Lord with them and other believers in Christ I realized what I was experiencing was “waking up refreshed” so to speak. I felt no discomfort, I was not worried about getting work done, I felt no tiredness or pain. I was just happy to be worshipping the Lord surrounded by people who loved him like I did. I felt refreshed and all the toil of the last 6 months of struggling to learn language and culture was just gone, totally forgotten. The Lord used this experience to teach me that, aside from little glimpses of Heaven, life is an all-nighter. It is putting one foot in front of the other; doing what you know you should do even if it hurts. It is laying aside temporary pleasures now so that others can enjoy the pleasures of Heaven forever. It is dying to self to be raised up with Christ later. It is being tired and worn out for Kingdom purposes.
But soon, all the pain will be forgotten. It will be like waking up one morning, feeling like a new person who no longer has a burdened heart, tired body, and lonely soul. What’s more, it will be like getting back that paper that you worked so hard on and hearing the words “Well done.” And it will all be over. All the labors to pray when you are tired, to love that difficult person in your life, to learn new languages, to take the Gospel to difficult places, to give good in return for evil will be finished forever. For us, the application of the coming rest is to continue trudging on in language learning knowing that Jesus could return at any moment and give us rest forever. For others, it could mean continuing to love a difficult spouse knowing that for eternity you will be married to Jesus who will never say hurtful things to you. Or it could mean laboring in prayer for those who are lost even when your prayers do not seem to change a thing. For those suffering physically, it means that the physical pain will soon be over. For those who are ostracized from your families because of your faith in Christ, it means that you have a warm family waiting for you in Heaven. For those who are simply weary in doing good, it means continuing to do good because eternal rest is coming.
Fear not brothers and sisters, the all-nighter is almost over. One day soon, we will all be in Heaven safe, warm, together, worry-free, happy, and rejoicing in our Lord forever. In this life we fight, the next life is for rest. As Paul said:
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”2 Timothy 2:3-4